The Seahawks' defense came alive in the 2nd half and helped preserve the lead their offense had provided, as Seattle went on to win 30-20 over the Minnesota Vikings.
The game looked like it would be a shootout early, with Adrian Peterson setting the tone on the Vikings first possession with a 74-yard run that Brandon Browner ran down to prevented the TD, but Peterson followed that up by punching it in for a touchdown. Peterson was nearly impossible to stop in the first two frames; Seattle's run defense was gashed badly time and again - in addition to that 74-yard scamper, they gave up runs of 11 yards, 16 yards, 24 yards, and 15 yards to Peterson, plus another for 16 yards to Percy Harvin, and 14 yards to Toby Gerhart.
By halftime, the Vikings had 228 yards of offense, including an absurd 197 yards rushing. 144 of those yards were via Peterson, so despite a great offensive showing by the Hawks' offense in the first half, Seattle held a slim lead going into the lockerroom, 20-17.
In the 2nd half though, Seattle made the necessary adjustments, and held the Vikings to 59 total yards while possessing the football for 21 of the final 30 minutes of play (which is huge, make no mistake). The Vikings had four possessions in the 2nd half and those four finished as: a punt, a field goal, a punt, and an interception. Christian Ponder finished the game with 63 yards passing and couldn't really do anything with his legs either, rushing for 23 yards on 5 attempts.
The defense remains a bit of a concern coming out of this big win for Seattle, but a lockdown 2nd half helps to alleviate that stress a bit. Missing Jason Jones in the middle, and after losing K.J. Wright with a concussion early, you have to think that Seattle's better than their 1st half showing today. For a young team like this, I have to think that momentum and confidence are definite factors, and after an ugly first two quarters, things certainly tightened down in the second half. While I'm still slightly concerned, especially paired with the Detroit game, Seattle has another home game next weekend and then the bye week to figure things out and get their gap discipline ironed out a bit, because teams seem to have found some specific things to exploit. They'll need to start strong next week and heal up going into the bye so they can catch their second wind into the latter part of the schedule.
The real story for me though today is the continued improving play of QB Russell Wilson. Wilson was nearly flawless in the first half this afternoon, going 10 for 14 with 106 yards and 3 touchdowns as the Hawks put 20 points on the scoreboard going into the lockerroom. His four incompletions in the first half came on three drops and a throwaway. In the 2nd half, Seattle relied more on an efficient and explosive Marshawn Lynch, but Wilson's sharp play in the first half set the tone, allowing Seattle to salt away the game late.
Wilson is now 41 of 59 (69.5%) for 409 yards with 5 touchdowns to 1 interception in his last two games, a tough road loss in Detroit and a nice home win vs. Minnesota. After going 4-for-6 in the redzone this afternoon, Wilson and the Seahawks' offense is now 7-for-9 over their last two games, a marked improvement from the beginning of the season and a point of emphasis for this team.
Wilson, and Seattle's offense, continued to hover at about 33% on third downs, which will surely need to be improved as the season goes on, but with 385 yards of offense and 30 points for this first time this season, I feel like I'm picking nits a bit. This was a great showing for this offense today, and one of the game's biggest plays came in the redzone on 3rd and 9 - Wilson avoided a sack as he stepped up into the pocket and right out along the line of scrimmage, and found Sidney Rice running a drag along the back of the endzone for a touchdown.
Overall, you have to be encouraged with Wilson's play -- he's been poised and efficient, and the offense has been clicking well even with major injuries at receiver and along the offensive line.
After missing starting LG James Carpenter with a late-week concussion (replaced by John Moffitt), Seattle also lost the reliable Max Unger as he went out of the game for several series with a hand injury. Unger was replaced by Lemuel Jeanpierre at center, and the Seahawks proceeded to mount a 9-play, 72 yard drive that was punctuated by a 3 yard touchdown run by Marshawn Lynch.
"Next guy up" is a football slogan when it comes to injuries a team suffers, and Seattle's 'next guy(s) up' performed well.
Greg Scruggs got a sack in backup duty to the injured Jason Jones, and after a very shaky start, Mike Morgan improved in the 2nd half after replacing K.J. Wright, and helped Seattle's run defense gain some traction.
Seattle used the bubble screen incessantly, and...well, they really worked. Golden Tate got a diving touchdown on one, but the Seahawks kept going back to it with positive results each time. More importantly, the Seahawks' effective use of the bubble screen several plays prior allowed Sidney Rice to complete a double-pass downfield to Zach Miller, a play that helped set up the above-mentioned touchdown pass to Rice.
Overall, I thought that Darrell Bevell has really improved as a playcaller these past couple of games and execution apart, the creativity factor has been shining through. Read options have been used effectively, misdirection blocking has been incorporated, the whole field is being used, and most importantly, Seattle has become more than just a run-heavy deep-shot offense. Wilson has completed screens, slants, seam shots, outs, play-action passing, and designed runs. It just makes them harder to defend.
Marshawn Lynch's game was overshadowed by Adrian Peterson's absurd highlight reel performance, but Lynch had one of his best games as a Seahawk, in my opinion. He picked seams well, moved the pile, created yardage on his own, and helped the Seahawks maintain possession of the football for 12 of the 4th quarter's 15 minutes. The scary thing about Lynch is that as the Seahawks' offensive line improves each week and assuming they finally get any continuity, Beastmode will just get better and better.
Speaking of the offensive line, I thought that they did a great job today, all things considered. Wilson only took one sack, and otherwise had a nice amount of time to throw the football and generally speaking, was provided a nice pocket to throw from for the most part. When things closed in, Wilson did his thing and avoided sacks by using his legs.
Brandon Browner had another nice game, including a big fourth-quarter interception. Earl Thomas was very good in this one too, I think, and he almost came up with a pick as well (again). Marcus Trufant came up with a strip on Percy Harvin, which led to a Seahawks touchdown, and Bobby Wagner and Jeron Johnson got a sack apiece. Bruce Irvin played well, and he shared a sack with Leroy Hill.
All in all, a good home win for the Hawks, despite a shaky defensive performance in the first half. As Pete Carroll constantly espouses though, it's not how you start, it's how you finish. And the Seahawks finished very strong, holding on for the win to move to 5-4.
Much more analysis coming this week, and breaking down the X's and O's is always more fun when the Seahawks win.
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