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O’Neil: Seahawks needed defense’s best game of the year to beat Vikings

The Seahawks kept the Vikings off the scoreboard until just 70 seconds remained. (AP)

The two touchdowns Seattle scored Monday night were merely exclamation points.

The Seahawks’ defense had already made a statement by then, one that should reverberate around the NFC in a bone-jarring near-shutout of a fellow playoff contender.

Seattle 21, Minnesota 7.

Seahawks beat Vikings | 710 reacts | Photos | Stats

In reality, though it was much closer than that. The Vikings were a yard from taking the lead with 10 minutes left. It was a yard they would never gain, though, turning the ball over on downs after Kirk Cousins’ pass to Kyle Rudolph on fourth-and-goal was broken up.

It was Seattle’s second fourth-down stop of the second half. Pair that up with a first half in which the Seahawks didn’t let the Vikings move the ball past midfield and wrap it all up with the 49-yard field-goal attempt that linebacker Bobby Wagner blocked and you had what was far and away Seattle’s best defensive performance of the season.

It had to be. Russell Wilson was 10-for-20 passing in the game for 72 yards, the lowest total of his career. His previous low was 122 yards in a Week 7 loss at San Francisco in 2012.

Don’t let the final margin fool you. The Seahawks’ defense didn’t have any room for mistakes. Not with Seattle’s offense failing to cash in scoring opportunities. Twice Seattle settled for field goals, and that was actually good news compared to the scoring chance the Seahawks absolutely butchered at the end of the first half.

This was a night for Seattle’s defense, even if Cousins’ 6-yard touchdown pass to Dalvin Cook with 70 seconds left did keep the Seahawks from recording their first shutout since Week 3 of 2015.

Chris Carson may have given Seattle command of the game with a 2-yard touchdown run with just under 3 minutes remaining, and Justin Coleman pretty much iced the game by returning a fumble 29 yards for a touchdown 8 seconds later, but this was a game won by Seattle’s entire defensive unit.

The Seahawks held the Vikings to just 61 yards of offense in the first half, didn’t allow Minnesota’s offense to cross midfield for the first 40 minutes of the game, and had a pair of fourth-down stops and the blocked field goal in the second half to come away with a victory that makes a playoff appearance a virtual certainty at this point – and shows that Seattle might do some damage once it gets there.

After two months of steady improvement, the Seahawks’ offense turned in an absolute stinker. Wilson didn’t complete a pass longer than 15 yards, and while Carson rushed for 90 yards, the most important play was a 40-yard scramble by Wilson on Seattle’s only touchdown drive of the game. And Wilson didn’t exactly run away from Linval Joseph – a Vikings defensive tackle listed at 320 pounds – on the run so much as Joseph gave up trying to catch him.

Still Seattle won in large part due to a defense that continued to show a steel-toed toughness even when backed up to its own end zone. No wait. The defense has shown that toughness especially when backed up to its own end zone.

The Vikings had the ball at the Seattle 4, first-and-goal with just over 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter. Two stuffed runs sandwiched around an incompletion, and the Vikings went for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1. That was as close as Minnesota ever came to the lead as Seattle stood strong once again.