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Heaps: Seahawks face tough challenge with Vikings’ talented safety duo

Vikings S Harrison Smith poses a tough matchup for the Seahawks on Sunday. (Getty)

Once again, the Seahawks and Vikings will face off in the regular season and once again, that game will be played in Seattle in primetime. This time, however, will be very different both because there won’t be early 70,000 screaming fans in attendance, but also because of how the two teams are currently playing.

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Since Brian Schottenheimer became offensive coordinator for the Seahawks in 2018, Seattle has had a great offense, but this year has been different, with the Seahawks scoring over 30 points in each of their first four games and quarterback Russell Wilson tying an NFl record with 16 touchdown passes through Week 4.

On the flip side, the Vikings, who are coached by a defensive-minded head coach in Mike Zimmer, were ninth and fifth in the NFL in points allowed in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Entering Sunday’s contest, the Vikings are 26th.

While the Vikings are struggling as a whole on defense, there’s still one component of that group that will be very tough for the Seahawks to deal with, and that’s the safety tandem of Anthony Harris, who led the NFL in interceptions last year with six, and five-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro Harrison Smith.

“There’s just unbelievable balance and really, it’s just hard to get a tell on them,” Schottenheimer told reporters this week. “But again, some of the split-safety stuff that they do, they take chances, they’re willing to take risks to try to make plays on the ball. If there’s a better combo of safeties in the league, we haven’t seen them.”

Someone who knows a thing or two about reading safeties is former NFL quarterback Jake Heaps, who, on 710 ESPN Seattle’s Tom, Jake and Stacy, explained even further why Harris and Smith will be a tough task for the Seahawks to handle on offense, even while Minnesota’s defense is struggling as a whole.

“With that tandem, between Anthony Harris and you’ve got Harrison (Smith), those two guys are really, really good players,” Heaps said. “(They are) instinctual players who can do a whole lot, who can blitz, they can play solid in the run game and re very good and instinctual in coverage.”

The strength of the Vikings’ defense also plays into the strength of the Seahawks’ offense, which is the deep ball. So far this year, Wilson is finding receivers DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and David Moore downfield for huge gains and touchdowns. These safeties will make that more difficult in Week 5.

“This really is going to be a good matchup to see how Russell Wilson and this Seahawks offense is able to handle those two talented safeties because they really do take things way downfield and do a pretty good job down there,” Heaps said.

Wilson is playing at his best so far, putting up numbers that not only place him firmly in the NFL MVP conversation, but he’s on track for the greatest statistical season any NFL quarterback has ever accomplished. There may be some reason to worry that Wilson doesn’t play as well this Sunday, however, due largely to those two safeties.

“The last two games that Russell Wilson has had versus the Minnesota Vikings have not been statistically his best games because of the way these safeties have been able to take things away from Russell and the Seahawks offense,” Heaps said.

In 2018, Wilson accomplished next to nothing when these two teams faced off, completing 10 of 20 passes for just 72 yards and an interception, though he did add 61 yards on the ground. Seattle won that game 21-7, and Harris had nine tackles while Smith had seven.

And last year, the Seahawks won 37-30 over the Vikings with Wilson completing 21 of 31 passes for 240 yards, two touchdowns and an interception by Harris that he returned for a touchdown. Harris also had seven tackles and Smith had 10 tackles and broke up a pass.

“That is a matchup I think Seahawks fans should be paying attention to as we head into this Sunday night matchup,” Heaps said.

Listen to the second hour of Friday’s Tom, Jake and Stacy at this link or in the player below.

Follow Jake Heaps on Twitter.

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