1. Penalty-prone Rhodes is still too grabby
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson had completed only 10 passes for 72 yards and a 44.2 passer rating when he launched a deep ball to Tyler Lockett early in the fourth quarter of Monday night’s 21-7 Seattle win at CenturyLink Field. As he’s doing more and more, cornerback Xavier Rhodes was way too grabby downfield and was flagged for a 31-yard penalty deep in Vikings territory. That handed Seattle its second field goal and a 6-0 lead. It was Rhodes’ team-leading seventh penalty of the season and second in the game. He had a holding penalty declined earlier. The Vikings bounced back with a 48-yard completion to Stefon Diggs on the ensuing possession. Before that completion, Kirk Cousins had 11 completions for 66 yards. But the Vikings ended up turning the ball over on downs at the 1.
2. Better O-line needed to commit to the run
It’s pretty obvious why Seattle came in passing the ball at a league-low 48.9 percent while the Vikings were at a league-high 67.3 percent. And it’s not just because Vikings offensive coordinator John DeFilippo is a new-school guy. The Vikings don’t have the offensive line to run the football the way Seattle does. Of course, few teams do. Even with undrafted rookie right guard Jordan Simmons starting in place of powerful veteran D.J. Fluker, Seattle was able to exert its will after going three-and-out on its first possession. In taking a 3-0 lead early in the second quarter, Seattle ran the ball seven of 12 plays, including six straight for gains of 9, 7, 10, 8, 8 and 4 yards. Wilson scrambled for 10 yards and had a zone-read keeper for 8 yards. The Vikings couldn’t match Seattle’s ability to run between the tackles.
3. Zimmer, DeFilippo story line to continue
No, the Vikings’ offensive line isn’t good enough to sustain a dominant run game. But at least two third-down play calls by DeFilippo threw two more logs on the ongoing philosophical firestorm between he and head coach Mike Zimmer. The first came on third-and-2 at the Vikings 31. The possession featured runs of 13 and 3 yards by Dalvin Cook. But needing 2 yards, Cousins rolled right. He was pressured by Frank Clark and ended up throwing the ball out of bounds. In the third quarter, after gaining 4 yards with a QB sneak on third-and-1, the Vikings faced another third-and-1. Again, Cousins rolled right, was pressured and threw incomplete. Through three quarters, the Vikings also had a false start on third-and-4, a sack on third-and-3 and a 3-yard pass to Stefon Diggs on third-and-4.
4. Extra muscle, a hold and still not enough
Cook spoke at length on Friday after the need to “exert our will” on Seattle. The Vikings tried and failed a number of times Monday night. Trailing 3-0 with 2 minutes left in the third quarter, the Vikings had the ball at the Seattle 40 and were facing fourth-and-inches. They brought in fullback C.J. Ham. They brought in 225-pound running back Latavius Murray. They brought in an extra tackle in Rashod Hill. And, heck, Hill even held someone on the play. And yet that penalty was declined because even with all that beef in the game, the Vikings couldn’t move the ball inches. Murray, who runs too high too many times in those situations, was stood up for no gain. Seattle took the ball on downs and used it to move 43 yards in eight plays to take a 6-0 lead on a 35-yard field goal.
5. Ghost of Darrell Bevell sinks Seattle
Ball at the 1-yard line with 16 seconds left in the first half. You are leading and your team already has run the ball 22 times for 136 yards. And you … throw the ball? Did the ghost of former Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell of Seattle Super Bowl 1-yard line infamy make that call? No. It was new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, a run-game loyalist. It led to Wilson scrambling backward and inexplicably throwing the ball toward the right sideline. Unable to get enough juice on the ball to get it out of bounds, he should have taken the sack and let Sebastian Janikowski kick about a 35-yard field goal for a 6-0 lead. Instead, the half ended with Seattle up 3-0 when Eric Kendricks intercepted the ball. He might have had a shot at a pick-six but fell as he was catching the ball.