ReFo: Vikings @ Seahawks, Week 11
The Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks have a lot of connections in recent years. Going back to the poison pill contract of Steve Hutchinson the two teams have had plenty of dealings with each other. In recent years the Seahawks have been picking up ex-Vikings all over the place, from OC Darrell Bevell to latest trade acquisition Percy Harvin.
The Vikings for their part haven’t been quite as prolific, but did have former Seahawk TE John Carlson making a homecoming of sorts.
The game actually began a tight enough affair, before Christian Ponder took control and almost single-handedly sent the game spiraling out of control and safely into Seattle’s hands.
In the end, the Seahawks ran out comfortable winners.
Minnesota — Three Performances of Note
Dominant up the Gut
If there was one notable facet of the game it was that the Vikings did pretty well bottling up Marshawn Lynch in the run game. They did cough up a pair of touchdowns (not to mention another through the air to Lynch), but they held him to just 61 yards, and 48 of those came after contact. Kevin Williams and backup NT Chase Baker each made a few plays, but most of the heavy lifting was done by Fred Evans, who dominated Max Unger, in particular, to control the point of attack. His signature play came early in the game when he just bulldozed his way through Unger en-route to Lynch 5 yards in the backfield before forcing a fumble once he got there for one of the plays of the season for a defensive tackle. Unfortunately for Evans, the Vikings couldn’t recover and it was Unger who ended up diving kamikaze into a pile to recover the ball for the Seahawks. The Vikings may not have a true NT in the mold of Pat Williams on the roster, but Fred Evans with performances like this would make you forget that pretty quickly.
Swing and a Miss
At some point during that game Christian Ponder must have been going through what Shane Falco describes as quicksand in the movie The Replacements. He just couldn’t do a thing right, and though his stat line was ugly enough by the end of the game, it could easily have been even worse. Any time you go to dump the ball off over the top and manage to miss your target completely, throwing straight to a linebacker for a pick, you know it’s just not your day. When he was kept clean in the pocket his passer rating was a modest 81.2, but when the Seahawks got pressure his rating plummeted to 8.3, and he threw for just 6 yards on those snaps. Ponder showed in this game, as if we had any doubt remaining, that he doesn’t have what it takes to get the job done at this level. The Vikings are looking to April already and all their stable of QBs can do right now is try not to screw up the draft plans.
At one point the Vikings looked pretty shrewd for their draft move that secured left tackle Matt Kalil in the first round. His rookie season was impressive, and he allowed his quarterback to hit the dirt just seven times, but things have not been so kind in his second year. His performances have been inconsistent and he has surrendered a far greater rate of pressure while putting in the occasional very poor game run blocking. Seattle’s defensive front is a unique one, but he was struggling to deal with both speed and the brute power of Red Bryant when called upon. Conversely for Minnesota, RG Brandon Fusco, much maligned last season put in an excellent game, grading at +4.1 for his best performance since Week 2 against Chicago. Fusco has quietly been having a pretty impressive season but for two major blips and is going some way to rewarding the faith the front office showed in him.
Seattle: Three Performances of Note
The Best Young QB in Football
Andrew Luck was the first overall pick, and the guy with all the hype attached to him. The ready-made storyline of replacing Peyton Manning was too good to pass up for most, and his performance has been good enough that most can’t really see past that. Take both players in isolation, however, and I think Russell Wilson is the better of the two. It’s obviously a moot point, because we can’t do that to any degree of accuracy, so we’ll just stick with what we saw in this game. Wilson was ruthlessly efficient against the Vikings, taking advantage of the situations he found himself in and making plays when things broke down. His passer rating for the game was 151.4, and it was 149.3 when under pressure. The little flip pass to Lynch harked back to the best of Brett Favre, moving out of pressure’s way and drawing a player to him before splitting a couple of Vikings for the score. Maybe we can’t sensibly separate Luck and Wilson, but at the moment Wilson makes fewer errors, while still making plenty happen on his own.
The Seahawks provide a unique challenge for most offenses because of players like Red Bryant. At 6-foot-5 and nearly 330 pounds, Bryant is not the size, strength and shape that most edge blockers are used to dealing with. He often overwhelms offensive tackles, and when teams try to block him with tight ends, as they would normally have no problem with against regular-sized defensive ends, he just rag-dolls them. His +4.4 grade in this game came mostly in the run game from tossing around the Vikings’ TEs but also Matt Kalil on multiple occasions. More than once the Vikings wouldn’t even be running near him, and would have a cleanly blocked point of attack, but Bryant collapsed his man badly enough to blow the run up anyway. He wasn’t alone in a fine day, with Tony McDaniel also playing the run well in the middle.
Lulled to Sleep
As good as he is, Richard Sherman does seem on occasion to get lulled to sleep by receivers. It happened in the playoffs where Roddy White beat him deep for a touchdown, and it happened here when the same thing happened with Jarius Wright. The plays weren’t quite the same, but on both occasions Sherman read play action and was slow to read exactly what his receiver was trying to do to him. Wright on this occasion was slow into his route and gave Sherman a big head-fake to the outside before accelerating right past him deep, gaining enough separation for the score before Sherman could close the gap again. Everybody gets beat, and in the case last year that was about all Roddy White got out of Sherman, with him shutting down everything else, but for a player as vocal as he is, these are soft lapses in concentration causing him to get beat. If he wants to prove he’s the best, those need to be eliminated.
– Lynch forced four missed tackles to extend his lead over Adrian Peterson on the season, who could manage just one.
– Ponder attempted just a single pass that traveled 20+ yards in the air, but he scored on it.
– Harvin and Josh Robinson were chippy from the outset, really going after each other when run blocking.
PFF Game Ball
Russell Wilson led the offense to the points., but Red Bryant was the standout performer of the day and gets the Game Ball.
Follow Sam on Twitter: @PFF_Sam