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Defense, Turnovers Cost Vikings at Seattle

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Vikings’ defense had their worst showing of the season

Minnesota Vikings v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

The Vikings lost a competitive tilt at Seattle 37-30, after being up at halftime 17-10.

It many ways, it was another blood-boiling loss to the Seahawks, where mistakes cost the Vikings the game.

Inexcusable mistakes.

Xavier Rhodes, getting burned for a TD, apparently expecting safety help with Harrison Smith in front of him on the line of scrimmage, having played with him and in this defense for six years, while collecting $13+ million in salary cap this season, is not a situation that can continue. In fact, given the season Rhodes has had this year, and last year for that matter, along with Rhodes’ contract, this should be the last straw. Rhodes should be benched, and presented with the choice of a $10 million/year salary cut, or be cut or traded during the off season. He’s past his prime and doesn’t have the head to make up for what his body can no longer do. The stupid personal foul penalty, which set the Seahawks up for their first touchdown, is another case in point. Rhodes’ passer-rating allowed when targeted was a perfect 158.3 last night against the Seahawks.

Stefon Diggs. He was a non-factor on offense for the Vikings, except he gave up yet another turnover on the first play of the 4th quarter, which led to a quick Seattle touchdown that proved to be the difference in the game. Diggs has been responsible for 3 lost fumbles and 2 of Cousins’ 4 INTs this season. He was the target on all four. Cousins was credited with an interception on that play, but it may have been better attributed to Diggs as a catch and fumble, having had the ball knocked out of his hands. It was a good play by Tre Flowers, but Diggs simply cannot let that happen. Gotta secure the ball. Diggs needs to be a lot more consistent with his focus and intensity level to be a guy the Vikings can count on down the stretch. Yes, he’s had plenty of big plays for the Vikings on offense, but he’s given up way too many as well in turnovers. And when you’re an 8-figure player, more is expected. Particularly in key situations, in big games. It’s not just about beating your coverage, it’s also about securing the catch- or preventing an INT- and playing smart football. Diggs needs to improve in the latter areas.

Vikings Run Defense. Job #1 on defense is to stop the run. That is even more true when playing the Seahawks. Not getting it done has been a big reason behind every one of the Vikings losses to the Seahawks since Mike Zimmer became head coach. And once again, Mike Zimmer’s defense could not stop the Seahawks’ ground game. Over the prior three games Zimmer has called the defense against Seattle, the Seahawks averaged 162 yards on the ground. Last night they gave up 218 yards on the ground. Mike Zimmer knew that was a key task, and yet he couldn’t get it done. The Seahawks used six offensive linemen most of the night to help their run game, and Zimmer didn’t have an answer for it. That led to a lot of easy 2nd and 3rd down conversions for the Seahawks, which allowed them to extend drives and eat up the clock. The Seahawks possessed the ball for nearly 40 minutes to the Vikings’ 20 minutes last night.

Many Vikings Played Well

The sad, and frustrating thing about the Vikings’ loss to Seattle was that many players did their job for the most part, in a tough environment, and in some tough circumstances.

The Vikings defensive secondary, with the exception of Xavier Rhodes, played very well overall. The Vikings cornerbacks (except Rhodes) and safeties gave up a total of 55 yards passing the whole night.

Kirk Cousins played very well in tough circumstances, having lost Dalvin Cook, and rallied the Vikings to within a score after being down 17 points early in the 4th quarter. Had the Vikings defense been able to hold, or Diggs not give up a turnover, he may very well have led a comeback victory.

Kyle Rudolph continues to make awesome catches, including another TD catch last night. Cousins and Rudolph have a thing going now where Cousins throws it where only Rudolph can catch it - and he does. Nearly unstoppable force in the red zone. Rudolph had a total of 4 catches on 5 targets for 50 yards and a TD, and a near perfect 147.9 passer rating when targeted.

The offensive line did well in not allowing Cousins to be sacked, and did well in blocking for the screen game. Rashod Hill didn’t allow a pressure in 22 pass blocking snaps in relief of Riley Reiff at left tackle. Garrett Bradbury had the best game of his young career, allowing only one hurry and grading out well in run blocking as well.

Bottom Line

After doing a reasonably good job in holding the Seahawks to 10 points in the first half, the Vikings defense ended up yielding season highs in points and yards by the end of the game. Run defense was the biggest issue throughout the game, which allowed the Seahawks to control the ball while the Vikings’ offense sputtered in the third quarter.

Nevertheless, the Vikings fought well to get back into the game despite losing Dalvin Cook and Riley Reiff in the second half, and Kirk Cousins continued to play well.

Mistakes were focused on a few players, rather than a generally poor showing, but ultimately that made the difference.

But many players did well, and while the Vikings have now lost control of their division destiny - they need the Packers to lose a game other than to the Vikings in their final four outings - there are also some positives going forward:

  • Getting Adam Thielen back, along with Dalvin Cook, will help the offense a lot
  • Kirk Cousins is getting it done - and has been since week four
  • Defensive secondary played well except for Rhodes

It’s unclear if Mike Zimmer is considering benching Xavier Rhodes, but with Mike Hughes and Holton Hill available - even Jayron Kearse for that matter - the Vikings would seem to be better served with Rhodes taking a seat on the bench. His passer rating when targeted for the season is now at 132.6, and he has committed 10 penalties on top of that.

If the Vikings win their remaining 4 games - which is entirely possible - they would finish 12-4 and seemingly in good position to win the division if Green Bay falters. If not, they’ll probably end up facing the Packers in Green Bay in the wild card game, or perhaps another game at Dallas. Either way, they’ll need a 3 game win streak on the road against the best in the NFC to make it to the Super Bowl.

And to make a run, they need to get the right players on the field. Now is the time to be making those decisions.

Official Game Summary

Here is the official NFL game summary.