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O’Neil: Seahawks turn clock back to 2012 — and that goes for Russell Wilson, too

Russell Wilson was held to a career-low 72 yards passing in the Seahawks' win Monday. (AP)

The Seahawks turned in a performance straight out of 2012.

That’s how well the defense played by holding the Vikings to 61 yards of total offense in the first half and stopping Minnesota twice on fourth down in the second half.

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It’s also a commentary on how meager Seattle’s passing game was, though. Russell Wilson completed just 10 passes, none for more than 14 yards, and threw for 72 yards, fewest of any game in his career. It was reminiscent of his rookie season when Seattle was so worried about asking him to do too much that there were games he wound up being allowed to do very little.

Now, there were some mitigating circumstances this time around. The Seahawks never trailed and were content to run the ball repeatedly if not effectively. They ran the ball on 42 of their 64 offensive snaps in the game. There was also a near-miss on a perfectly placed pass that would have resulted in a 34-yard touchdown in the final 2 minutes of the first half if receiver David Moore had been able to get his foot down.

But none of that changes the fact that Seattle’s offense turned in an absolute clunker. The Seahawks had the ball inside the Minnesota 20 three times in the first three quarters, resulting in two field goals and one horror show of a turnover in which Wilson absolutely murdered a great scoring opportunity when he was intercepted on first-and-goal from the Minnesota 4 in the final minute of the half.

But that was a simple mistake. One that was untimely and could have been disastrous, but it was simply a mistake that occurred after he slipped and fell. And instead of throwing the ball out of bounds to take another crack at the end zone, Wilson tried to scramble to buy time and then panicked in an attempt to avoid a sack.

The bigger problem on Monday was that Seattle’s offense couldn’t find anything downfield. At all. This offense – which had quietly become one of the league’s most potent when it came to big plays – went dormant.

Wilson’s previous low for passing yards came in the seventh game of his career when he was held to 122 yards in a Thursday night loss at San Francisco. Back then there were still some people in town who didn’t think Wilson should be starting, arguing that Seattle was wasting a championship-caliber defense by starting a rookie quarterback instead of going with Matt Flynn. Yes. This is a debate that actually happened. One that seems totally silly in retrospect given just how thoroughly incredible Wilson has been and will be for this team.

He just wasn’t all that incredible on Monday night. In fact, he might not have been much better than average, and the Seahawks still won, which might be the most important thing to come out of this game.

In Wilson, the Seahawks have a quarterback who gives them a chance to win any game they play. He’s the reason why Seattle is one of only five teams that has not lost by more than eight points this season.

What the Seahawks’ victory over the Vikings showed was that Seattle can still beat a competent opponent when its quarterback doesn’t play well.

Seattle’s defense – which has been an increasingly sensitive spot over the course of this season – showed how stout it can be. The Seahawks kept the Vikings from crossing midfield for the first 40 minutes of the game. They had two fourth-down stops in the final 20 minutes. They also blocked a field goal.

They played well enough that Seattle could win a critical game in spite of a sub-par performance from the quarterback. That’s important for Seattle going forward, because while there’s no sane person in Seattle who still thinks the quarterback is holding this team back, there are going to be times he needs some help. The defense provided a ton of that on Monday.