SEATTLE — This time, Adrian Peterson was just another guy.
The Minnesota Vikings All-Pro running back gashed Seattle for 182 yards and two touchdowns last year in a game that was closer than it probably should have been.
In a rematch Sunday, the Seattle defense held Peterson to 65 yards on 21 carries — and forced four turnovers — to lead the Seahawks to a 41-20 victory over the Vikings in an NFL game at CenturyLink Field.
“I thought the defense did a fantastic job against Adrian,” Seattle head coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s a fantastic football player. He can do it all, and the guys just kept him down all day long.
“I know there are some yards that they got in the game, but we handled him well and tackled well and really flew to the football the way we wanted to.”
It’s hard to believe this is the same Seattle defense that last was seen at CenturyLink.
Two weeks ago, some guy named Mike James ran for 158 yards, his career high by more than 100 yards, as then-winless Tampa Bay nearly upset the Seahawks.
The week before that, another rookie you’ve never heard of, Zac Stacy, set his career high by running for 134 yards for St. Louis in another game Seattle nearly lost.
Even though Seattle (10-1) shut down Atlanta last week, the Falcons are a passing team, and Peterson must have been drooling at the thought of a return trip to Seattle.
“It should silence the doubters a little bit,” Seattle middle linebacker Bobby Wagner said. “A lot of people have given up on us and were talking trash about us because of our run game. They said it was Atlanta, the worst run team.
“Now it’s AP, one of the best in the game,” Wagner said. “We’ll let people figure it out.”
Wagner had the first of Seattle’s three interceptions in the fourth quarter, which came on consecutive possessions by Minnesota (2-8).
Cornerback Walter Thurmond returned the second one 29 yards for his first career touchdown, and defensive tackle Clinton McDonald capped it off by intercepting a pass tipped by defensive end Chris Clemons.
The Seahawks used the turnovers to score 17 points in three minutes and blow the game open at 41-13.
“It caught me by surprise because it got tipped in the air and I just ran underneath it,” McDonald said of his first career interception. “The light hit me right in the eyes and it just fell right in my hands. It couldn’t have been any easier.”
McDonald, who also recovered a fumble in the first quarter, said part of the motivation for containing Peterson was the pre-game hype about the matchup between Peterson and Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch, who is also widely regarded as one of the NFL’s top running backs.
Lynch had fewer yards (54) than Peterson on fewer carries (17), but he scored three touchdowns to none for Peterson.
“We love our running back,” McDonald said of Lynch. “He goes out there every game and he gives his heart, every game. For us to see that in our guy, we try to play harder for him.
“When you’ve got two of the best backs in the NFL right now on the field at the same time, you want to make sure that your back does the best the whole game,” McDonald said.
“I honestly believe he’s the best in the game. Nobody can stop him,” Wagner said of Lynch. “AP, man, I have respect for Adrian Peterson, but we think we’ve got the best dude in the NFL.”
McDonald and Wagner were among several Seattle defenders who said the difference the last two weeks has been a return to fundamentals and honoring assignments.
“I think we were getting a little too greedy and trying to make plays,” Seattle linebacker Bruce Irvin said. “The last two weeks you’ve seen everybody doing their assignment.”
Seattle safety Earl Thomas said that the St. Louis and Tampa Bay games were low points for the Seattle defense that will not be repeated.
“Two weeks in a row we’ve been playing lights out on defense as a whole,” Thomas said. “All we can do is keep building on it. Of course there’s going to be mess ups. Of course there’s going to be something explosive sometimes.
“But it’s great when you’re learning and you’re winning. That’s all we can do is keep getting better.”
He said all the evidence you need of Seattle’s potential was on the field Sunday in the form of an ineffective Adrian Peterson.
“I was very excited just to see how we made him look normal,” Thomas said. “We got, like, five shirts around AP. He might break one, but there’s three more coming. When we’re swarming like that …
“If we keep playing like this, man, it’s going to be tough to beat us.”