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Cigar Thoughts, Game 13: Seahawks dress / play like swamp monsters, drag Vikings to watery death

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The Seattle Seahawks all but clinched a playoff berth with a dominating defensive performance against the Minnesota Vikings

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

A funny thing happened this season: the Seahawks got good. I crapped on this team a lot during the first month of the season and, if we’re being honest with ourselves, they deserved it. But then, somehow, they got translated into a better, more beautiful language. That transformation took another step against the Minnesota Vikings tonight, as Seattle leaned on an explosive 4th quarter to outlast their final remaining competition for a the top wild card spot.

Now, it didn't feel like the Seahawks were good for the first half, hell— two-thirds of this game. Offensively, at least. The defense was insane, and thank God for it; plenty more on that later. But the offense... man, the offense was garbage. Russell Wilson was off his game all night, struggling in primetime in a way he’s unused to. The running game was sensational, as far as running games go, but anytime you rush for 34 of your total yardage, something is wrong.

Now, to be fair to Wilson, I didn’t see a single receiver get open all night, but that didn’t stop Russ from rushing throws, missing guys by substantial amounts, and checking down even on 3rd & long. The first half was uneventful; two teams traded punts for the first 29 or so possessions of the night with the eyes of the nation upon them. The flip side of all that, of course, is great defensive effort, and the game’s first 30 minutes were littered with it. Both squads’ front sevens were outstanding, picking apart the poor saps assigned to block them, and wreaking havoc upon two high-paid QBs completely overwhelmed by the pressure.

Seattle was able to scratch out one field goal, the only tallies registered in the first two quarters, and the result of a laborious 13-play drive that petered out on Minnesota’s 19 yard line. It was the only one of the game’s first 13 drives that ended with points, and that includes the Seahawks’ final possession of the first half.

That drive had a unique northwestern beauty to it, slogging 5 yards at a time until the Seahawks found themselves on the doorstep against a defense that was all of a sudden unable to stop them. Until they did. Due to clock mismanagement, Seattle found themselves on Minnesota’s 1 yard line with 16 seconds left and no timeouts. On the next play, and unable to take a sack with no way to stop the clock, Wilson took a shotgun snap, looked right, spun left, fell down, got up, threw the ball safely away, got wrapped up, and threw the ball desperately towards the sideline. Except it never got there because Eric Kendricks was waiting for it in the backfield. Kendricks was primed for an easy pick-six with only O-linemen behind him, and would’ve but for the grace of God. Fortunately, he bobbled the ball before intercepting it, and was tackled at the 20. So it was only a horrible play instead of a horrific one. With that, the match headed to the break at 3-0 with thousands of fantasy playoff wins hanging in the balance.

In the third quarter, we were finally treated to a bit of offensive excitement. For months now, offensive tackle George Fant has been running decoy routes like an overweight red herring, but his time finally came. With an overloaded right side, Wilson took a snap and quickly flipped it out towards his hefty receiver-come-lately. Fant made the catch, turned upfield, and took two steps before collapsing under the weight of his own glory. With no one around him, Fant fell to the ground and skidded to a stop after 9 yards like a rhino that was shot with a tranquilizer. Fant’s self-tacklization not only left an 18” trough in the field behind him, it was the offensive highlight of the game to that point. Nevertheless, Seattle would punt again a few plays later, and the offensive onus switched back to the Vikings.

That’s when Minnesota finally put a few first downs together, moving the ball into Seattle territory for the first time. Then, facing 4th & 1 on Seattle’s 40, the Vikings decided to go for it. I love the decision, but if I was a Vikings fan I would have hated the play call. They tried to run a power run to the right. Except, you know, Bobby Wagner. The perennial DPOY candidate dismissed his blocker like an under-cooked appetizer and sprinted through the line of scrimmage to demolish the ball carrier in the background. Bobby Wagner is a human mute button.

