Wide left. That’s all you will be hearing about this upcoming week, but there were plenty more reasons why the Seahawks beat the Vikings 10-9 on Sunday.
By Jordan Wright
Offensively the Vikings were unable to get much going, but that was to be expected. With temperatures as low as six below, and Seattle having one of the best defenses in the league, nobody was expecting Minnesota to have a great day on offense.
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater outplayed Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson in almost every statistical category except for the one that truly mattered, touchdowns. Bridgewater did what he needed to do and didn’t have any mistakes, which is impressive considering the circumstances.
Running back Adrian Peterson received 23 carries, but was only able to muster 45 yards. Unfortunately, Peterson’s fumble was just as big of a reason for the Vikings loss as Blair Walsh’s missed kick. In addition to the fumble, it appeared that Peterson’s final run was supposed to go to the right, which is Walsh’s preferred side to kick from, but Peterson bounced it to the left trying to get more yards.
Wideout Stefon Diggs led the Vikings in targets (6) receptions (4) and yards (26), but it was Kyle Rudolph who stepped up when the Vikings needed it the most. If Seattle has a weakness defensively, it is covering tight ends down the seam. I was curious as to why the Vikings were not taking advantage of that, but perhaps they were saving it until they needed it the most. On the last drive of the day for the Vikings, Rudolph was able to draw a pass interference penalty before catching a 24 yard reception to put the Vikings into field goal range.
Defensively, the Vikings did a much better job of limiting Russell Wilson and company when compared to the last game these two teams played. With no Marshawn Lynch or Thomas Rawls, it was up to Wilson and Seattle’s receivers to carry the offense. However, it was the Vikings defense that got the better of them, limiting Wilson to only 142 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Everson Griffen was all over the place, racking up six tackles, four quarterback hits and a sack. Eric Kendricks led the team with eight tackles, and even more impressively, was tied for the team lead with two passes broken up. Terence Newman left the game early with an injury, opening the door for first round pick Trae Waynes to see some playing time and he didn’t disappoint. Wilson attempted to pick on Waynes many times, but Waynes held his own and was far from a liability on the field.
Special teams will be the unit that is scrutinized the most, but that’s not entirely fair. Blair Walsh scored every point for the Vikings and was the reason they were in the ball game. Jeff Locke put the ball down with the laces facing the kicker a couple times today, but that was the plan coming into the game since the frozen field would make it very difficult to spin the ball successfully. There is no doubt Blair Walsh should have been able to make that field goal, but had the offense scored a touchdown instead of a field goal on any of their previous drives, the Vikings wouldn’t have been in that spot to begin with.
The player of the game for me is Blair Walsh. Now give me a chance to explain before you come after me with torches and pick forks! Walsh scored every point for the Vikings, finishing the game three of four on field goal attempts on a day when it was below zero for most of the game (making the ball much more difficult to kick). Walsh was also booting the ball well into the end zone on kickoffs, which was huge because Seattle is one of the best return teams in the NFL. Walsh only allowed Tyler Lockette to return one kickoff for 12 yards. On a day when it should have come down to the running game and defense, it was Walsh who kept the Vikings in the game, and that is why he is my player of the game.
The player who needs the most improvement is T.J. Clemmings, who has consistently been bad the entire season and was the Vikings’ lowest rated offensive player according to Pro Football Focus. I was lenient on Clemmings throughout the season, since he is a rookie and was expected to sit behind Phil Loadholt. But after four preseason and 16 regular season games, time for excuses are at an end. After going back and watching the tape, it was clear Seattle was going after Clemmings. To me, he is the biggest reason the Vikings lost the game.
Looking ahead, the Vikings are in great shape. This is a very young team that doesn’t project to lose any great players and will be getting help along the offensive line when Sullivan and Loadholt come back. Defensively, this team is very good and should only get better as the younger players get more experience.
It was not a fluke that Minnesota finished the season 11-5 and the NFC North champions. Sure, there were some embarrassing losses (San Francisco and Seattle), but there was a lot more to be positive about. I am sad that the season is over, but like every Vikings fan knows all too well, there’s always next year!
As always, if you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to reach out to me at facebook.com/ skoljwright, or on Twitter @skoljwright. Skol!