After suffering through a season of Blair Walsh at kicker, who could forget the last time the Seahawks and Vikings met? That’s right, these two teams have not played since January of 2016 in a playoff game on a below-freezing day in Minnesota when Walsh missed a 27-yard field goal with 22 seconds remaining to give the Seahawks a 10-9 victory. Of course, Walsh later signed with the Seahawks and made just 21 of 29 field-goal attempts in his one-year tenure. In that playoff game, the Seahawks rallied from a 9-0 deficit by scoring 10 points in the fourth quarter to pull out the win. Doug Baldwin caught a touchdown pass from Russell Wilson and Stephen Hauschka MADE a field goal to provide the winning margin.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Mike Solari vs. Andre Patterson
Who? Solari, the Seahawks’ offensive-line coach, faces perhaps his toughest teaching job yet against the Vikings and defensive-line coach Andre Patterson. With guard D.J. Fluker out with a hamstring injury, Seattle again turns to first-year guard Jordan Simmons for the start. When Simmons filled in for Fluker in Week 10 against the Rams, he said afterward it was the first time he’s played an entire game in his career, college included. And he played well. But now comes the Vikings and a scary defensive line that allows just 99.2 yards rushing per game and features Danielle Hunter with 11.5 sacks and angry former Seahawks Sheldon Richardson and Tom Johnson (both said this week they were mad at how their time ended in Seattle). If Simmons plays well, it will be Solari’s biggest accomplishment yet. Patterson, a respected NFL coach of 15 years, was defensive coordinator at Western Washington University in 1989, defensive-line coach at Washington State in 1992-93 and started his NFL career as a defensive assistant on Pete Carroll’s staff with the New England Patriots in 1997.
Seahawks DBs vs. Vikings’ star duo
Vikings wide receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs have combined to catch 182 passes this season for 2005 yards. Yikes. The only times this season the Seahawks have faced a duo even close to this good — in two game against the Los Angeles Rams — it did not turn out well. Seattle’s young secondary has struggled in recent games, giving up more than 400 yards passing to Nick Mullens — Nick Mullens! — and 250 yards to Cam Newton on an efficient 25-of-30 passing. Cornerbacks Tre Flowers, Shaquill Griffin and Justin Coleman have to step up and play better against the Vikings, with help from safeties Bradley McDougald and Tedric Thompson.
Tyler Lockett vs. Devante Downs
No, Downs won’t be lined up over Lockett on the outside, but it’s a fun sight to see Snohomish County products on an NFL field. Downs may not see a ton of action, but keep your eye out for the Mountlake Terrace alum on special teams. After being selected in the seventh round of the 2018 draft, Downs has played in eight games and has a couple of special-teams tackles so far in his rookie season. Lockett has been excellent as a wide receiver for the Seahawks this season, but hadn’t really shined on special teams as in years past until an 84-yard kickoff return to open the second half last week against the 49ers led to a Seattle touchdown.
9: The number of giveaways (five interceptions, four fumbles) for the Seahawks this season, lowest in the NFL. In what is likely to be a tight game, Seattle absolutely needs to limit turnovers against a Vikings defense that has 19 takeaways on the season. Wilson has been terrific in limiting interceptions this season, but can sometimes be loose with the ball while trying to scramble away from pressure. The Vikings defensive line can be ferocious, led by Hunter, Everson Griffen and former Seahawks Richardson and Johnson.
DID YOU KNOW?
Tyler Lockett is small. That you knew. But, according to Football Outsiders, Lockett also provides more value per play than any other receiver in the league. Lockett’s DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average; represents value, per play, over an average wide receiver in the same game situations) of 54.3-percent is far and away the best in the NFL. In second place is New Orleans’ all-world receiver Michael Thomas at 32.6-percent. Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill is in third place at 31-percent. That’s some pretty good company for Lockett to be in. Lockett also has drawn 110 yards in defensive pass interference penalties, second-most in the league. The Seahawks are certainly seeing a return on their investment after rewarding Lockett with a three-year, $37.8 million contract extension in the offseason.
“Please tell the Seahawks to stop running prevent defense,” is something I overheard recently. Despite giving up passing yards at an alarming clip the past few games, the Seahawks are not trying to drive fans insane by running a “prevent” defense. While you may see this at the end of a half or at the end of a game to “prevent” a deep pass for a touchdown, the Seahawks remain steadfast in their Cover 3 scheme, discussed in this space prior. The Seahawks’ philosophy in this scheme allows a fair amount of short passes — sometimes maddeningly so — with the goal of preventing chunk yardage. The prevent defense usually has the cornerback guarding the sidelines, two safeties deep, and the linebackers, or extra defensive backs, also lined up well into the secondary. The obvious goal is to not let anything over the top of the defense and to force meaningless throws underneath. Seattle’s current failings in the secondary have much less to do with scheme, and more with a group of young players learning the nuances of Carroll’s defense.
It’s another weekday night game, so unless you ditched work, something quick and easy is likely in order. On nights like this, poutine is an easy choice. Grab a bag of frozen french fries, a brown gravy mix, cheese curds and crumbled bacon from the store on your way home. Make sure the fries are cooked up so that the outside is crispy and the inside nice and soft. Pure delight. If you are up for an experience, head to Total Wine & More and pick up a bottle of Dansk Mjod Viking Blod Mead. Based on a recipe from the 1700s, Viking Blod is a Nordic honey wine with hops added. Go easy though, because at 19-percent alcohol by volume, this one could turn against you in a hurry.
Vikings 24, Seahawks 21
Minnesota’s defense is the real deal, allowing the sixth-fewest yards per game in the NFL this season. And so are the Vikings’ wide receivers. The Seahawks’ secondary has been stuck in a rut of late, so stopping the combination of Thielen and Diggs seems like an almost insurmountable task. Seattle will need to rely on its inconsistent pass rush to put some pressure on quarterback Kirk Cousins, and the Vikings’ don’t allow a lot of sacks. A win virtually assures the Seahawks of a playoff berth, but the matchups just aren’t in their favor in this one. It’ll be close, but Minnesota, desperate for a win, comes out on top.
— Chad Davis, Herald Writer