The most important stat in Sunday's Seattle Seahawks' 41-20 victory over the Minnesota Vikings: 3.2 yards per carry. That was all Minnesota All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson was able to average against Seattle's rush defense. It represents a breakthrough for the Seattle's rush defense, and a chance for this team to be dominant.
What makes that the most important stat of the game is what it means for the rest of Seattle's season. The Seahawks have struggled against the run in recent weeks. It was a weakness, something that opposing teams could lean on to move the football and keep Seattle's offense off the field.
Back in Week 8, the Seahawks gave up 200 yards on the ground to the St. Louis Rams. The Rams entered that game as the league's 30th ranked team against the run. They were also starting their backup QB for the first time this season, so a run-heavy game plan was expected.
The following week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers put up 205 yards on the ground against Seattle's defense. Tampa was the league's 23rd rushing attack entering that game, and it was without its starting running back.
In both of those games, Seattle's defense had no answers on how to stop the run. The opposing teams were able to move the ball, and the Seahawks were fortunate to pull out wins.
Sure, the Seahawks had been able to shut down the running game in their Week 10 matchup with the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons have the league's worst rushing attack, so it was unclear if Seattle's rushing defense had improved any, or if the Falcons' rushing attack was simply bad enough that they couldn't take advantage of Seattle's weakness.
Enter Peterson and the Vikings. Peterson entered the game as the league's fourth leading rusher despite not having a consistent passing game to keep defenses from stacking the line. The 2012 MVP award winner represented a far greater challenge than anything the Seahawks had faced all season. A year ago Peterson rushed for 182 yards on 17 carries against the Seahawks.
Peterson finished Sunday's game with just 64 yards on 21 carries and zero touchdowns. That is just an average of 3.2 yards per carry. This was a massive test for Seattle's rush defense, and it clearly succeeded.
Seattle's rushing defense has clearly turned the corner. It is no longer the weakness it was just a couple of weeks ago.
With the Seahawks looking to lock up a top playoff seed and then make a run deep into the playoffs, this is an important development. They managed to take a serious weakness and turn it into an apparent strength.
#Seahawks now in VERY GOOD position for #1 or #2 seed in NFL Playoffs. Niners/Cards 6-4 in NFCW. Det/Chi 6-4 IN NFCN. Philly 6-5 in NFCE.— Chris Daniels (@ChrisDaniels5) November 18, 2013