2015 Seahawks Re-Watch, Week 13: A Complete Win
After transforming into an offensive juggernaut against the Pittsburg Steelers, and being 4-1 over their last five games, the Seahawks were resembling the team of yore; yet, it was hard to know if these point explosions—in the last three contests, the team had scored 32, 29, and 39—were signs of development or simply a fluke. The team would be tested once again in week 13, facing another likely playoff team. The Minnesota Vikings, who had amassed a surprising 8-3 record, were winning in a way the Seahawks certainly recognized. By utilizing a smart, tough defense, the Vikings kept games close, and by utilizing their dynamic tailback, Adrian Peterson, they set a slow and suffocating pace, gobbling up time and possessions.
The way to beat the Vikings was not so different from beating the Seahawks. Use the pass to build an early lead and put that great defense on its heels instead of its toes, thereby relegating that great running game to the bench. Victory was only a matter of obtaining a lead, even a small one, but could the offense deliver?
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After being carted off the field a week prior, the bad news had broke: Jimmy Graham was out for the season with torn knee ligaments. It was a big loss, not only for Graham’s on-field contributions, but for the small bounty the Hawks had sacrificed to obtain him. While the team was surely disappointed, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell was in no mood to linger, going to the tight ends early and often.
Back-up tight end Cooper Helfet got an early reception—the first of the game, actually—earning a first down on 2nd and 11. It was a simple bootleg but it was wonderfully executed. Helfet was wide open for the easy grab. Newly promoted starter Luke Willson was next. Coming off motion, Willson attacked the middle of the field. A well-thrown ball was sent spiraling by linebacker Chad Greenway’s fingertips. As the ball arrived awkwardly, Willson extended his arm out, batting the ball to himself and then jostling it into his arms. On the next play, Willson caught a pass on a screen that, at first, appeared to be a disaster. Offensive lineman Justin Britt was meant to be lead blocker, but a combination of being late to the party and safety Antone Exum Jr had given Exum a free go at Willson. Using a stop and go, Willson narrowly avoided Exum. He cut upfield, shedding defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd before faking out linebacker Chad Greenway. Finally free, Willson displayed some serious wheels, running away from linebacker Jason Trusnik for a 22-yard gain.
Once the tight ends had made their statement, the running game went to work. Thomas Rawls used a nice spin move, breaking tackles as he went, to collapse into the end zone, giving the Seahawks the early lead. Russell Wilson picked up his first rushing touchdown of the year, but it wasn’t nearly as impressive as the touchdown that was called back, due to a holding penalty. Always known for his ability to duck tackles, Wilson was able to hit top speed early. He broke into the open field with a parade of purple at his rear. It was a 50-yard-run, the type of run that would earn any receiver or tailback a down to catch their breath, but as starting quarterback, Wilson could not be afforded such a luxury. Perhaps guessing that Wilson was tired from the run, the Vikings sent six players on a blitz during the next play. Linebacker Chad Greenway, who had positioned himself as if he might rush from the edge, dropped back to spy on Wilson, in case Wilson chose to run again; however, this assembly of defenders had left the middle of the field practically empty. Doug Baldwin attacked the spot Greenway would normally be occupying and then turned upfield. Baldwin caught a pass in stride and over his shoulder. With two steps of separation, he took it all the way for a touchdown.
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A week prior, the defense had had its worst outing in years, allowing 548 yards. To bounce back against the Vikings, the D needed to negate Adrian Peterson, who had amassed 1,164 yards on 237 carries, for a 4.9-yard average. Living in the backfield, the defensive line closed up gaps, the linebackers suffocated the edges and the safeties came down to help. The result was a manhandling of Peterson, as he was stood up time and again. Indeed, Peterson was negated. With 8 rushes for 18 yards, the six-time Pro Bowler and former NFL MVP was held to a 2.3-yard average, a whopping 53% decline in production.
Defensive end and second-round pick Frank Clark tallied two early sacks. While the second sack was pretty standard issue, the first was a great display of stick-to-itiveness. From the shotgun, Viking quarterback Teddy Bridgewater had to step-up into the pocket almost as soon as he received the snap, as Michael Bennett was about to nail him. Approaching the line of scrimmage, Bridgewater had to stop abruptly, in order to cross over Clark. Clark whiffed on Bridgewater, falling onto his knee, but Bridgewater had to change direction once again—as Bennett was about to sack him again—and Teddy was wrapped up by Clark, who had recovered his balance and position. The rookie had been rewarded for not giving up on the play, for as Clark learned, with Michael Bennett as a team mate, a quarterback might run at you not only once, but twice.
The final score was 38-7. Since the seven points came on a kick return, the defense essentially accomplished its second shut-out of the year.
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While often showing glimpses and glares of greatness, week 13 saw the Seahawks finally put together a dominate, start-to-finish, no-doubt-about-it, “we-are-the-champions” win. From the first whistle to the last, the Vikings were hapless against a reinvigorated Seahawks. A complete win against a team with a winning record, and one seemingly headed for the playoffs, the Seahawks had found their stride. Now 7-5, 2-4 felt like ages ago. It was seven days before it was time to do it again, on another cross-country trip, this time to Baltimore, to play at 10:00 AM.
Week 14 will post next Tuesday, May 30th.
Previous posts in the Re-watch Series:
Week 1, The Rams…Again | Week 2, The Pack Attack | Week 3, The Good News Bears? | Week 4, Kam’s Big Comeback | Week 5, The Cincinnati Heartbreaker | Week 6, Lockette’s Great Grab | Week 7, Karper-can’t | Week 8, Sherman Shines | Week 10, The Tales of Two Halves | Week 11, My Name is Thomas Rawls. | Week 12, The Youth Movement