Last night just before kickoff, I was nervously pacing around my house watching the pregame when my 5 1⁄2 year old daughter came up to me with a piece of paper.
“Daddy, I made a picture for you. It’s a Vikings unicorn.”
I beamed with pride and gave her a big hug. Despite the fact that the unicorn was short a leg—a mistake she noticed and explained away by claiming “that makes it extra special”—it made me feel a little better about the Vikings’ chances.
After watching the game unfold, it turns out my daughter wasn’t trying to tell me that everything was going to be OK. Her message was obviously “just like this three-legged unicorn, you shouldn’t believe in the Vikings.”
It was another abysmal performance by the offense that wasted another defensive performance that should have been good enough to beat a winning team on the road. Russell Wilson was held to a career-low 72 yards passing and Seattle had three points through three quarters, but it still wasn’t enough. Kirk Cousins did nothing to dispel the narrative that he doesn’t show up for big games. The offensive line got off to a rough start, but even after they started protecting better as the game went on, Cousins appeared to be hearing footsteps and missing open receivers. There was nothing “extra special” about the Vikings’ performance on Monday night, unless you count the fact that it got Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo fired. The play calling was more balanced than last week in New England, but the results weren’t any better.
Speaking of bad results, let’s take our weekly look at the five most important plays that led to yet another disappointing result.
Play 1: Seahawks ball, 1st & goal at the Minnesota 1. Second quarter, 0:16 remaining. (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass short right INTERCEPTED by E.Kendricks [D.Hunter] at MIN 15. E.Kendricks to MIN 18 for 3 yards (G.Ifedi).
Despite doing next to nothing on offense throughout the entire first half, the Vikings trailed by only three points late in the second quarter. It looked like the Seahawks were about to add to their lead just before halftime, marching 59 yards in twelve plays. That is, until Russell Wilson did...this...on the 13th play.
So how does a big defensive stop get included on a list of plays that led to a Vikings loss? Look at how much space Eric Kendricks had to run if he had caught the interception cleanly. He had a very good chance at scoring if he hadn’t jumped and bobbled it. Am I blaming the defense for the loss? Absolutely not. But if Kendricks was able to take the interception to the house and give the Vikings the lead at the break, perhaps the game unfolds a little differently.
Play 2: Vikings ball, 4th & 1 at the Seattle 40. Third quarter, 2:05 remaining. R.Hill reported in as eligible. L.Murray right guard to SEA 40 for no gain (B.Wagner; F.Clark). Penalty on MIN-R.Hill, Offensive Holding, declined.
Now almost three quarters into the game, the Vikings offense had still done next to nothing. In fact, it took over 40 minutes of game time for the Vikings to run their first play in Seattle territory. Mostly because they had already failed to convert on the following down & distance to this point:
- 3rd & 3 (Cousins sacked by Frank Clark after steamrolling Mike Remmers)
- 3rd & 2 (Cousins chased out of the pocket by Clark after blowing past Remmers)
- 3rd & 1 (Cousins chased out of the pocket by Dion Jordan after slow-developing play action)
- 3rd & 3 (Diggs forced to come back in front of the first down marker because Cousins was a bit late on the quick curl)
The only third and short play that actually worked through the first three quarters? A Cousins QB sneak. Obviously the whole passing thing wasn’t working, so John DeFilippo dialed up...this...instead.
Clark and Bobby Wagner stopped the telegraphed Latavius Murray run well short of the first down and Seattle took over on downs. It wasn’t the last time the Vikings would be stopped on third or fourth and short—more on that in a bit—but this one was the biggest momentum changer of the game up to that point.
Play 3: Seahawks ball, 3rd & 8 at the Minnesota 41. Fourth quarter, 15:00 remaining. (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass incomplete deep right to T.Lockett [A.Barr]. PENALTY on MIN-X.Rhodes, Defensive Pass Interference, 31 yards, enforced at MIN 41 - No Play.
