1. For the second time in their last three games, the Seahawks engaged in a bizarre back-and-forth affair in prime time against an NFC powerhouse. For the second time in their last three games, the Seahawks came out victorious. Actually, make that for the fifth time in their last five games. Seattle is streaking, its latest victory coming in a game of streaks. After entering halftime down seven, Seattle scored 24 unanswered out of the break to take a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter, thanks to two Vikings turnovers and a blown coverage by Xavier Rhodes on a Russell Wilson touchdown pass to David Moore. But Minnesota came right back with two consecutive touchdown drives, with a Seattle turnover (forced by Rhodes) and a blown coverage (on a Laquon Treadwell TD reception!) sandwiched in between. It looked like for the second consecutive game the Vikings were going to recover from a three-score second-half deficit. But down four points with 207 seconds remaining in the game and with 84 yards to go to win, the Vikings and their $84 million quarterback mustered just one first down, turned the ball over on downs and never recovered possession. The Seahawks are the bizarro-Chargers; all but one of their 10 wins this season have come by one score. But what’s important is that they have 10 wins, and after Monday night, the inside track to the NFC West and a first-round bye.
2. Russell Wilson may be garnering MVP consideration for his play all season, but Seattle’s most valuable pieces on Monday were alongside and behind Wilson in the backfield. Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny paced a relentless Seahawks ground game that led the offense on seven scoring drives and established a 2-to-1 time of possession advantage over Minnesota (39:45 to 20:15). Carson shouldered the load after being sidelined briefly with a neck injury, carrying the ball 23 times for 102 yards and an early score; it was his seventh game with at least 20 carries in the last nine games. His backfield mate Penny followed up his breakout game against Philadelphia with another productive evening, totaling 107 total yards and two scores on 19 touches. After recording just one game with over 100 scrimmage yards in his first 20 games played, the 2018 first-round pick now has two in his last two. Wilson (240 yards, 2 TDs, INT) delivered down the stretch, especially on what looked to be a knockout 60-yard TD pass to Moore to close the third quarter. But it was his tailbacks, and a road-grading six-man offensive line led by Duane Brown and George Fant, who carried Seattle to victory on Monday.
3. Many of Kirk Cousins‘ detractors will harp on the fact that the Vikings quarterback fell to 0-8 on “Monday Night Football” with this latest loss and point to it as yet another example of his inability to “show up” in big games. That would be a misleading assessment of Cousins’ play last night. Minnesota played conservatively for most of Monday night, choosing to lean on the ground and screen game early on to move the ball, to little effect; Cousins completed just three passes over 10 yards past the line of scrimmage. But when Dalvin Cook was knocked out in the third quarter with a shoulder injury, the Vikings opened up the playbook for Cousins, who found success downfield late in the second half, including on a shocking 58-yard touchdown pass to Treadwell. Cousins (276 yards, 2 TDs, INT) should be credited more for pulling Minnesota back into the game with two consecutive scoring drives in the fourth quarter less than he should be criticized for playing safe early on and throwing the game-changing interception toward Stefon Diggs in the third. If anything, Monday night’s loss demonstrated how the Vikings, under Cousins’ leadership, have the ability, without Cook and Adam Thielen, to come back against the likes of a Super Bowl contender in arguably the toughest road environment in the league.
4. Don’t look now but Seattle’s front seven is developing into one of the league’s best. With Jadeveon Clowney, Jarran Reed and Ziggy Ansah on the field and full-ish strength at the same time, the Seahawks shut down Minnesota’s running game (even before Cook went out with the shoulder injury) and pressured Cousins when he held the ball longer than two seconds. Though the Seahawks didn’t log a sack on Captain Kirk, they hit Cousins seven times and contained Minnesota’ offense for over three quarters. Overshadowed by the juggernaut in their own division, the Seahawks‘ defensive line, rebuilt in the offseason, is building toward something great as we enter December.
5. As of Monday night, the NFC West runs through Seattle. The Seahawks are currently tied atop the division with San Francisco at 10-2, but own the tiebreaker because of their Week 10 win over their division rivals in Santa Clara. That pushes the 49ers down to the fifth seed in the playoff picture and vaults Seattle to No. 2, just behind New Orleans (10-2) for tops in the NFC. The Saints own the tiebreaker over Seattle because of their Week 3 win in Seattle. This is all subject to change in the coming weeks, as the Seahawks and Niners each wrap up the season with a game against the Rams and then each other in Week 17.
As for Minnesota, the Vikings fell one game behind the Packers (9-3) in the NFC North on Monday night, but still remain a game ahead of the Rams (7-5) for the sixth spot in the NFC. Finishing the season against opponents with a combined record of 22-25-1, including all three of their NFC North rivals, Minnesota is still in a good position to make the postseason and even win the North. But that’s what we said last year, too…