The ‘Hawks would answer with an 8-play, 43-yard drive that ended in another short field goal, pushing the lead to 6-0. By now, the Vikes were feeling themselves a little bit, and began moving the ball again. This time, they got it all the way to the edge, finding themselves with 3rd & goal from the 1 with just under 10 minutes left. Knocking on the door of their first lead, they elected to go to the air, except there was nothing available due to absolutely outstanding Seattle coverage everywhere. That forced yet another decision from Minnesota and, eschewing the chip shot field goal to cut the lead in half, they bet on themselves and went for it. This time, Kirk Cousins took the snap and looked left. With nothing there, he turned to his right and whipped a short pass towards his tight end in the endzone. Fortunately for the good guys, the intended receiver was covered by by Bradley McDougald, who inserted himself between the ball and his man, tipping the pass away and preserving the Seahawk lead.

That gave Seattle the ball back on their own 1 and they proceeded to gain exactly zero yards on their next three plays. It forced them to punt it (poorly) right back to Minnesota, resetting them at Seattle’s 40. Somehow, the Vikings’ ensuing 8-play drive only covered 12 yards, and Dan Bailey came out to finally put the Vikings on the board. Except, you know, Bobby Wagner.

Bobby Wagner is so good at blocking field goals that the NFL passed a new ruled to keep Bobby Wagner from blocking field goals. No matter. Timing the snap perfectly, Wagner hurdled the giant sweaty mess at the line of scrimmage, landed, then jumped again to bat Bailey’s kick out of the air before it even got started. The refs initially threw a flag, claiming Bobby illegally propelled himself off of teammates, only to pick it up after conferring about how awesome the play was.

Seattle’s next drive was their best one, and the lynchpin was Wilson keeping the ball on an undeveloped pass play and beating everyone to the edge for a 40 yard run*. From there, it was a series of fuck-you runs from Chris Carson until he finally found the promised land on a short plunge. That was punctuated by a slick little slip pass to Tyler Lockett for a 2-point conversion and a 14-0 lead.

*This is Seattle’s longest run of the season. There can’t have been a season in history in which the league’s leading rushing team didn’t have a run longer than that.

With less than six minutes left, and riding an ill-timed losing streak, the pressure on Cousins and Co was bordering on desperate. Their response was to completely crumble. After an incomplete pass, Cousins took a snap, surveyed a field full of covered receivers, and drifted to his left like a lost child. With the play falling apart, Jacob Martin(!) closed the gap on Cousins and put his facemask straight on the football. The pigskin made its break from Cousins’ grasp and squabbled along the turf towards Wagner, who nearly dislocated a kneecap trying to recover it. It eluded his grasp and was claimed by Justin Coleman, who scooped it up and weaved through a Vikings team that found themselves beaten on a spiritual level. He coasted into the endzone to make it 21-0 and from there the party was on. It’s funny that the only play Wagner didn’t make turned into a defensive touchdown. He is divinely guided.

After that, the Seahawks gave the Vikings a cheap TD as a parting gift and celebrated a two-score win that all but seals a playoff spot in a season where it was stupid fashionable to write Seattle off as a broken franchise. Fuuuuuuuuck that.

SMOKE RINGS

~Russell Wilson was weird tonight. And by weird I mean bad. He looked jittery and rattled all evening. He bailed on plays too early, held onto others too long, and threw the ball like he only had three fingers on his right hand. The result was 72 yards on 10 of 20 passing with a goofy interception and no TDs. His season has still been sensational but this was an absolute stinker. he did add 60 yards rushing, all of which carried significant value, so that helps.

~The Seattle running game has been a collective effort from three capable backs all season, but tonight it belonged to Chris Carson. He ran like every player on the Vikings defense insulted his mother, somehow racking up 90 yards and a TD on 22 carries with almost no room to run at all. Frankly, I’m not sure how he did it.

