By Joseph Gunther
Blair Walsh made three kicks to give the Minnesota Vikings a two-score lead heading into the fourth quarter. Then everything went downhill as the Seattle Seahawks scored 10 unanswered points to win 10-9 Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium.
The scorekeeper had little to do with such a low-scoring affair. Walsh made field goals from 22 yards in the first quarter and a pair of kicks over 40 yards in the third quarter. Russell Wilson dumped a pass to Doug Baldwin for a three-yard touchdown to get the Seahawks on the board early in the fourth quarter. On the ensuing drive, Steven Hauschka made a field goal from 46-yards out to give the Seahawks the lead.
After trading punts, the Vikings moved the ball down to the 10-yard of the Seahawks to set up one of the most unbelievable endings in team history. Walsh hooked a 27-yard field goal left and the Seahawks escaped with the victory.
The Vikings moved the ball all right, but couldn’t get into the end zone. The Vikings offense opened the game with a nearly perfect drive, but failed to get points. They possessed the ball for almost half of the opening quarter and got across midfield. But by the end of the game, the Vikings had just 183 yards of offense and recorded 14 first downs, converting on just 3-of-13 third down plays.
The one damaging play from the offense came on the drive immediately following the Seahawks’ only touchdown. Adrian Paterson caught passes on each of the first two plays. The second one was good for a first down, but Kam Chancellor pulled the ball out of Peterson’s hands to force a fumble that the Seahawks recovered. Several plays later, the Seahawks took the lead on a field goal.
The weather, as cold as it was, made it more difficult for an offense to get a lot of yards in big chunks. The Vikings did enough to almost win the game, but they would ultimately fall short.
The Vikings defense kept Wilson in the pocket most of the game. They held the Seahawks’ quarterback to 142 passing yards while completing 50 percent of his passes. They also sacked him twice and intercepted him once. He also only had 21 rushing yards. The Seahawks as a team only had 226 yards of offense and converted just 5-of-14 third down opportunities and 0-of-3 fourth down plays.
Much like their offensive teammates, the defense made one play that cost them dearly. On a first down play, Wilson had the snap go through his hands and over his shoulder while trying to direct the Seahawks offense. The quarterback slid to secure the ball around his own 45-yard line and avoided a blitzing Captain Munnerlyn. Wide receiver Tyler Lockett was left alone over the middle of the field, made the catch and ran inside the Vikings’ five-yard line. Had Munnerlyn taken a better angle to the quarterback or if Josh Robinson had stayed with Lockett, the game could have ended differently.
Special Teams: B-
Special teams are often overlooked by those outside the game. They are often seen as players that aren’t good enough to play offense or defense. However, the special teams units can win or lose a game.
The field goal unit ultimately is the goat after Walsh missed his 27-yarder. Had he made it, they would have been the heroes. Walsh accounted for all the Vikings’ points, but the one wide-left kick that would have won the game has the fingers pointing at him. Walsh missed a few too many early in the season, but made more field goals than any kicker in the league.
The Vikings were never supposed to be in the game, if you follow the experts, but the Vikings were right there at the end and should have won. There will be no solace or moral victory in being that close, but it does give hope to the masses of Vikings’ fans that they are on the cusp of becoming one of the league’s few elite teams. That starts with the coaching staff.
They called a good game, obviously not good enough. But, the players were put in positions to succeed in this game.
Joseph Gunther is an avid fan of Minnesota sports, including football, hockey and baseball. He covered a wide variety of sports while attending Hastings College in Hastings, Neb. While at Hastings College, he was a part of the first collegiate media group to broadcast a national tournament via television, radio, internet and newspaper at the 2004 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. He grew up in the Twin Cities playing three years of varsity football in high school. Joseph is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.