Vikings personnel consultant Paul Wiggin can thank old buddy and former roommate Pete Carroll for bringing to light a piece of NFL history that Wiggin had no idea he was part of as a rookie in Cleveland back in 1957.
If Carroll’s Seattle defense hadn’t held Arizona to fewer than eight points Sunday, the Seahawks wouldn’t have won their fourth consecutive NFL defensive scoring title heading into Sunday’s NFC wild-card matchup against the Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium. And if that hadn’t happened, Seattle wouldn’t have been mentioned as the first team to accomplish that feat since Paul Brown’s Cleveland Browns won five straight from 1953 to ’57, when Wiggin was backing up Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive end Len Ford.
“I wasn’t aware of either one, but I’m not surprised because Pete Carroll is a superb defensive coach,” Wiggin said. “He is behind everything they do on defense. That’s his world. He’s a defensive guy. That’s what he’s all about.”
And now Wiggin’s Vikings get their second swing at Carroll’s dominating defense. The skeptics include Las Vegas oddsmakers, who have the No. 3 seed Vikings (11-5) a five-point underdog against the No. 6 seed Seahawks (10-6) in what might be one of the coldest games in NFL history.
Vikings defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd said Wednesday that he preferred facing the two-time defending NFC champion Seahawks as opposed the presumed easier matchup that would have sent the Vikings to Washington had the Vikings lost at Lambeau Field on Sunday. Later, on a conference call with Twin Cities reporters, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman was asked for his reaction.
“I don’t think too much about that,” he said. “That sounds cool.”
Frankly, if you’re Seattle, words are unnecessary after what happened when these teams met at TCF Bank Stadium on Dec. 6. The Vikings mustered 125 yards of offense, including 18 yards rushing by Adrian Peterson, and trailed 35-0 when Cordarrelle Patterson returned a kickoff for a touchdown.
What happened Sunday in Arizona was even more impressive because the Cardinals were leading the league in scoring at the time.
The Bengals had just finished the regular season with 279 points allowed (17.4 per game). That meant the Seahawks would have to hold Arizona to fewer than eight points to win the scoring title again.
“I knew about it because I keep up with stuff like that,” Sherman said. “Most of the guys didn’t know it until the last drive and the coaches announced it on the sideline.”
By then, most of the starters were out of the game. Seattle was leading 36-6 with five minutes left. Arizona had the ball and was facing fourth-and-10 from the Seattle 12 when cornerback DeShawn Shead intercepted a pass at the goal line. Seattle finished with 277 points allowed (17.3).
“That’s the stat,” Carroll said. “Of all the stats, that’s the one that demonstrates the most. That’s why we’re so proud.”
As for what it means to post that stat in a 30-point blowout of the NFC’s No. 2 seed, Sherman said, “It just reaffirms what we already know. That we can play with anyone. We are who we think we are.”
Over the past four years, Carroll has had two defensive coordinators become head coaches. As for personnel, six players — Sherman, safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright, and tackle Brendan Mebane — have been full-time starters each year.
“[Carroll] is an incredible stabilizer for our organization and our team,” Sherman said of Carroll, who led the Seahawks to a Super Bowl victory two years ago. “He doesn’t have ebbs and flows. He just stays consistent, win, lose or draw.”
In 1985, Bud Grant came out of retirement to coach the Vikings and was looking for some new assistants. He hired Wiggin as his defensive line coach and Carroll as his secondary coach.
“We roomed together over there on Anderson Lakes Parkway here in Eden Prairie,” Wiggin said. “Pete was a great coach here, and he’s a great coach there.”
Most NFL offenses in the 1950s were primitive by today’s standards. Paul Brown was an offensive innovator who left the defense up to his coordinator, Howard Brinker.
“It’s a whole different game today,” Wiggin said. “Keep in mind, my first year in the league, the NFL didn’t even have the I-formation yet. So, yeah, I would say for Seattle to win four straight scoring titles in today’s game is much more impressive than what we evidently did over five straight years in Cleveland in the ’50s. And I’m not surprised. Not with Pete.”