Rashaad Penny was great in limited action as well, turning his 8 carries into 44 yards, including a 17-yard mad dash that saw him cover 83 yards of total ground. On that play, he took a handoff left, found nothing, went further left, still found nothing, then made a completely insane decision to go back to his right. Except he knew something that I didn’t— namely that he was quicker than everyone trying to tackle him. He skirted every single defender in front of him and snuck out back around the right end for a first down. It was the fourth or fifth run like that we’ve seen from Penny and it continued his impressive emergence over the last two months. And to think how many dummies wrote him off after four career games. Shame.

Mike Davis pass blocked a bunch and converted his 3 carries into a useful 22 yards. They’re all good.

~On a night with almost zero individual standout performances on offense, Tyler Lockett was still able to make an impact. With Doug Baldwin out, Lockett turned 6 targets into 5 catches for 42 yards plus the 31-yard pass interference penalty he drew. His totals, while meager from a volume standpoint, represented 50% of the catches and 58% of the receiving yards in a game where every first down was crucial. 2018 Wilson-to-Lockett is already the highest rated QB/WR combo in NFL history, and that’s not even accounting for the sheer tonnage of PI yards Lockett has earned.

~David Moore was targeted 5 times for zero yards. Nobody else got more than 1 look.

~The Vikings only had 61 yards in the first half and got the majority of their meager 276 yards in the game’s virtually meaningless final four minutes. They didn’t run a play in Seattle territory until the 41st minute of the game. The season-long stats will tell you that this hasn’t been a great defense, but they’ve been got dang amazing when they’ve had to be.

~I’m about to start a religion around Bobby Wagner. Every once in a while, football fans are treated to a player that makes you question the limits of human capability. Somehow, the Seahawks have accrued like six of them since Carroll and John Schneider arrived, and Bobby is as good as any of those guys. It’s hard for me to put another defensive player on the level of Earl Thomas but at this point, it’s hard to imagine a more perfect defender than Wagner. He now has 108 tackles on 108 attempts, splicing transcendent, god-like plays into his Borg-like efficiency. He had a team-high 9 tackles plus the blocked field goal in yet another dominant performance.

~Shaquill Griffin was sensational tonight, helping to erase Minnesota’s sensational receiving corps. He broke up a handful of high-leverage passes, taking big plays away from both Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. Griffin has had a couple of rough games this season, but the full breadth of his campaign is a smashing success. He has earned every bit of his high draft slot and is a cornerstone of this bright new defensive future.

~One of my great sins has been how little I’ve talked about Justin Coleman this season, and I can only hope that God forgives me. He had a number of impressive tackles, pass breakups, and of course the game-clinching return TD. In Seahawks history, rare has been the dollar that’s been better spent than those given to Justin Coleman.

~Guys like Khalil Mack, Aaron Donald, J.J. Watt, and Von Miller dominate the conversation around great pass rushers but tonight’s game featured two of the best ones that no one’s talking about. Danielle Hunter, who is impossibly built, destroyed what’s been a very good pass blocking line for Seattle, registering a sack and harassing Russell Wilson into one of the worst games of his career. On the other side, Frank Clark was a terror. He recorded his 11th sack of the game and spent more time in Kirk Cousins’ pocket than his own running back. In addition to that, he forced a number of throwaways, and tattooed his angry visage on the inside of Cousins’ eyelids.

The Seahawks are now 8-5, one short month after falling to 4-5. What started as a dinky little rowboat has turned into a massive barge that has churned every other wild card contender into chum in their wake. The win essentially locks the ‘Hawks into a first round matchup at Dallas, so it will be interesting to see how they approach the final three games. It’s a wonderful position to be in.

Onward. Upward. Go muhfuggin’ ‘Hawks.

Jacson on Twitter | Cigar Thoughts Hub | Cigar Thoughts Facebook

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The 2018 season of Cigar Thoughts is proud to be sponsored by Fairhaven Floors and Brandon Nelson Partners.

This article was fueled by Bulleit Rye and a Rocky Patel Vintage 1999 Connecticut.