After three quarters of offensive ineptitude, the Vikings were still only down by three points. The first play of the fourth quarter helped change that.
Xavier Rhodes definitely made contact with Tyler Lockett’s arm on the play, but Lockett really sold it and it’s really debatable whether the pass was even catchable in the first place.
Either way, the refs made the call, and instead of 4th & 8 outside of field goal range the Seahawks had 1st & goal. The Vikings defense held firm and forced the second Sebastian Janikowski field goal of the night, but it was still a huge call in a game where points were at such a premium.
Play 4: Vikings ball, 4th & goal at the Seattle 1. Fourth quarter, 9:10 remaining. (Shotgun) K.Cousins pass incomplete short middle to K.Rudolph (B.McDougald).
After Seattle took the 6-0 lead, the Vikings had a great chance to get their first points of the game. They made their first trip to the red zone thanks to this amazing 48-yard catch by Stefon Diggs over Tre Flowers:
Two plays later, it was 1st & goal at the 4 yard line. Once again, the Vikings’ short yardage woes killed another chance to salvage the game. They failed to reach the end zone on four straight plays:
- 1st & goal at the 4: 2-yard run by Murray
- 2nd & goal at the 2: incomplete pass on a difficult throw to Adam Thielen in the back corner of the end zone
- 3rd & goal at the 2: a messy-looking shotgun hand off to Dalvin Cook that was stuffed after maybe a yard
- 4th & goal at the 1: this:
Cousins tried to force a pass to Kyle Rudolph, who was blanketed by Bradley McDougald. Thielen was wide open after the safety on his side fell down, but Cousins had already looked away and the Vikings were stopped without points yet again.
After yet another turnover on downs, the Vikings defense stepped up and forced a three-and-out from Seattle, giving Minnesota great field position with just over eight minutes remaining. The offense gained all of 12 yards before petering out. This time Mike Zimmer elected to go for the field goal.
The wildly inconsistent refereeing combined with the constant misadventures of the Vikings’ kicking game was a recipe for disaster, and that’s just what happened.
Play 5: Vikings ball, 4th & 9 at the Seattle 29. Fourth quarter, 5:46 remaining. D.Bailey 47 yard field goal is BLOCKED (B.Wagner), Center-K.McDermott, Holder-M.Wile.
Wagner made a great play here by leaping over the line and blocking the kick. It was completely illegal and the refs blew an obvious call, but it was still pretty impressive.
I mean, you’re not allowed to touch anyone if you leap over the line like that, and Wagner touched no fewer than THREE players:
It was originally called a penalty right away, but for some reason the referees picked up the flag, keeping the Seahawks’ six-point lead intact. Two plays later, Wilson was scrambling 40 yards down the left sideline to set up the game’s first touchdown. Two plays after that, Cousins had his obligatory fumble returned for a touchdown and the game was really over.
I’m not saying the no-call changed the outcome of the game; Seattle’s defense crushed the Vikings into a pulp until garbage time. But it effectively ended any chance the Vikings may have had of making it a contest. (And let’s be honest here—there’s no guarantee that kick was going through the uprights.)
Even after smearing feces all over CenturyLink Field and firing their Offensive Coordinator, the Vikings remain the 6 seed in the NFC playoff picture. They face two winnable games against the Dolphins and Lions before hosting a Bears team that may not have anything to play for in Week 17. They can still salvage a playoff berth from the wreckage they have wrought, but they’re going to have to play much better down the stretch to pull it off.
As always, we welcome you to vote in the poll to tell us which play you thought was the biggest and encourage you to suggest any we may have missed in the comments.
What was the most important play from the Vikings’ loss to the Seahawks?
This poll is closed
Kendricks bobbling a possible pick six just before half
Murray getting stopped on 4th & 1 of a 3-0 game
Rhodes getting called for pass interference to set up a FG
Getting stopped on 4th & goal
Wagner’s FG "block"
Other (comment below)