8:15 p.m. ET
Key Coaching Decision #1: (SEA ball, leading 3-0 / first-and-goal, MIN 3 / 0:16 Q2)
• Oftentimes, coaches can make great decisions — but can be made to look dumb if players don’t properly execute. This was the case here:
• Seattle had already exhausted all of its timeouts, but was nevertheless in perfect position to take a two-possession lead into halftime. On first down, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer smartly called a pass play for quarterback Russell Wilson to get the ball out of his hand quickly. Obviously, with only 16 seconds remaining in the half, either you score a touchdown throwing the ball, or suffer a couple of incompletions and line up for a field goal. In this case, Wilson held onto the ball too long, started scrambling backwards, whirled around and threw a no-look pass that was intercepted. Good play call, bad execution, and the coach has to bear the outcome.
Key Coaching Decision #2: (MIN ball, trailing 3-0 / fourth-and-1, SEA 40 / 2:05 Q3)
• This was the first time in the entire game that the Vikings had progressed into Seahawks territory. Even with such a poor offensive performance up to this point, the Vikings were squarely in this contest due to the brilliant play of their defense. On this particular fourth-and-1 play, Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer decided to go for the first down. We felt this was the right call, but we did not agree with the play call, which was a run up the middle with running back Latavius Murray. In our view, there were several things wrong with this decision. First, the Vikings do not have a very physical offensive line. Second, up to this point, the Vikings were not playing a downhill game. We expected a short pass off play-action or some type of rub route. The play was stopped, the Seahawks received a short field, and converted for a field goal and a 6-0 lead.
Key Coaching Decision #3: (MIN ball, trailing 6-0 / fourth-and-goal, SEA 1 / 9:10 Q4)
• Up to this point, the Minnesota defense had played a stellar game and had denied Seattle the opportunity to take a two-possession lead on five consecutive series. Therefore, it was likely that if Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer simply settled for a field goal and a 6-3 deficit, the Vikings defense would get the ball back to its offense for another scoring opportunity. Instead, Zimmer chose to go for the touchdown. Quarterback Kirk Cousins threw an incomplete pass into the end zone, and the Vikings continued to trail 6-0. We strongly disagreed with this decision by Zimmer. First, it was early enough in the fourth quarter. Second, his defense was playing an outstanding game. Third, if the Seahawks were to stop the Vikings in that situation, the Seattle home crowd would only get louder. Fourth, coming away with zero points in that situation is an emotional downer for a team, and that would be risky in a close, hard-fought road game. It’s hard for us to watch games when head coaches actually put their teams in a position to lose, and we felt Zimmer did this with his decision in this circumstance.
• Seattle running back Chris Carson may not be the fastest back in the league nor the shiftiest, but we believe he certainly is in the top three or four most physical backs upon first contact. Carson is a hard runner, and has a knack for running through initial contact. He’s not pretty but we enjoy watching his effort.
• The Minnesota defense played an outstanding game on the road. We were very impressed by their discipline against all of the shifts, motion and misdirection by the Seattle offense. The Vikings defense stayed very patient and disciplined through out the game. This is a Super Bowl defense looking for an offense.
• If the Vikings are going to get better, they have to make a decision as to what they want to be on offense. Last week, Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer expressed his frustration at the lack of rushing attempts in the game versus the Patriots. But while he’s frustrated, the Vikings don’t do much to show that they are committed to the run with their design. For example, the Vikings have an underwhelming offensive line. If they really want to run the ball, perhaps they should line up in multiple tight-end formations a bit more often. Additionally, the Vikings also might want to use a true fullback more often. Interestingly, when the Vikings injected a fullback into an offensive series, they promptly completed their first deep ball in this game.
Making matters worse, offensive coordinator John DeFilippo was fired Tuesday morning. Zimmer and the remaining offensive staff need to figure out something quickly because every team left on their schedule will follow the blueprint that the Patriots used against them in week 13. Wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen will get doubled, and defenses will only rush four and dare the Vikings to run the ball.
• The Seahawks may no longer have the Legion of Boom, but they do have some very promising young defenders. Everyone knows about linebacker Bobby Wagner, but cornerback Shaquille Griffin should also get a lot of praise. He is one of the best rising young corners in the game. He has excellent ball skills and is a very willing tackler as well.