A similar Vikings team stands in way of Seahawks’ playoff run

Dec 4, 2015, 1:19 PM | Updated: 1:24 pm
The Seahawks rely on mobile quarterback Russell Wilson, just like Minnesota does with Teddy Bridgew...
The Seahawks rely on mobile quarterback Russell Wilson, just like Minnesota does with Teddy Bridgewater. (AP)

The formulas are similar, the stakes are clear.

Two teams that seek to run the ball. A pair of coaches whose bedrock is defense. One game that will determine the shape of the NFC playoff run in December.

The Seahawks won a Super Bowl with a power running game, an efficiently mobile cornerback and a steel-toed, no-excuses defense. That’s the same recipe that has taken Minnesota to the top of the NFC North this season.

Sunday’s game is a test to see who’s best.

“The formula that they’re winning with is really very similar to how we go,” coach Pete Carroll said.

This game will see if Seattle’s approach extends beyond its personnel, the Seahawks trying to sustain the effectiveness of their rushing game even though it’s rookie Thomas Rawls who’ll be running the ball, not Marshawn Lynch who remains out with an abdominal injury.

And Rawls has been incredible. We should make that clear. He rushed for 209 yards against San Francisco, second-most in franchise history. He ran for 169 against Cincinnati. But can he dictate the style of a game like Lynch?

There’s no doubt about Minnesota’s ability to do that. Adrian Peterson is the gold standard for NFL running backs even now, in his ninth season. The Seahawks saw his impact up close and personal in 2012 when Peterson ran for 182 yards, the most rushing yards Seattle has given up with Pete Carroll as coach.

Peterson leads the league in rushing, averaging 108 yards, which means we’re going to see how much starch remains in the Seahawks’ defense.

“You’ve got to stop the run against them,” Carroll said.

That’s something Seattle has been fairly proficient at this year. The Seahawks haven’t allowed an opponent to rush for more than 100 yards this season. Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles was the last to hit triple digits, running for 158 yards in November 2014. That was 17 regular-season games ago.

Now comes Peterson. Well, actually, it’s Minnesota. The Vikings have the second-fewest passing yards in the league and a quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater who isn’t incompetent, but rather untested. And that’s by design.

“That quarterback does not make a lot of mistakes,” Carroll said.

Sounds like the Seahawks in 2012, right? Because what Minnesota is seeking from its quarterback is pretty similar to what Seattle wanted back in Russell Wilson’s first couple seasons.

But is Bridgewater really like Russell Wilson? The Seahawks need to force an answer to that question.

Wilson has shown his playmaker’s touch can make up if Seattle needs to play catchup or the running game wavers. He demonstrated that back in his rookie season when he dug the Seahawks out of a 20-0 hole with those 385 passing yards what was ultimately a heartbreaking playoff loss in Atlanta. He showed it again last week with those three fourth-quarter touchdowns he threw for against Pittsburgh.

Bridgewater hasn’t been put to that kind of test this season. At least not yet.

On Sunday, he’ll get a chance to beat the kind of team the Vikings hope to become while we’ll see if the Seahawks can still follow that formula that produced back-to-back Super Bowl appearances.

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A similar Vikings team stands in way of Seahawks’ playoff run