The Minnesota Vikings had the perfect opportunity to knock off the defending NFC champions, the Seattle Seahawks. It was an extremely cold day in Minneapolis, reaching sub-zero temperatures. The Seahawks were again going to be without their leading running back, Marshawn Lynch. And the perception was the Seahawks were not quite as strong as they once were. To win a game like that against a defending champion, you have to come out and play strong, make no mistakes and capitalize on any and all opportunities. The Vikings came out and played the Seahawks tough. They matched the Seahawks’ physicality in the trenches, played their wide receivers pretty well and limited the mistakes against them. But unfortunately, the kick they had to win the game sailed wide left and the Seahawks will be marching on to face the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte next Sunday. Many have thrown the blame at the feet of kicker Blair Walsh. But there were a few plays that cost the Minnesota Vikings that game. And no, one of them is not the last play of the game. It was a case of Minnesota not taking advantage of their opportunities.
In the first half, the Seattle Seahawks had an issue receiving a punt. Punter Jon Ryan picked up a botched snap and tried to run for it. Unfortunately he did not make it and gave the Vikings the football in Seahawk territory in the first quarter. To beat a team like Seattle, you have to capitalize on those type of plays. But instead of making it happen after that turnover on downs, the Vikings could not get the ball in the endzone and they had to settle for a Blair Walsh field goal. If they were able to score a touchdown on that short field, they would have been able to gain momentum and also make things hard on Seattle. With the way the Vikings were playing defensively, it would have put a ton of pressure on the Seahawks with that score. But instead of doing so, the Vikings stalled and had to settle for three points. Whether or not they would have made the extra point is irrelevant there. But even if they score that one touchdown there instead of the field goal, that would have given the Vikings twelve points instead of nine total points for the game. At that point, pressure would have been on the Seattle to score two touchdowns against a stingy defense that was giving Russell Wilson fits.
Another momentum turn the Vikings missed was in the fourth quarter. Russell Wilson and the Seahawks were driving down the field, trying to scratch their way back into a 9-0 game in the Vikings favor. It was 1st and 10 for the Seahawks at the Vikings 39 when the snap went right past Russell Wilson. He turn and ran to get the football, got control of it while getting back on his feet, scrambled to his right, away from oncoming Vikings defenders and found a wide open Tyler Lockett in the middle of the field. Lockett caught the pass and took it all the way down to the Vikings four yard line. And from there, the Seahawks would score on a touchdown pass from Wilson to wide receiver Doug Baldwin to bring them within two points of the Vikings after the extra point. Looking again at the play, the Vikings missed an opportunity to make a big play themselves. Vikings defensive back Captain Munnerlyn was within striking distance when Russell Wilson made that great play. But instead of running at him under control, Munnerlyn came out of control at Wilson and he escaped right around him. If he comes under control, the Vikings get the sack and the Seahawks are in a deep hole. But instead of that, Wilson makes them pay for not doing what they were supposed to be doing.
Despite all that had happened not in their favor, the Vikings still had the upper hand and the lead. But after that possession where Russell Wilson broke their hearts, Adrian Peterson made a crucial mistake. The Vikings needed a big possession to stem the momentum Seattle had after their touchdown. They started off well, gaining five yards on first down. But then on the next play, Teddy Bridgewater threw the football to Adrian Peterson out of the backfield. Peterson got the first down, but unfortunately he did not put the football away. Peterson has had fumble issues over his entire career and they snuck up on him at the wrong time. Seattle safety Cam Chancellor ripped the football from Peterson and the Seahawks recovered the ball. Seattle would take the turnover and turn it into three points, as they were able to get a field goal from Steven Hauschka. From there, the Vikings just could not get it going until the last drive of the game, which resulted in the missed field goal. And just like that, the Vikings squandered their home-field advantage they worked hard for this year. Their season was officially over.
The Vikings are a talented team. And they played the Seahawks tough the entire game. But when you are to beat a champion, you have to limit the mistakes and capitalize on the opportunities. The Vikings were not able to do so and that ultimately ended up in their undoing. Blair Walsh has to make that kick to win the game, but it should not have to come down to that. The Vikings learned a lesson Sunday and unfortunately it was a painful one. The Seahawks are the NFC champions for a reason and they Vikings were not ready to take the next step.