There were no secrets as the Seahawks’ offense came to the line facing a third-and-one at the Minnesota 33-yard line, just over two minutes left in a game that had seemed so secure just a few ticks of the clock earlier that was suddenly hanging on what would happen on the next snap.
The play call, left tackle Duane Brown said, was Y Zone, to the right.
“We called it maybe four, five plays in a row,” Brown said. “By the fourth or fifth time they knew exactly what was coming.’’
But as was the case most of the night between two teams that pride themselves on physicality, deception didn’t matter. Want-to did.
And as Brown said “we just wanted it more.”
And with the offensive line leading the way as it had all night, Chris Carson pushed forward for 11 yards, which helped Seattle run out the clock on a 37-30 victory that not only gave the Seahawks 10 wins for the seventh time in the Pete Carroll era but also put them in first place in the NFC West, and gave them the second playoff seed in the NFC.
And if there’s a lot more football left, veteran linebacker K.J. Wright – part of all those previous 10-win seasons – said it means something for Seattle to be where it is now.
“You’ve got to be in first place at some point, so it feels good,” he said “We know we’ve got to continue it. It won’t be an easy road for us. But for us to get home-field advantage (in the playoffs) is definitely on our radar, and we know once we get that we can be scary.”
The 10th win and moving into first place came in a manner that Carroll couldn’t have admired more – with a punishing run-first offensive attack that converted a few big plays when it had to, and an opportunistic defense and special teams that forced three turnovers.
Sure, there were a few stumbles – the game appeared to be a rout when Seattle took a 34-17 lead early in the fourth quarter.
But Carroll and others, it said something that Seattle didn’t wilt when things suddenly got tough.
“We didn’t get rattled at all,” Wright said. “We actually wanted to make up for the two touchdowns we did give up.”
And when the Vikings got the ball back with 3:27 left needing a touchdown to take the lead, Seattle got the stop it had to have, forcing a turnover on downs at the Vikings 42.
And then, with 2:27 left and the Vikings still having all of their timeouts, the offense got the first down it needed to run out most of the clock, with the special teams then securing things with a forced fumble and recovery on the final kickoff.
“Close games are cool, aren’t they?” Carroll said with a laugh of what was Seattle’s ninth win this year by eight points or fewer.
But what he seemed to like most was the way the offense controlled the game, and especially a line that in years passed was often pointed to as one of the team’s biggest weaknesses, but as the calendar turns to December appears to be again finding the form of last season when the Seahawks led the NFL in rushing.
“I think the guys up front did a really good job against a really good group,” Carroll said.”This is an especially hard defense to play against and we came through.”
Indeed, against a defense that came into the game ranked sixth in the NFL against the run at 94.2, Seattle rushed for a season-high 218 yards on a season-high-tying 43 rushing attempts.
Quarterback Russell Wilson said the number of runs was in part because of the way the Vikings decided to play defense — at essence, keeping two safeties back to focus on defending Seattle’s passing game.
“They kept playing two-high shell super deep,” Wilson said. “They didn’t want any shots thrown on them. So we just said, ‘OK, we’ll run it. We’ll do what we do really well.’ “
That led to Chris Carson bouncing back from the follies in Philly with 102 yards and Rashaad Penny showing last week was no fluke with 74 yards on 15 carries. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer admitted later that “I thought they would be throwing the ball a little bit more than they did. They stuck with it (the run) more than I thought.”
Brown said the fact that Seattle has played Minnesota four times in the past two years (including two preseason games) meant that “we kind of knew what to expect of them.”
But the real key, Brown said, “was just guys playing physical. We knew we wanted to run the ball. They have a really good pass rush. We didn’t want to get into a game where we were one-dimensional.”
Seattle hung with the run even after it fell behind 14-7 on a bizarre pick-six late in the second quarter when Wilson had a pass tipped at the line back in his direction and then tried to bat it back to the ground, as he has been coached to do.
Instead, he got hit by Minnesota’s Stephen Weatherly which threw off his balance.
“I was trying to knock it down,” he said. “I think I got hit as I was trying to knock it down. Just got to work on my hops a little bit and get a little higher.”
But Wilson quickly recovered, leading a field goal drive – one of five straight scoring drives spanning the late second to early fourth quarters. Those were aided by a Tre Flowers interception (Flowers was one of eight players struck by a flu bug and was said by Carroll to vomit in pratice during the week) and a fumble recovery by Bradley McDougald.
That gave Seattle a 34-17 lead with 13:30 to play in the game.
A blown coverage led to a long TD for Minnesota (“just a mental mistake,” Carroll said), and then a DK Metcalf fumble and a penalty on Flowers led to another, and suddenly it was 34-30 with 7:14 left.
But the Vikings got no closer, and as the game ended, Jordan Roos grabbed a Seahawks flag and waved it in the end zone as the Beastie Boys song “You’ve got to Fight for Your Right to Party” rung through the stadium.
Not that anyone was asking for, or needed, permission on this day.
“It just felt as good as we would ever remember it,” Carroll marveled of the atmosphere that felt like the 2012-14 glory days on a night when the game felt like it, too.