By Rich Myhre Herald Writer
SEATTLE — In four previous home games this season, the Seattle Seahawks remained unbeaten, though not always in impressive fashion.
But against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, the Seahawks went in front to stay in the second quarter and then broke the game open with 17 unanswered points in a three-minute stretch of the fourth quarter for a decisive 41-20 victory on a cool, blustery and occasionally wet afternoon at CenturyLink Field.
The win improved Seattle’s record to 10-1, and coupled with New Orleans’ 23-20 victory over San Francisco it lifts the Seahawks to a 31⁄2-game lead over the 49ers in the NFC West standings heading into Seattle’s bye week. The Seahawks also lead New Orleans by 11⁄2 games for the best mark in the NFC with a pivotal showdown against the Saints set for Dec. 2, a Monday night game on Seattle’s home field.
In addition, the home victory was a franchise record 13th in a row for the Seahawks over two seasons, topping the previous record of 12 set from 2004-06. Seattle has not lost at CenturyLink Field since a 19-17 setback against San Francisco on Dec. 24, 2011.
Lastly, Seattle will have consecutive double-digit regular-season win totals for the first time in team history, following last year’s 11-5 record.
All in all, then, Sunday was a day of good tidings for the Seahawks, and there were smiles aplenty in the team’s locker room after the game.
“I’m not trying to be arrogant or anything, but we’re confident right now,” said Seattle wide receiver Golden Tate. “It’s very exciting. We honestly feel like the sky’s the limit with us.”
This was the most emphatic home victory for the Seahawks since the season’s second and third weeks, when they defeated San Francisco 29-3 and Jacksonville 47-17 in back-to-back games. Seattle was less stellar in more recent wins against Tennessee (20-13 on Oct. 13) and Tampa Bay (27-24 in overtime on Nov. 3).
By beating Minnesota, “this a good opportunity for us to have a little momentum going into the bye,” said Seattle head coach Pete Carroll. “We wanted to get this win badly so we could feel comfortable about taking this break.
“I don’t think (the bye) comes at a great time because we’d like to keep playing, to tell you the truth,” he added. “But we’ll use it and we’ll get some guys rested.”
Sunday’s game was also the first appearance this season for Seattle wide receiver Percy Harvin, the team’s top offseason free-agent acquisition. Harvin, who has been sidelined since having summer surgery for a hip injury, had one reception for 17 yards, but he also gave a tantalizing glimpse of his explosive speed with a 58-yard kickoff return that he nearly broke for a touchdown.
The Vikings came into the game with a lowly 2-7 record, last in the NFC North, but they hung with Seattle through much of the first half. The Seahawks, in fact, did not take the lead for good until midway through the second quarter when running back Marshawn Lynch bulled into the end zone from 1 yard out, making the score 17-10.
Minnesota answered with a field goal 48 seconds before halftime, but the Seahawks needed just 38 seconds to tack on another touchdown. Harvin’s kickoff return gave Seattle possession at the Vikings 46-yard line, and five plays later quarterback Russell Wilson found wide receiver Doug Baldwin in the back right corner of the end zone for a leaping 19-yard touchdown reception and a 24-13 halftime lead.
After a scoreless third period, the Seahawks put up two TDs and a field goal early in the fourth quarter to turn the game into a romp. It began with an interception by linebacker Bobby Wagner, giving Seattle a first down at the Minnesota 18, and two plays later Wilson flipped a 6-yard pass — a backhand shovel pass, no less — to Lynch for the score.
Moments later, Seahawks cornerback Walter Thurmond — playing in place of teammate Brandon Browner, out for several weeks with a groin injury — intercepted a pass in the flat and returned it 29 yards for a touchdown.
On Minnesota’s third play after the ensuing kickoff, Seattle defensive end Chris Clemons deflected a pass in the backfield that was intercepted by defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, leading to a 26-yard field goal by place-kicker Steven Hauschka.
The scoring flurry put Seattle on top 41-13 and had Carroll going to his bench for the game’s remaining minutes. The Vikings managed a 60-yard drive in seven plays against Seahawk backups for an insignificant final touchdown with 2:18 to play in the game.
“That was a huge win for us,” Wilson said. “Winning in that fashion against a solid football team and the way we did it —_ offensively, defensively and special teams — that’s how we want to play.”
After next week’s bye, Seattle will have five remaining regular-season games. Their schedule resumes with the Monday night home game against New Orleans, followed by a Dec. 8 road game at San Francisco. Both are games against teams with plenty of incentive to beat the Seahawks, which is something Wilson and his teammates seem to understand.
“We haven’t done anything yet,” Wilson said. “We’re 10-1 and that means a lot, but that doesn’t mean everything. Our goal is to win the whole thing, and to do that you take one game at a time, one practice at a time, and then you make that the best day you can possibly make it. That winning mentality can never slow down.”