Run defense — or the lack thereof — typically is at or near the top of the Vikings’ list of problems when game plans begin to unravel.
Sunday was no exception. Seattle took turns pounding on and dancing away from Vikings defenders for 173 yards and two touchdowns on 36 carries (4.8 yards per carry) in a 38-7 rout at TCF Bank Stadium.
“We were just on our heels all day,” linebacker Chad Greenway said. “I felt like that on the field. Just kind of trying to react to what they were doing and not being up to speed with it. We just never got comfortable out there. We missed a lot of tackles.”
Of course, it should be noted that injuries forced nose tackle Linval Joseph (foot) to miss the whole game and linebacker Anthony Barr (groin) and free safety Harrison Smith (hamstring) to miss all but Seattle’s first possession and parts of its second possession.
That could help explain coach Mike Zimmer’s reaction when asked if he’s concerned about his run defense.
“I’m concerned about a lot of things right now,” said the coach, who has a Thursday night game in Arizona looming.
Missed tackles, the inability to consistently contain Seattle’s read-option plays and the pull-your-hair-out frustration of trying to get elusive quarterback Russell Wilson on the ground played a big role in the defensive discomfort that Greenway mentioned.
The Seahawks converted nine of 13 third-down situations and their only fourth-down play, because, well, they never had too far to travel for the first down. Seattle converted five third-and-1s, had only three third downs with longer than 6 yards to go and none longer than 9 yards to go.
Thomas Rawls, an undrafted rookie filling in for the injured Marshawn Lynch, outrushed NFL leading rusher Adrian Peterson 101-18. Rawls averaged 5.3 yards on 19 carries, scored a touchdown and had a long run of 20 yards that came through a gaping hole in the middle of the Vikings defense.
“He’s definitely a good, up-and-coming back,” cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said. “He gets in and out of his cuts. He plays very fast and is very tough.”
Then there’s the added difficulty of stopping Wilson. He ran nine times for 51 yards (5.7). He ran 8 yards for a touchdown on third-and-7 and ran for first downs on third-and-1 and fourth-and-1.
Seattle’s 173 rushing yards were the second-highest total against the Vikings this season, and the highest since the 49ers ran for 230 in the season opener.
“The No. 1 thing in the NFL is you have to stop the run,” Munnerlyn said. “I’ve been on good teams and it’s always, ‘Stop the run. Stop the run.’ I can’t put my finger on what exactly went wrong. But I know Seattle did a great job, and it showed, because they beat our tail.”