Vikings report card: Turnovers costly in loss at Seattle

Turnovers are one of the key statistics for the Minnesota
Vikings, and Sunday’s loss at Seattle was all about the turnovers.

Minnesota (2-8) was minus-4 in turnover differential on
Sunday, committing four costly turnovers and not getting any takeaways on defense
in a 41-20 loss on the road to the 10-1 Seahawks. Since getting 12 takeaways in
the season’s first four games, the Vikings have two takeaways total the past
six weeks. Minnesota has 12 turnovers during that span.

Here’s how the Vikings graded out in each phase on Sunday at
Seattle:

Pass offense: D

The turnovers were the story on Sunday with Christian Ponder
committing three and Matt Cassel adding one after replacing Ponder in the
fourth quarter. Minnesota actually moved the ball at times against the Seahawks
strong defense, but each of the four turnovers led to points. Ponder had one
interception returned for a touchdown and the other three turnovers led to a
short field for Seattle — all of them came in the passing game. Ponder fumbled
after having his arm hit on his first drop-back of the game and then threw two
interceptions in the second half.

Ponder started 9-of-13 passing for 114 yards and a touchdown
in the first half and then went 4 of 9 for just 15 yards passing in the second
half with two interceptions. Cassel was 5 of 13 for 78 yards, with an
interception after his pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage. Cassel
connected with Jarius Wright for a 21-yard touchdown pass with just over two
minutes remaining in the game, Minnesota’s only points of the second half.

Making his first start because Greg Jennings was inactive
with an Achilles injury, Wright had three catches for 69 yards and two
touchdowns of over 20 yards. John Carlson continued to fill in admirably for
Kyle Rudolph, leading the team with five catches for 69 yards and Cordarrelle
Patterson, starting for the benched Jerome Simpson, had three catches for 28
yards. Simpson played, but was behind Wright, Patterson and Joe Webb in total
snaps.

Run offense: D

Coach Leslie Frazier and running back Adrian Peterson
revealed after the game that Peterson wasn’t at full strength after missing two
days of practice with a groin injury. Peterson said the injury kept him from
breaking a few long runs on Sunday. He was clearly bothered by the injury and
finished with 3.1 yards per carry. He was constantly stuck at the line of
scrimmage, partly because of his inability to hit holes with speed and because
the offensive line struggled again to open holes.

The Vikings stayed patient with the running game, but
Peterson ended up with just 65 yards on 21 carries, his long a 13-yarder.
Backup Toby Gerhart saw his most carries in a single game this season and
replaced Peterson for good when the game got out of hand. Gerhart outgained
Peterson, rushing for 67 yards on seven carries, including a 32-yarder.

Pass defense: D

Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson’s numbers don’t jump out,
but he made the plays when needed and took advantage of the short field
provided by turnovers. He finished 13 of 18 for 230 yards passing and two
touchdowns. The elusive Wilson was only sacked once, maneuvering to avoid
pressure and give himself time to find his targets.

Nine different Seahawks caught a pass, the biggest coming
from Doug Baldwin on a perfect pass from Wilson over the outstretched arms of
Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes with Baldwin making a highlight-reel catch
leaping and falling in the end zone for a touchdown with 10 seconds left in the
first half that gave Seattle all the momentum it needed.

Seattle finished with just 230 net passing yards — and 323
total — but didn’t need to drive the length of the field because of the
turnovers.

Run defense: B

The Seahawks didn’t need big yardage totals, and running
back Marshawn Lynch finished with three touchdowns, including one on a
reception. Seattle entered the game with the league’s second-best running game
and Lynch second in the league in rushing yards.

The Vikings still suffered from missed tackles on Sunday,
but actually held Lynch in check for the most part. The Seahawks ran for 93
yards, their third-lowest total of the season, and Lynch was limited to 54
yards on 17 carries, a 3.2-yard average while scoring on 4- and 1-yard
touchdown runs.

Special teams: C

One big mistake negated another solid game from the special
teams. With 52 seconds left in the first half, Percy Harvin went back for the
kickoff return. Minnesota kicker Blair Walsh didn’t get the ball as deep as he
normally does and Harvin returned the kickoff from four yards deep in the end
zone. He cut through the middle of the coverage team and returned the kickoff
58 yards to the Vikings’ 46-yard line to push Seattle into position for the
momentum-grabbing touchdown to Baldwin with 10 seconds left.

Walsh connected on his two field-goal attempts from 32 and
45 yards. The Seahawks had five different kickoff returners total 100 yards,
including Harvin’s big play. Patterson had four returns for a 29.3-yard
average. Punter Jeff Locke had three punts for a 36.7-yard net average.

Overall: D

Minnesota kept itself in the game early. The Vikings
controlled the clock, keeping Seattle’s offense and their own defense off the
field. But four turnovers combined with no takeaways for Minnesota was too much
to overcome. The Vikings held the ball for 34 minutes, 9 seconds to 25:51 for
Seattle and outgained the Seahawks 336-323. The minus-4 turnover-differential
tells it all. The Vikings were still within striking distance before Seattle
turned Sunday’s game into a blowout by capitalizing on short fields for three
scores in the fourth quarter and scored 20 points total off of turnovers.

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