By Chris Cluff
Russell Wilson threw three touchdown passes as the Seahawks overcame Adrian Peterson’s 182 rushing yards to beat the Minnesota Vikings 30-20 on Sunday and open the second half of the season with a win they had to have.
“I thought it was the kind of day that we needed to start the second half,” Seattle head coach Pete Carroll told reporters. “We put a lot of pressure on our guys to play well today and to get things done and get this thing going.”
Carroll knows his team basically has to run the table at home to make the playoffs. At 5-4, they still need five more wins in the final seven games to guarantee that.
They are 4-0 at home, where Wilson has thrown nine touchdown passes and no interceptions, with the New York Jets and all three division opponents still to come. They are coming together on offense and just need their defense to stop getting gouged like it has the past four games.
Wilson and the offense are starting to click. They ran for 195 yards on 45 carries, scored a season high in points and finished off the game with a fourth-down conversion. While Peterson ripped up the Seattle defense, Marshawn Lynch did the same to the Vikings, with 124 yards on 26 rushes.
“A great day by our offense; I loved the way we mixed it,” Carroll said. “We got to run the ball a lot today, with a lot of energy and a lot of toughness. Marshawn was fantastic, and I thought the line of scrimmage was really good for us. We rushed for 200 today, or close to it.”
They did it behind a line that was in constant flux. James Carpenter sat out, John Moffitt stepped in at left guard and Lemuel Jeanpierre played well when he had to step in for center Max Unger in the second half.
Receivers Golden Tate and Sidney Rice both had big days. They combined for eight catches, 82 yards and all three scores, and Rice threw a 25-yard pass to Zach Miller on their second scoring drive, which ended when Rice caught an 11-yard TD pass from Wilson.
“It’s really exciting to see Golden and Sidney coming to life,” Carroll said. “We want to see those guys continue to have a big impact on the game. I think that makes a big difference for us in putting everything together.”
Wilson completed 16-of-24 passes, although he had at least three dropped. He also kept some drives alive with his feet, running for 27 yards on nine carries. He continues to grow into the offense and looks more comfortable every week.
“Russell played really well, did a great job of handling all the situations and the different players and the things that we did,” Carroll said. “He fit us together nicely.” Grade: A-
The defense, so stout in the first month, has had its problems over the last four games. New England’s Tom Brady and Detroit’s Matthew Stafford picked apart the Hawks through the air, while San Francisco’s Frank Gore and Peterson ran through them.
Peterson started hot, running around right end and through the defense for 74 yards on the second play of what became a very quick four-play touchdown drive capped by his 1-yard plunge. Peterson ran for 144 yards on 12 carries in the first half. But, unlike last week, when Seattle failed to stop Stafford and the Lions in the fourth quarter when they absolutely had to, the Hawks held Peterson down in the second half of this game. However, it seemed more due to the fact that the Vikings stopped running it as much. Peterson ran just five times in the second half, yet gained 38 yards.
“We had our problems in the first half trying to catch up with Adrian, but we finally did and got the thing stopped,” Carroll said. “We made so many mistakes on plays, and he ran great. He’s a great player, but we didn’t have to give him that (many yards), and we came out and missed a few tackles. But it’s just miscues, and we didn’t handle some adjustments that they did well. It was kind of a nightmare, to tell you the truth, in the first half.
“The cool thing is that the guys settled down and put it to work and Gus (Bradley) made his adjustments and we stopped them,” Carroll said. “I think they had 59 yards in the second half, and three points, and that’s a great turnaround for us, and I love the way we responded.”
The defense also completely shut down Christian Ponder and the passing game. The second-year quarterback completed just 11-of-22 passes for 63 yards, was sacked four times and threw an interception to Seattle cornerback Brandon Browner that basically clinched the win.
Rookie linebacker Bobby Wagner led the Hawks with 10 tackles, including a sack. Jeron Johnson got a sack on a safety blitz and rookie defensive end Greg Scruggs also got to Ponder. Cornerback Marcus Trufant caused and recovered a fumble that led to Seattle’s first touchdown. Grade: B-
The Hawks’ special teams have not offered much help in recent games, and they had a PAT blocked in this game — although Carroll told reporters he thought the Vikings were lined up illegally.
Leon Washington had just three returns; he ran back one punt 24 yards but went backward on the other, and his kick return went just 19 yards. Another average performance by the return teams.
Other than a 39-yard kick return by Percy Harvin, the coverage teams were good. Minnesota returned three punts for one yard. Grade: B-
Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell called one of his best games of the season, mixing up the run and pass and doing different things with them — like the pass from Rice. He also called consecutive receiver screens to Tate in the second half, going right on the first one and left on the next one.
He also made Michael Robinson a surprise contributor. The fullback ran the ball three times and caught two passes for 22 yards but also dropped a throw. Bevell involved him a bit too much.
Bradley did a great job of fixing the run defense in the second half and found various ways to pressure Ponder.
The only real glaring error in coaching was another bad challenge by Carroll. A week after he unwisely challenged a third-down play against Detroit on which Browner had been called for holding, Carroll challenged another third-down play that was unlikely to be reversed: Peterson had caught a short pass and reached the ball across the line just as he stepped out of bounds.
Aside from that ill-advised decision, the coaches had one of their better games of the season. Grade: B+
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Chris Cluff worked as a sports editor and writer for The Seattle Times for 11 years and has written two books on the Seattle Seahawks. Since leaving the Times, he has written about the Seahawks and Seattle sports for Bleacher Report and the blog he shares with a fellow sportswriter, outsidethepressbox.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com.