Of course, Blair Walsh should have made the game-winning kick.
Adrian Peterson also should have held on to the football and not allowed a go-ahead field goal drive of 12 yards in the Vikings’ 10-9 NFC wild-card loss to Seattle at TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday.
“That,” said Peterson, “will haunt me throughout this offseason.”
It doesn’t end there. The offense could have converted more than one third down over the final 47 minutes. Or averaged more than 2.0 yards on 29 carries. Or scored a touchdown when it was first-and-goal at the 7-yard line in the first quarter.
“You can name a hundred things that could have changed the outcome,” said defensive end Brian Robison.
Yes, it was Walsh’s 27-yard miss with 22 seconds left that will be remembered as the 6-below-zero punch to the gut in the coldest game in franchise history. But all the Vikings had up to that point was three Walsh field goals thanks to three scoring drives of 25, 28 and 19 yards.
“Settling for three points in the playoffs ain’t going to cut it,” guard Brandon Fusco said.
The first time these teams met this season, Seattle won 38-7 on Dec. 6 at TCF Bank Stadium. Peterson wasn’t happy about getting only eight carries for 18 yards.
Sunday, the league rushing champion got 23 carries, including nine in the first 12 minutes. But Seattle’s top-ranked scoring defense (17.3) also happens to possess the league’s top-ranked run defense (81.6). So Peterson had 11 yards after 10 carries and 45 total for a 2.0 average, his lowest of the season.
“Our guys are capable of playing run defense like this because we’ve been doing it for some time,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “A great football player on the other side. … That’s what we expected and it was awesome that we could carry it out all day long.”
Seattle had just closed the gap to 9-7 early in the fourth quarter. Running Peterson hadn’t been working, so the Vikings started throwing to Peterson on the ensuing possession. After a five-yard completion to start the drive, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater went back to Peterson.
Peterson got to the edge on linebacker K.J. Wright and had the first down after an 8-yard gain. But Wright had grabbed onto and held Peterson’s left arm, which prevented Peterson from using his free hand to protect the ball when safety Kam Chancellor swooped in and forced the fumble, Peterson’s ninth of the season and the fourth he’s lost.
“It was tough,” Peterson said. “To have the first down but my mentality is to try and scratch for extra yards. That was one of those times I should have double-arm wrapped it. After that, I was just praying that the defense would give us another opportunity. If I don’t put that ball on the ground, they’re not able to get that field goal [seven plays later] and take the lead.”
Seattle didn’t gain a single first down in the final nine minutes. But the Vikings’ offense punted twice before Walsh missed the field goal.
So another season ended, meaning Peterson will be 31 the next time he tries to win a second playoff game (1-4). He sounded exhausted, but determined at the thought of another long road that lies ahead.
“Without a doubt, we’ll be back,” Peterson said. “There are some good things we can take from this year. It’s going to be a grind. But we know we have the winning formula.”