SEATTLE – A yard here, a play there, and the Vikings would be heading home from the Pacific Northwest with their first victory against Seattle since Brad Childress was their head coach. They would be back in the NFC playoff race at 2-3, heading home with a signature win and a growing reservoir of confidence.
These are the margins on which so many teams have based their laments over the past nine years at CenturyLink Field. They are the crevices through which Russell Wilson works a particular brand of magic with which, by now, the Vikings are all too familiar.
It’s why, instead of celebrating a prime-time win against one of the NFC’s two remaining undefeated teams, they prepared for a long, disappointing flight home from a building they undoubtedly would not care to see again for a while.
A commanding first half that saw the Vikings take a 13-0 lead through two quarters dissolved quickly in the third quarter, as Dalvin Cook injured his groin on a pass that went for a six-yard loss on the first play of the third quarter and the Seahawks scored three third-quarter touchdowns (aided by a pair of Kirk Cousins turnovers). Then, when the Seahawks came down to their final fleeting chances, Wilson delivered twice, connecting with D.K. Metcalf for 39 yards on a fourth down and hitting him on another fourth down with 15 seconds left to give the Seahawks a 27-26 win.
It was the Vikings’ second one-point loss in three weeks, and sent them home at 1-4, before a Sunday game against a winless Falcons team that fired its coach and general manager on Sunday.
“We’ve just got to finish. One more play,” said wide receiver Adam Thielen, who caught both of his touchdown passes in the second half. “Obviously you can go back and look at situations and wish you woulda coulda shoulda, but, man, one more play, one more yard, one more stop, things like that. It’s just we’re so close, and that’s probably why it’s so disappointing, it’s so frustrating, it’s humbling, honestly, but we know if we can stick together, we can keep going to work, I know it’s like a broken record, we keep saying that, but it’s so true. We have the guys in this locker room. We have the coaches. We really care about one other, and we’re fighting to the end. I promise you that.”
The Vikings’ first two quarters on Sunday night in Seattle were a fiery display of defensive mastery that put them in position to knock off the Seahawks. That lead dissolved in a third quarter full of turnovers, penalties and a concerning injury to their star running back.
With Cook in the locker room, the Vikings could do nothing with their first drive of the third quarter, and Russell Wilson hit tight end Will Dissly for a touchdown as linebacker Eric Wilson fell down on the play. Guard Dru Samia’s holding penalty — his second of the night and third flag overall — put the Vikings in a second-and-long situation, and when Cousins tried to throw under pressure on third down, a Seahawks challenge showed Damontre Moore had knocked the ball out of Cousins’ hand before his arm came forward, turning an incomplete pass into a fumble the Seahawks recovered on the Vikings’ 15.
Wilson’s dart to D.K. Metcalf made it 14-13 Seattle, and on the Vikings’ next offensive play, Cousins tried to fit a pass to Justin Jefferson over veteran Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright on a zone drop. Wright’s interception gave Seattle the ball on the Vikings’ 29, and Chris Carson sliced through the Vikings’ defense for a 29-yard TD.
Cousins responded by directing a touchdown drive that ended with a three-yard TD to Adam Thielen, but as the Vikings tried to tie the game on a two-point conversion, they opted for a Cousins draw behind Samia (who by that point had been flagged for a third holding penalty) that the Seahawks quickly snuffed out.
The Vikings’ first half on offense was efficient, but their first two defensive quarters were nothing short of immaculate. Their four-man rush beat Seattle’s dubious offensive line and put Wilson in a vice as the quarterback searched in vain for places to go downfield with the ball. A Vikings defense that had seven sacks in its first four games brought Wilson down four times, letting the Seahawks run just 18 plays that averaged just 3.7 yards while holding the ball for 9:44.
Cousins completed 15 of his 21 passes for 140 yards in the first half; after he hit just four receivers the entire game in Houston last week, he completed passes to that many different players in the Vikings’ game-opening 77-yard touchdown march.
Minnesota lined up with heavy personnel, content to whip the Seahawks up front the way Seattle used to do to its opponents. The Vikings put fullback C.J. Ham on the line of scrimmage as an extra tight end, used tackle Rashod Hill as an extra lineman on a pair of plays and gave the ball to Dalvin Cook 17 times for 65 yards.
It amounted to a still-tenuous 13-0 halftime lead, though, after a Dru Samia holding penalty forced the Vikings to make up yardage for a 52-yard Dan Bailey field goal in the second quarter. Then, after a Harrison Smith blitz to snuff out a swing pass for a six-yard Chris Carson loss, followed by two sacks, the Vikings could only turn their final drive of the half into three points. The Seahawks dialed up a well-timed blitz following a Vikings timeout to force a quick Cousins incompletion during a two-minute drill, and Shaquill Griffin swatted Cousins’ deep shot away fromThielen to save a touchdown after Thielen had gained a step on him.