Upon Further Review: Vikings come within inches of beating Seattle

With Halloween right around the corner, Russell Wilson was a nightmare for the Minnesota Vikings once again.

Minnesota arguably played its best game of the season in a 27-26 loss to the unbeaten Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. Minnesota dominated time of possession (39:28 to 20:32) and leaned on a strong running game to take a lead in the fourth quarter, but a few mistakes and a fourth-down stop proved to be the difference in the game.

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The Vikings started the game with a 12-play, 77-yard drive that ended with an eight-yard touchdown run from Dalvin Cook. That series set the tone for a Minnesota offense that scored on five long scoring drives, all of which took 11 plays or more.

Minnesota (1-4) finished with 449 total yards and rushed for 201 yards on 4.9 yards per rush. Whether it was Cook (17 carries, 65 yards and one TD) or Alexander Mattison (20 carries for 112 yards) filling in once Cook left the game with a groin injury, the Vikings gashed Seattle defense all night.

As a result, the Seahawks barely had the ball in the first half and looked disjointed and ineffective in their possessions.

Seattle (5-0) grabbed momentum after the half, forcing two turnovers in the third quarter that led to three touchdowns in less than two minutes of game time. Wilson, who threw for 217 yards, three scores and one interception, found Will Dissly and D.K. Metcalf for touchdowns in that span, followed by a 29-yard touchdown run from Chris Carson that put the Seahawks up 21-13 with 8:02 left in the third quarter.

But Kirk Cousins (249 yards, two touchdowns and one interception) and the Vikings weathered the storm with two time-consuming scoring drives that ended in Adam Thielen touchdowns. After Eric Wilson picked off Wilson, Minnesota got the ball back and advanced all the way to Seattle’s six-yard line and tried to clinch the win by going for it on fourth down.

It came up short on a fourth-and-inches run which gave the ball back to Wilson with 1:57 left in the game and … well, we know what happened next.

The Vikings had their best chance to beat Wilson and the Seahawks since the Blair Walsh playoff game and even though Minnesota defended him better than any other team this season, it was Wilson who made just enough plays to walk off the soggy CenturyLink Field with a win.

Here is a recap of Sunday’s game (STORY | PHOTOS):

 

PLAYER OF THE GAME

Eric Wilson was all over the place on the defensive end. The fourth-year linebacker made what could have been the play of the game for Minnesota by intercepting Russell Wilson late in the fourth quarter.

Eric Wilson only had six tackles but he made them count. He sacked Russell Wilson and made two tackles for loss, plus he had three quarterback hits and a pass defensed. In a year where not much is going right for the Vikings, Wilson has emerged as a young bright spot on the defense.

 

DON’T FORGET ABOUT ME

Thielen had a great game on Sunday and showed up when Cousins needed him most. He caught nine passes for 80 yards and got open for two critical touchdown receptions, including an impeccable out route in the fourth quarter where he shook Seattle cornerback Shaquill Griffin out of his shoes.

With the emergence of Justin Jefferson in recent weeks, it can sometimes be easy to overlook the reliable Thielen, who now has 44 catches for 364 yards and a league-leading six touchdown catches.

 

THAT MOMENT

This game came down to the failed fourth-down run late in the game. Minnesota had moved the ball all the way down to Seattle’s six-yard line and was faced with a fourth-and-inches with two minutes to go.

Head coach Mike Zimmer had a decision to make. Do you kick the field goal and hopefully make it an eight-point with just under two minutes left, or do you go for it with less than a yard to go and trust your running game that had been dominating the Seahawks all game?

Zimmer ultimately made the call to go for it. The Vikings ran behind the right side of the offensive line and Mattison was tackled by Bobby Wagner at the line of scrimmage which gave the Seahawks the ball back. It was the decision that made sense on paper and with how the game was going, it probably was not what Seahawk fans wanted to see in that situation.

Sure, it did not work out, but it is hard to blame Zimmer’s thought process on the play. If Minnesota had picked up the first down then the game is over whereas a field goal would have just given Wilson the ball back down by one score.

 

THIS NUMBER

0 – The number of third downs converted by the Seahawks. Seattle was 0-7 on third down tries in this game, which is a testament to the Vikings’ defensive game plan. Unfortunately for Minnesota, the Seahawks converted both of their fourth-down attempts in the game, which both came on their final drive.

 

THEY SAID IT

“We came here to win. I’m not going to second-guess any of that stuff. We just didn’t get it done.” – Zimmer on the decision to go for it on fourth down.

“Honestly, the message in the locker room is we can be a dang good football team. We saw it tonight, we saw it the last couple weeks. We just need to finish one more play.” – Thielen on the Vikings’ season so far.

“Yeah, I feel like I’m getting better every game. Especially a big game like this one, Sunday Night Football against a good team, it’s great to make big plays. But it’s even better to win, so we have to put it all together.” – Wilson said about his progress this year.

 

WHAT’S NEXT

The Vikings will return home to U. S. Bank Stadium next week to host the winless Atlanta Falcons. Atlanta lost 23-16 to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday and subsequently fired head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff after the game. Defensive coordinator Raheem Morris has been elevated as the Falcons’ interim head coach.