1. Flags keep flying Rhodes’ way
Monday night’s game at CenturyLink Field was clipping along with just one penalty on the Vikings and none on Seattle when Xavier Rhodes committed the most boneheaded miscue of the night early in the third quarter. He had running back Chris Carson stopped for a 1-yard loss but then decided to whip Carson to the ground out of bounds, giving Seattle 15 yards and the ball at the Vikings 30. Two plays later, the Seahawks scored a touchdown to tie the game at 17-17 en route to a 37-30 win. Rhodes has led the Vikings in penalties in each of his seven seasons. With four games left this season, he already has a career-high 139 penalty yards on 10 accepted penalties. He needs just three more accepted penalties to surpass his career high of 12 in 2014 and 2015. Monday night, the Vikings had three penalties for 30 yards while Seattle had one for 30.
2. Turnovers always tell tale in Seattle
Seattle went into Monday night’s game ranked fifth in turnover margin at plus-9. In their last 61 games at CenturyLink Field going back to 2012, the Seahawks were plus-49. Only the Patriots (plus-59) can top that total. That’s a big reason New England (53) and Seattle (48) rank 1-2 in home wins since 2012. The difference in Monday’s first half was a 20-yard pick-six by Vikings safety Anthony Harris. That was Seattle’s 16th turnover of the season and only the fourth interception thrown by Russell Wilson. Seattle made up for it in the second half, turning a Dalvin Cook fumble into a 29-yard field goal and a Kirk Cousins interception into a Wilson touchdown pass before winning the turnover battle 3-2 with a game-clinching fumble recovery of C.J. Ham’s fumbled kickoff in the closing seconds. The Vikings had 13 points off turnovers while Seattle had 10.
3. Credit Zimmer for being aggressive
Mike Zimmer was rewarded for staying aggressive right before the half. He had a 14-10 lead when he sent his offense onto the field at its 25-yard line with 58 seconds left. After Cook slammed forward for a yard on third-and-1 at the Vikings 34-yard line, Zimmer called his first timeout with 26 seconds left. Cousins excelled in the hurry-up mode, completing three of five passes for 36 yards and three first downs to three different targets. He also overcame a drop by Stefon Diggs and a fumble by Cook that guard Pat Elflein recovered. The Vikings moved 46 yards in eight plays and just 58 seconds. Dan Bailey’s 47-yard field goal as the half ended capped the most efficient two-minute drive of the season and gave the Vikings a 17-10 lead and the ball to open the second half.
4. Wilson’s stop shushes 12th Man
The best play of the first quarter wasn’t the 36-yard pass from Cousins to Ham. Or Diggs’ 27-yard sweep to the Seattle 2-yard line. No, it was the third-down stop by linebacker Eric Wilson that set up those plays by shushing the NFL’s loudest stadium and forcing a punt on Seattle’s opening drive. Seattle was moving the ball with a heavy dose of its heavy formations. With George Fant as a third tackle, Seattle opened with three runs for 16 yards. On third-and-1 at the Seattle 47, the Seahawks put Fant back in the game and ran the ball behind him. But Wilson read the play, knifed in and stuffed Carson for no gain. That set up an 83-yard touchdown drive and gave the Vikings a fighting chance in a venue where Seattle was 18-2 in prime-time games under Pete Carroll.
5. Vikings D loses red-zone battle
In last year’s 21-7 loss at Seattle, the Vikings allowed just one touchdown in Seattle’s four red-zone trips. Zimmer was so frustrated by that wasted opportunity that he pulled the plug on John DeFilippo’s 13-game career as Vikings offensive coordinator the next morning. This time, Seattle scored three TDs in six red-zone trips. The Vikings had two solid third-down passes defensed by safety Harrison Smith at the goal line and Trae Waynes in the end zone. Those plays held the Seahawks to a pair of 29-yard field goals. One of Seattle’s red-zone TDs was a 13-yard pass from Wilson. In 137 games, including playoffs, Wilson has now thrown 158 touchdowns and just nine interceptions in the red zone. Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks got one of those picks last year.