Vikings vs. Seahawks: Breaking Down Seattle's Game Plan

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Vikings vs. Seahawks: Breaking Down Seattle's Game Plan
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

The Seattle Seahawks return home this week to take on the visiting Minnesota Vikings. This game is a rematch from last season, when Seattle topped the Vikings 30-20 at home. This year's Seahawks are likely to reuse large portions of the game plan that helped last year's team pick up the victory. 

Even though both of these teams made the playoffs a year ago, their seasons have gone in different directions this year. Seattle is 9-1 and has almost locked up a spot in this year's playoffs. Minnesota is just 2-7 and has already begun looking toward the future.

This game begins the critical "home stretch" of the season for Seattle and sees the Seahawks play four of their last six games at home. If the Seahawks can win their four remaining home games, it is almost impossible for them not to end up as the NFC's No. 1 seed, regardless of what happens in the two road games. 

 

The Competitive Edge

NFL Rankings for Seahawks and Vikings
Seattle Seahawks Category Minnesota Vikings
6th Scoring Offense 13th
11th Total Offense 28th
24th Passing Offense 25th
2nd Yards Per Attempt 28th
2nd Rushing Offense 17th
6th Yards Per Carry 5th
3rd Scoring Defense 31st
3rd Total Defense 30th
2nd Passing Defense 29th
2nd Yards Per Attempt 19th
15th Rushing Defense 17th
19th Yards Per Carry 15th

ESPN.com

Despite their very different records, these two teams have some distinct similarities. Both run the ball very well, and both teams are similar in their ability to stop the run. 

Where the teams differ is in the passing game. The Seahawks are among the best in the league at defending against the pass, while the Vikings are among the worst.

This is true on offense as well. While the Seahawks don't pass the ball very often, they are second in the league in yards per attempt. The Vikings are 28th and average over two yards less per pass attempt. 

 

Seattle's Offense vs. Atlanta's Defense

Pound the Rock with Marshawn Lynch

Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch sets the tone for everything the Seahawks do offensively. His physical style can punish opposing defenses, and the Seahawks need to make sure he gets his carries.

According to Clare Farnsworth of Seahawks.com, head coach Pete Carroll agrees:

"Marshawn always sets the tempo for us, but that’s kind of how he is. He’s been playing so consistently, so aggressively."

This is something the Seahawks look to do every week, but it holds additional importance this week. If Seattle's occasionally suspect run defense is going to hold up against Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson and the Vikings rushing attack, then Seattle's offense needs to be able to burn some clock.  

The Vikings average 34:30 in time of possession per game, which is the second-most of any team in the league. If the Seahawks cannot switch that and keep their own defense on the sidelines, the Vikings will be able to keep this game close. 

 

Queue Up the Big Play

According to NFL.com, the Seahawks are seventh in the NFL with 36 passing plays of at least 20 yards. They are also 10th in the league in passing plays of 40 yards or more. Those are fairly impressive numbers considering there is only one team in the league that has attempted fewer passes than the Seahawks.

BR Media team

The Vikings defense has been relatively average at preventing big passing plays. They currently rank 13th in the league both passing plays over 20 yards and passing plays over 40 yards surrendered. This means that the Seahawks should be able to take advantage of Minnesota's defense and connect on a few explosive plays in the passing game. 

Not only will connecting on a few big passes help the Seahawks put points on the board, it should also help prevent the Vikings from stacking the line to stop Lynch. 

 

Seattle's Defense vs. Atlanta's Offense

Stack the Line to Stop Adrian Peterson

Unsurprisingly, Adrian Peterson is the key to Minnesota's offensive success. Stop him and the rest of the Vikings offense struggles to score points. This can be seen in the chart below. When teams are able to keep Peterson under wraps, it generally leads to lopsided losses for the Vikings.

Rushing Splits For Adrian Peterson
Yards/Game Yards/Carry
Wins 107 5.0
Close Losses 94.2 4.4
Blowout Losses 45 3.9

Pro Football Reference

Seattle's defense has struggled at times to stop the run. It would be unwise to expect the front seven to be able to handle this responsibility without help. The Seahawks need to allow strong safety Kam Chancellor to play up near the line of scrimmage to assist in defending the run. 

 

Get Pressure Without Blitzing

The passing offense of the Vikings has been limited by an overall lack of talent at quarterback. Both likely starter Christian Ponder and backup Matt Cassel lack the ability to push the ball down the field. This results in a passing attack that is unusually dependent on passes to targets who are close to the line of scrimmage. 

This quick passing game also has the benefit of negating the blitz. These short passes are thrown before any blitzing linebacker can get to the QB. Blitzing against this offense tends to do little more than open holes in the secondary for passes to be completed into. This is a large part of why the Vikings have given up just 21 sacks this season, good for seventh in the league.

Luckily, the Seahawks have the pass-rushers to get after the QB even if the team doesn't blitz. Besides, Ponder's performance has been poor even when not under pressure, so there is no reason to force the issue by blitzing regularly. 

Christian Ponder vs. Pressure
Comp% Yds/Att TD INT Rat
No Pressure 68.3 6.9 3 5 78.8
Vs. Pressure 55.9 7.1 2 2 75.4

Pro Football Focus

 

Game Stats and Facts (via Pro-Football-Reference.com and NFL.com)

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Seattle leads the all-time series between these teams 7-5, including a 30-20 win last season. 

The last time these two teams played in Seattle was in 2009, with the Vikings winning 25-9.

Seahawks wide receivers Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin, as well as backup quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, were starters for the Vikings prior to signing with Seattle. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell held that same position in Minnesota before joining Pete Carroll's staff in Seattle. 

In 2012, Minnesota's Adrian Peterson led the NFL in rushing with 2,097 yards. Seattle's Marshawn Lynch was third with 1,590 yards.

This season, Lynch is second in the league with 871 yards, while Peterson is fourth with 786 yards. 

The Seahawks have 31 sacks this season, while the Vikings have 21. Seattle has also given up 28 sacks on the year, while the Vikings have given up just 21. 

Minnesota's defense surrenders 108 yards per game through the air more than Seattle's defense does. 

The rushing defenses are almost identical, with the Vikings giving up only 2.7 yards per game more than the Seahawks. 

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