Taking a deep dive into the Minnesota Vikings, the Seahawks' opponent in Sunday's wild-card playoff game, by getting answers to five questions about the team from Mark Craig of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Share story

It’s time to start digging into the Minnesota Vikings, the opponent for the Seattle Seahawks in Sunday’s wild-card playoff game in Minneapolis.

So here to help us learn more about the Vikings by answering five questions about them is Mark Craig, who covers the team for the Star Tribune in Minnesota. He can be found on Twitter at @markcraignfl.

Q1: The Vikings seemed to rebound pretty well from their 38-7 loss to Seattle on Dec.6. What was the reaction to that game and what did they do differently from there?

A: Even the players and coaches were surprised by how lifeless they were in that game. Teddy Bridgewater played in slow motion. There were nine penalties for 95 yards, which was only 30 yards fewer than the number of yards the offense produced. When this team has penalties like that, it typically takes Adrian Peterson out of the game because it messes up the downs and distances. Peterson finished with only eight carries for 18 yards as the game got away from them. But the team immediately snapped out of the funk because they had a Thursday nighter in Arizona four days later. Not only that, but they would have to play that game without four defensive starters, including their best defender, linebacker Anthony Barr, their second-best defender, safety Harrison Smith. The Vikings started a franchise-record six rookies in the game, including four on defense. But with everything stacked against them, they played fast and free and nearly upset the Cardinals and their No. 1-ranked scoring offense. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner went with a more up-tempo attack with more rollouts and quick passes. The defense just played harder, knowing they were so outmanned. Cornerback Terence Newman had to start at one safety, while Anthony Harris started at the other two days after being promoted from the practice squad. Then the energy and confidence from that performance carried into the wins over Chicago, the Giants and at Green Bay for the winner-take-all NFC North game.

Q2: Adrian Peterson also was held to just 18 yards in that game and then said afterward the team needed to stay committed to the run. Can the Vikings be better running this game?

A: Yes, but the margin for error is slim with this team. Unlike a quarterback-oriented offense, penalties or turnovers can render Peterson a non-factor in a blink. Even with him leading the league in rushing, that has happened a few times this year. The line is inconsistent and merely good on its best days, so it is hard to stay committed to the run. But there have been a few examples of the Vikings and Peterson wearing out a defense. Atlanta had the top-ranked run defense in the league when the Vikings won down there. The Vikings just lined up with as many as three tight ends and a fullback and ran through a defense that stacked eight and nine defenders in the box the whole game. Peterson ran for 158 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries. Seattle’s defense is much better, obviously, so it will be interesting to see what happens because the Vikings need to run the ball to have any chance.

Q3: Besides Peterson, what are one or two other things that can be different about this game than that one?

A: That’s easy. I mentioned before that Barr and Smith are their two best defenders. Both of them left that first game on Seattle’s second offensive possession. Barr left with a groin injury and missed the next two games. Smith, who had missed the  game the week before with a knee injury, hurt his hamstring and was out two games. The Vikings also played that game without nose tackle Linval Joseph. He has missed four of the past five games, which is a shame because he had just won an NFC Defensive Player of the Week award and was dominating centers at an All-Pro level. He injured his right big toe, but might be able to play Sunday. He came back for the Giants game two weeks ago, but missed the Packers game. With Barr and Smith, the Seahawks will be facing a different defense. If Joseph can play and be effective, that’s an added bonus. Offensively, the rhythm and tempo is much better since the Seattle game. Of course, Seattle also had something to do with the rhythm and tempo being off that day.

Q4: Teddy Bridgewater didn’t seem to do a lot in the win over the Packers — just a bad game or has he been slumping lately?

A: Actually, he was coming off three of the best games of his career. He was exceptional in the Cardinals game. Under heavy pressure from a very good defense, he threw for a career-high 335 yards and had the Vikings in position to kick a game-tying field goal when the coaches tried one more ill-advised play that resulted in the game-ending strip sack. The following week was his best game as a pro. He threw for four touchdowns, ran for a fifth, had only three incompletions and posted a 154.4 rating in a rout of the Bears. Against the Giants, he didn’t do much, but he didn’t have to as the defense and running game controlled things. He simply fit in and made sure he didn’t turn the ball over. Against the Packers, I think the moment got to him. He doesn’t let that happen often. He’s a flat-line guy who typically maintains his poise at all times. But I think he tried to do too much against the Packers. He misfired on a deep ball on the first drive, missing a wide open target that would have been a touchdown. I think that affected him. Later, he did something completely out of character, when he flipped a pass left-handed while being dragged down and was intercepted. I don’t expect him to make that mistake again, but I also don’t expect him to win the game without Peterson and the defense controlling the game.

Q5: Finally, much is already being made out here about the weather. What kind of impact do you think that could have on the game?

A: I think it could have a big impact if it’s going to be as cold as they say. Forecasts are calling for zero with a minus-11 wind chill. I don’t think either side will enjoy that kind of cold. But living here, I’ll tell you that by January you’re body starts to adjust. The first cold days of the season, you shiver. Then you get a couple blasts of arctic chill. You’re still cold, but it doesn’t feel as cold. By late February, if it’s 5 degrees, you’re going to the mailbox in shorts and a t-shirt. I don’t know if it will help, but the Vikings have practiced either outdoors or with all the doors open in their indoor field the past month. If it gets that cold later in the week, the Vikings definitely will be practicing at that temperature level. I don’t know that Seattle can create that kind of atmosphere where they’re practicing. Last year, it was 12 degrees with a bit of a wind chill when Carolina came to TCF Bank Stadium. It was the seventh-coldest home game in franchise history. The Panthers were visibly miserable, especially Cam Newton. They appeared to check out early in a game the Vikings won 31-13. Seattle is better than that Carolina team last year. And Seattle obviously is mentally tough from having been to consecutive Super Bowls. But if they’re bringing any of those 12th men with them, they better dress ‘em warm.