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Seahawks’ defense shines bright in 21-7 win over Vikings

Bobby Wagner blocked a punt and helped the Seahawks beat Minnesota 21-7. (AP)

Whoever coined the phrase “Defense wins games” would have really liked Monday night’s battle between the Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings.

Defense’s best game of year710 reacts | Photos | Stats

Seattle’s defense pitched a shutout for nearly 59 minutes by creating a pair of turnovers on downs, blocking a late field goal attempt and returning a fumble for a touchdown, leading the way to a 21-7 victory that makes a Seahawks return to the playoffs seem nearly like a certainty.

The Seahawks took a 3-0 lead in the second quarter, and that’s what the score remained until Sebastian Janikowski hit his second field goal of the day early in the fourth quarter. That was just the first of three scores for Seattle in the final quarter that turned a defensive struggle into a dominant Seahawks win.

Here’s a quarter-by-quarter look the victory that moves Seattle to 8-5 on the year.

First quarter

Seahawks 0, Vikings 0

CenturyLink Field earned a reputation for how loud it could get and therefore cause issues for the opposing team’s offense, and there were calls from Seahawks players and even head coach Pete Carroll for the crowd to remind the Vikings of that fact on Monday night. Well, the verdict came in early in the first quarter when Minnesota punted at the end of a five-play drive that included a delay of game penalty.

A defensive battle quickly took shape as neither team’s offense found much success early on. The Vikings don’t have much of a running attack and the Seahawks knew it, so Seattle put the clamps down on Minnesota’s passing game, creating pressure on quarterback Kirk Cousins, who threw for just 11 yards on 2-for-5 passing to open the contest.

While the Seahawks went three-and-out on their first offensive series, their second was much more productive. Seattle reached the red zone near the end of the quarter after chewing up 75 yards on 10 plays, giving the Hawks an opportunity to open the scoring in the second quarter.

The Seahawks finished the first quarter with 84 total yards of offense to just 32 for Minnesota.

Second quarter

Seahawks 3, Vikings 0

The Seahawks moved into the lead in the second quarter, but heading into halftime Seattle was left thinking about how it could have been more than 3-0. That’s because Russell Wilson threw an inexplicable interception on first-and-goal from the 1 trying to throw the ball to stop the clock after spinning out of trouble, a turnover that prevented the Seahawks from attempting a field goal on the final play of the half.

That wasn’t the only missed opportunity for the Seahawks’ offense, which began the second quarter well into a promising drive with a first-and-10 at the 15. Minnesota defensive end Danielle Hunter’s sack of Wilson on third-and-9 stopped Seattle, however, forcing Carroll’s team to settle for a 37-yard Janikowski field goal that was the only score of the game through two quarters.

The Seahawks did the Vikings one better in the sack game, at least, as Frank Clark (with some help from Quinton Jefferson) got to Kirk Cousins for a sack that led to the third Vikings punt in as many possessions.

While Seattle’s next series didn’t produce any points, it did produce this highlight-reel 17-yard run by rookie running back Rashaad Penny.

More pressure on Cousins kept Seattle’s defense a perfect 4 for 4 in forcing Minnesota drives to end in punts, and the Seahawks’ offense went back to work trying to extend its lead. Wilson connected on a pass to David Moore that looked like a touchdown, but it was ruled incomplete as Moore couldn’t get both feet in-bounds. That loomed large, as Wilson threw his interception to Minnesota linebacker Eric Kendricks (brother of Seahawks linebacker Mychal Kendricks) six plays later – an interception that easily could have been a pick-six if Kendricks didn’t hit the ground as soon as he caught the ball.

SEA – Sebastian Janikowski 37 FG, 14:15

Third quarter

Seahawks 3, Vikings 0

We’ve heard it so often that we took it for granted. “No. 74 has checked in as an eligible receiver.” Well, George Fant finally did it. The Seahawks’ 6-foot-5, 322-pound offensive tackle and sometimes tight end caught a pass, and if he hadn’t started to stumble just about as soon as he made the catch, who knows if he would have ever been brought down.

But as was the case leading up to the third quarter, offense continued to be hard to come by. How true is that? Well, when Minnesota crossed into Seahawks territory with about four minutes left in the frame, it was the first time that had happened all day.

That drive was the most credible threat to Seattle’s lead that the Vikings’ offense had put together to that point, but in the end the story of the drive was – what else? – defense. Minnesota went for it on fourth-and-1 at Seattle’s 40, and Clark was there to stop Latavius Murray and force a turnover on downs, even with the Vikings getting flagged for holding on the play.

The Seahawks had moved into Minnesota’s side of the field as the third quarter ended with still just 3 points on the board.

Fourth quarter

Seahawks 21, Vikings 7

The Seahawks tacked on a second field goal to their lead early in the quarter, and the defense followed up by putting on a clinic of how to bend but not break.

The Vikings made their first trip to the red zone of the game with a 48-yard pass from Cousins to Stefon Diggs. But even though the Vikings reached Seattle’s 2, the Seahawks forced a second turnover on downs in as many quarters.

That wasn’t all, however.

Minnesota attempted its first field goal of the day, but an incredible play by Bobby Wagner resulted in Dan Bailey’s 47-yard attempt being blocked, keeping the Vikings off the board with just 5:46 to go.

Seattle rode the momentum of that play into some big gains on offense, first a 40-yard run by Wilson, then a bruising 11-yard rush by Chris Carson. Carson’s name was called again in a goal-line situation, and he pounded his way through for the first touchdown of the day after 57 minutes of play. A pass from Wilson to Tyler Lockett tacked on a two-point conversion, giving the Seahawks a full two-score lead that was out of the Vikings’ reach.

The Seahawks weren’t done, however. Two plays into Minnesota’s next possession, rookie defensive end Jacob Martin knocked the ball free from Cousins just before the Vikings QB attempted a pass, and Justin Coleman picked up the fumble and returned it 29 yards for a touchdown that added some punctuation to Seattle’s victory.

The Vikings scored on a 6-yard touchdown pass from Cousins to Dalvin Cook with 1:10 left.

SEA – Sebastian Janikowski 35 FG, 13:26
SEA – Chris Carson 2 run (Tyler Lockett pass from Wilson), 2:57
SEA – Justin Coleman 29 fumble return (Janikowski kick), 2:35
MIN – Dalvin Cook 6 pass from Kirk Cousins (Dan Bailey kick), 1:10