Evaluating teams based solely on their statistical merits will always fall short. Numbers can offer clues about where a team has strengths or weaknesses, but those then have to be married to watching the team play to either verify or revise. This Vikings team is largely what their numbers indicate, with a few key exceptions. The blazing Seahawks offense will face its toughest test since Carolina, and the inconsistent defense will play the most one-dimensional offense they have faced this season. The plan to win this game is becoming more clear.
Stop Adrian Peterson at all costs
At the risk of stating the obvious, the Vikings are almost completely dependent on Adrian Peterson to get their offense moving. Seattle has struggled against a number of high-powered passing attacks this year, but their ability to defend the run is every bit as critical.
In the five games the Seahawks have allowed more than 100 yards rushing, they are 1-4. The Vikings are 1-3 in games where they rush for less than 115 yards.
Peterson is a beast. He will be difficult to contain even if the Seahawks spend the whole day with eight players in the box. Clay Matthews and the Packers did a great job against Peterson in their 30-13 win, holding him to 45 yards on 13 carries. Some of that was due to a Vikings team that shot themselves in the foot with penalties.
This Vikings offense is not well suited to overcoming negative plays or penalties on early downs. The Packers showed their experience in playing Peterson, though, throughout the game. Matthews stood out in his ability to shoot through gaps and attack Peterson before he picked up steam. Their two interior defenders, Mike Daniels and B.J. Raji, were stout and sometimes disruptive.
The play of Brandon Mebane, Ahtyba Rubin and Jordan Hill is more important in this game than in any other this season. Minnesota wants to run up the middle. Seattle linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright are going to have to get off blocks and make sound tackles. Kam Chancellor is going to have to help. The whole team will need to rally to the ball better than they have been.
Peterson has six fumbles, most in the NFL for a running back, all at home
Peterson is unlike any other back in football. It would be impossible to put too much emphasis on him in the defensive game plan. Stopping him makes it highly unlikely that the Vikings can score more than 10-13 points.
Apply Richard Sherman wisely, take risks elsewhere
Distribution of Vikings Receptions
|Taking Diggs out of the equation would be like making a right-handed basketball player go left|
Seattle will need to be ready for a healthy dose of receiver bubble screens and running back screens. The Vikings try to make life easy on Bridgewater, and the Seahawks looked terrible defending inside screens last week which will make it that much more enticing to Minnesota coaches.
Need Wagner and Chancellor to step up
Vikings run defense stronger than their rank
The Vikings have surrendered 22 explosive rushing plays (12+) yards, which ranks near the middle of the NFL. Seattle is 3rd in the NFL in creating explosive rushing plays.
Minnesota fans will tell you their poor rushing numbers on defense are tainted by the 230 yards they gave up in week one to San Francisco. That is part of it. The more troublesome aspect are these explosive rushing plays. The Vikings have surrendered more than 115 yards on the ground in three of the past four games. They gave up big running plays in each of those games.
Tevin Coleman had two just last week, fumbling after a 46 yard run in the first quarter. St. Louis had six, with Tavon Austin accounting for four of them. Tyler Lockett is not Tavon Austin, but do not be surprised to see if the Seahawks test the Vikings on reverses or end arounds.
What this all means for Seattle is that Thomas Rawls may not have a lot to show for some of his runs, but his proven ability to create explosive plays should combine nicely with the Vikings penchant for surrendering them. Be patient. Stick with it.
Clever in the red zone
Wilson running could be a factor