When you look at the recent history of Seahawks road playoff games you see a handful of losses which end in heartbreaking fashion. It looked like this game was heading down that path as well. Instead, we survived. Minnesota kicker Blair Walsh shanked a 27-yard field goal with 20 seconds left and the Seahawks escaped a gelid TCF Bank Stadium with a stunning 10-9 victory over the Minnesota Vikings. The Seahawks will take on the Carolina Panthers next Sunday in the NFC Divisional playoffs. As astonishing as that missed field goal at the end was, this was a very frustrating game to watch. Here are a few talking points I took from today’s win.
Offense Out of Sync: Part of my frustration about this team is how hot and cold the offense is. After dominating Arizona last week, the Seahawks had an extremely difficult time moving the ball and driving deep into Vikings territory. I contribute three things to this. First and foremost, the Minnesota defense is ridiculously good; much better than I thought they would play and absolutely better than the effort they put on the field back in December. The Vikings run defense was on point and their pass rush was particularly scary. Despite the fact that he was only sacked twice, quarterback Russell Wilson was constantly feeling the pressure and the Vikings defensive ends did a fantastic job rushing behind Wilson to take away his ability to run backwards and escape. Another contributing factor I correlate to the Seahawks sluggish offensive performance is the communication issues from the sideline. The Seahawks burned three timeouts because the offense was slow approaching the line of scrimmage and had to take a timeout to avoid being penalized for delay of game. Lastly the subzero temperatures did affect the Seahawks. To me the team just did not look like they were comfortable being on the field and Wilson struggled to connect on many short and intermediate throws, something that is uncommon to see. The offense will have to be sharp next week in order to keep the game competitive.
Executed to Perfection: This was the play that changed the game. With 13:02 left in the game the Seahawks had the ball 1st and 10 at the Minnesota 39. Out of the shotgun the ball was snapped past Russell Wilson’s head. Wilson had to retreat 10 yards where he slid on top of the ball. He then got back up and scrambled to his right and floated a pass to Tyler Lockett which was caught at the line to gain. Lockett took off to the left and was knocked out of bounds at the 4-yard line. I am just going to assume that is exactly how offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell drew it up. This play gave the Seahawks a huge momentum boost and they were able to score two plays later on a touchdown pass from Wilson to Doug Baldwin, cutting the Vikings lead to 9-7. If you take away this drive, this magnificent play, and the touchdown, the Seahawks would have scored only 3 points on 146 yards of offense. This sequence saved our season and there is little doubt about it.
Wide Left: There is no good reason to miss a 27-yard field goal. I thought it was such a sure thing that I started to think about a potential Tyler Lockett kickoff return with 15 seconds left to set up a shot at a miracle ending. But there was one thing that made me feel hopeful that Blair Walsh would miss his field goal attempt at the end of the game. They had replayed the field goals he made earlier in the game multiple times and on one of his kicks the laces of the football were not spun outwards. On another one of his makes the laces were spun sideways, not all the way out. On his missed field goal at the end the laces once again were not spun out, a significant gaff that contributed to Minnesota losing this game. You have to feel bad for a guy who scored all of the Vikings points but could not come through in the clutch when the team needed him most.
Thoughts on Minnesota: This is as simple as I can state it: this team is very talented. The best part is that outside of Adrian Peterson, they are all young. The Vikings will contend with the Green Bay Packers for division titles for years to come and in a couple years I would not be surprised to see this team making deep runs in the postseason.
Random Thoughts: It’s one thing to be in the comfortable confines of home with heat and a fire going in the fireplace but the elements in Minnesota didn’t seem to be that unbearable on television. I bet it was a whole different story in the stadium. By the time the game started it was officially the third coldest game in NFL history. One of my football bucket list items is to go to a Seahawks game in a tundra style environment. Maybe next year in Green Bay I’ll get that chance… Best weather related sign they showed on TV goes to the guy who held up a sign that said “It’s skol’d.” I don’t exactly know what “Skol” means but it’s a funny play on words… Paul Allen (not the Seahawks owner but the Vikings radio play-by-play man) may be the best in the business and as awesome as his call of Blair Walsh’s missed field goal was you can hear the pain in his voice. I highly recommend giving it a listen… Note to self, never have a birthday party the night before a 10am Seahawks game. Good thing I have great friends to take care of me in the morning. Special shoutout to my friends Alan, Jake, Sammy, and Lauren for making it over for the game and feeding me breakfast and coconut water…
What’s Next: For the second consecutive season the Seahawks will play the Carolina Panthers next Sunday in an NFC Divisional playoff game. Look for my preview of next week’s game on Saturday morning.