This game was slated to be a blowout and the Seahawks held up their end of the bargain. The Vikings resisted, at least for the better part of the first half, but ultimately a 120-play sample was enough to reveal the talent difference between the two. The most anticipated part of this game was the season debut of the highest profile acquisition in the John Schneider / Pete Carroll era as Percy Harvin took the field in Seahawks blue for the first time.
Harvin only saw two touches against his former team, but even that was enough to get a glimpse of why Seattle paid so much to get him. More on that later. First, let's take a look at the game flow. Imagine for a moment a box filled about a third of the way with water with one side belonging to Minnesota and the other to Seattle. Each drive in the first half tilted the box towards the opponent's end, causing the water to slosh up against the end piece, some with more force than others, but split pretty evenly betwixt the two. One difference, however, is that the Seahawks' end of the box was forged from steel while the Viking's side was corrugated cardboard and after two quarters of sloshing, the deteriorating Vikings gave way as the Seahawks tidal-waved (title-waved?) their way out of the box and flooded the room.
The scoring started on a 50-yard field goal from Steven Hauschka, whose two makes kept him perfect on the season when he hasn't been Maragosed or kicked it into his own lineman's head. The drive actually recorded negative yardage, but Seattle was granted excellent field position after Clinton McDonald recovered a Christian Ponder fumble.
The Vikings fired back with a field goal of their own, a 32-yarder from Blair Walsh capping a rather impressive 13-play march. Seattle's second score came on the next drive, a short Marshawn Lynch touchdown after a brisk four-play, 78-yard drive that included a 44-yard pass to Doug Baldwin -- an opening created by the safety jumping a Harvin route on Percy's first play of the game. The thing to remember is that Harvin's impact will be felt far beyond his box score contributions.
Down seven, Minnesota's offense came back out with confidence. After moving the ball down to Seattle's 38 yard line, Jarius Wright (who was filling in for late scratch Greg Jennings), broke Richard Sherman off on a double-move to a degree I'd never seen in Sherman's short career and hauled in the deep TD pass. No blown coverage, no missed assignments, just a JAGgish player schooling an All Pro. Tip your hat and move on.
With the offenses starting to dictate things, the Seahawks began to impress their identity upon the game, leaning heavily on Lynch and throwing off of play action, grinding the ball down the field and exclamating it with a one-yard Lynch plunge. Along the way, Harvin recorded his first catch -- a sprawling, desperate one-handed beauty on third and long that kept the drive alive. It was our first inkling of the type of playmaking ability that had me hanging off the light fixtures with excitement when Seattle traded for him.
After another Vikings field goal made it 17-13, Harvin sauntered out to his own endzone to receive the kick. Carroll said during the week that Harvin wouldn't be returning kicks, but after Jermaine Kearse got concussed, Seattle had a role that needed filling.
Carroll: Alright, Jermaine's hurt. We need someone to return kicks.
Jon Ryan: "I got this, coach."
Carroll: "No, Jon."
Chris Maragos: I'm ready, sir.
Carroll: "You've done enough already. Where's Golden?"
Golden Tate: /runs around the sidelines in circles with his arms out making airplane noises
Carroll: "What about you, Turbo?"
Robert Turbin: /solemnly grabs helmet
Harvin: "I'm Percy Harvin."
Carroll: /steps close /sniffs Harvin /begins slowly humping Harvin's leg, his khakis making an uncomfortable scraping noise against the player's skin-tight game pants "Go get 'em, gorgeous."
As Blair Walsh's kick cartwheeled towards the right corner of the endzone, Harvin glided underneath, cradled it in his Herculean arms, and began his return. See, Percy Harvin is what happens when God sees fit to wrap a lightning bolt in human flesh, and we got to see it in the open field for the first time. The return lasted 58 yards but it seemed over in a zig-zagging flash. The dude just moves differently, like, on an elemental level. It was the last time today we'd see him with the ball, but damn it if that sneak-peek wasn't tantalizing. The return set Seattle up with a shot at scoring one more time before the break, which they promptly did when Russell Wilson found Baldwin for an airborne TD grab that made it 24-13.
After halftime, the Seahawks came out and just put it on the Vikes. Carroll's Seahawks have been about as good as any team I've seen at making halftime adjustments and today was no exception. While the 'Hawks didn't score in the third quarter, they effectively stifled the upstart Minnesota offense and the game began to take on a more one-sided feel. The Seattle pressure built up all quarter long and when the fourth quarter commenced, the kink in their hose was straightened and they skadooshed all over Minny's best laid plans.
The next score was a childish six-yard flip from Wilson to Lynch, who stampeded in for his third touchdown of the game. On the play, Wilson found himself with no one open and a collapsing pocket but never lowered his head and spotted Lynch about three yards in front of him and slightly to his right. Since he was being flushed to his left, Wilson couldn't turn and set his feet for the throw so he alertly back-handed the ball to his ogre-ish running back like it was a piece of crumpled paper absent-mindedly tossed towards an inconveniently placed wastebasket.
With his team reeling, the Christian Ponder that most of us expected to see showed up and threw a pass right on the money to Walter Thurmond who was, to be fair, wide open and was more than happy to return the ball into the endzone. At 38-13, the rest of the game was fairly elementary, with Seattle adding a field goal and Jarius Wright snagging a second TD late from whatever not-Ponder QB Minnesota decided to try out this week.
The final score was 41-20, which seems about right. Some other observations:
*President Wilson continued his impressive campaign, turning in a deceptively gorgeous line of 13-18, 230, 2 TDs, 0 INTs for a career high rating of 151.4. The win was the 22nd of his young career, already tied for the most by a QB in his first two seasons in NFL history. Got five more games plus playoffs to provide separation.
*In a game that featured Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch, of course Toby Gerhart was the leading rusher. Gerhart (who I'm not completely convinced isn't Mike Alstott) garbage-timed his way to 67 yards, besting Peterson's 65 and Lynch's 54.
*Wilson's 13 completions were spread amongst eight receivers. Zach Miller led the team in catches (4), yards (69), and targets (5). Tate, who's been emerging as Seattle's go-to receiver, saw four targets but was only able to translate it into one 26-yard reception. Baldwin only got two targets, but he maximized them to the tune of two catches, 63 yards, and a score.
*The Seahawks notched four more turnovers, getting interceptions from Thurmond, Bobby Wagner, and McDonald. That's a cornerback, a linebacker, and a defensive tackle. Where you gonna throw it against this team?
*The Vikings (336) actually recorded more total yards than the Seahawks (323), but needed 20 more plays than Seattle to do so. Minnesota averaged 4.0 yards per run, 5.8 yards per pass, and 4.8 yards per play overall. The 'Hawks, by comparison, went 3.3/11.0/6.5.
*Eleven yards per pass attempt.
*The Seattle offensive line was at full strength for the first time since the Carolina game and it showed. Outside of a little rust and the occasional overwhelming of JR Sweezy, it showed. Wilson was only sacked once and hit four times. That's a win.
*Cliff Avril now has sacks in three straight games and four of his last five. Decent little signing, I'd say.
Seattle's win, combined with the Saints' last-second victory over the 49ers, sends the Seahawks into their long-awaited bye week with a 3.5 game lead over the Niners (who are now tied with the Cardinals) in the division and a 1.5 game lead over New Orleans for home field advantage. When this team emerges from their two-week hiatus, they will host the Saints on Monday night with the opportunity to effectively seal up the #1 seed in the NFC. That's fun.