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Seattle Seahawks vs. Minnesota Vikings: What's the Game Plan for Seattle?

Ethan Bailey@@ebai_todayFeatured Columnist IDecember 5, 2015

The Seattle Seahawks figure to feature a heavy dose of rookie running back Thomas Rawls on the road against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 13.
The Seattle Seahawks figure to feature a heavy dose of rookie running back Thomas Rawls on the road against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 13.John Froschauer/Associated Press

The Seattle Seahawks play in a statement game for the second straight week against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.

And although the Seahawks won't have the benefit of playing in front of the 12th man for the first time in four weeks, there won't be any lack of love from fans as Seattle travels to the cold Minnesota tundra. 

Mouse Rat @Tony76Drake

@Seahawks @Vikings GO HAWKS!!! https://t.co/Dq6h89Zdho

Let's get right into what a winning Seattle game plan might look like in this weekend's pivotal NFC matchup.

Offensive Game Plan

A quick look at Minnesota's defensive statistics makes it seem clear that the Seahawks will feed rookie running back sensation Thomas Rawls the football early and often in this game. 

Yes, the Vikings defense has given up an average of 110 rushing yards per game to opponents in 2015. But upon further review, it's easy to see that's a skewed number.

Understand that the Vikings have allowed teams to rush for 100 or more yards in only five of 11 games this season. The biggest rushing performance allowed by the Vikings came at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1, as the 49ers posted a combined 230 rushing yards.

It was an outlying performance that has overshadowed an otherwise-solid season from the Vikings run defense.

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How, then, can the Seahawks expect to run the ball effectively on Sunday? 

The first part of this answer has to do with Rawls' attitude and toughness running the football. 

710 ESPN Seattle @710ESPNSeattle

#Seahawks Thomas Rawls running like a mini @MoneyLynch: "I love the hurt."

"I love the pain, I love the grind," Rawls continued to tell 710 ESPN Seattle on Thursday. "And guess what, I'm not the only one that's hurting. So it's all about outlasting the next person."

Outlasting the Vikings defense on Sunday will be key for Rawls and his offensive line.

And a significant injury along the Vikings defensive line could help Rawls do just that.

Ben Goessling of ESPN reported Thursday that nose tackle Linval Joseph will most likely miss this weekend's game with a foot injury. Joseph's absence could open up the middle of Minnesota's defense, allowing for Rawls to carve out a nice rushing performance.

Don't underestimate the importance of running the football this weekend—Minnesota's pass defense is ranked fourth in the NFL, so big-play opportunities through the air could be hard to come by for quarterback Russell Wilson and Co. 

That doesn't mean it'll be impossible to throw the ball, though. 

To quickly touch on how the Seahawks can effectively throw the ball this Sunday, it'll be imperative for Seattle to create mismatches with its wideouts against Minnesota's linebackers. 

Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin was able to do this in last week's tremendous victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Watch in the highlight reel below how, on multiple occasions, Baldwin uses his athleticism to leave linebackers in the dust en route to touchdown catches:

These kinds of opportunities will only arise, though, if Rawls can have another good day running the football.

Defensive Game Plan

The Vikings will be looking to do the same thing as the Seahawks on Sunday—control the game by running the football.

That similar offensive approach is one of the biggest reasons this game should be one of Week 13's best. Both teams play similar styles of football.

Like the Vikings', the Seahawks defense has also allowed only five performances of 100 or more rushing yards this season. But, in three of the last four such performances, opposing teams have come out beating the Seahawks.

That trend could easily continue if running back Adrian Peterson isn't contained this weekend.

Seattle must commit to stopping Peterson, even if that means opening up extra passing lanes for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. 

Making Bridgewater beat Seattle with his arm is the Seahawks' best chance of winning this football game. 

Also, as briefly mentioned in this week's game preview, Seattle's defenders must tackle in this game better than they did a week ago. 

Peterson will make you pay for not wrapping him up. Just ask the Oakland Raiders, who gave up an 80-yard touchdown run in crunch time due to poor tackling on the following play:

It's hard to put it any other way—the Seahawks front seven needs to have its best game of the season this weekend against Peterson and the Vikings.

Key Matchups

Legion of Boom vs. Vikings wideouts

Adrian Peterson will get the full attention of Seattle's defense on Sunday, and that's why it'll be extra important for the Seahawks secondary to closely guard Minnesota's group of wide receivers.

John @jjrs2020

Do the #Vikings have ANY wide receivers? 😂😂😂 It's all Peterson runs or Bridgewater taking off.. No one open. Ever.

Yes, John, the Vikings do indeed have wide receivers, although by looking at the stats you might say their role in Minnesota's offense has been minimal in 2015. The Vikings' leading touchdown catcher is tight end Kyle Rudolph with four scores on the season. 

Bridgewater has only thrown eight touchdown passes all year. 

The Vikings passing offense is opportunistic. It can burn you deep, but only if you let it—the Legion of Boom faced a far superior passing attack against Pittsburgh a week ago, so the Seahawks secondary should be able to hang right with Minnesota's receivers. 

Seattle wide receivers vs. Terence Newman

Even though Seattle's offensive game plan will feature a heavy dose of running, this matchup is worth talking about due to cornerback Terence Newman's recent hot streak. 

In two of the last three games, Newman has come up with interceptions that either changed the momentum of a game or helped seal a Vikings victory.

It's imperative that Russell Wilson doesn't throw a pick Newman's way on Sunday, because the results can be cringeworthy:

chris @chrisa833

#vikings #falcons when @terencenewman picks you off in the end zone https://t.co/QwZu0S34sD

Prediction: Seattle Seahawks 24, Minnesota Vikings 20

Predicting this game isn't easy. Both squads feature similar brands of football and, quite honestly, this contest should be seen as a toss-up. 

That being said, Seattle has a more diverse set of playmakers on offense than Minnesota, and it will prove to be the difference in this one for the Seahawks. 

Adrian Peterson gets off to a fast start against the Seahawks defense, but head coach Pete Carroll tweaks the second-half game plan and the unit stifles the Vikings offense in the game's latter half.

The commitment to run the ball with Thomas Rawls pays late and immediate dividends, as Rawls guts the middle of a defense missing its star nose tackle for 120 rushing yards and a score. Just like a week ago, Seattle will convert crucial third downs with its ground attack. 

Wilson and the Seattle receivers don't explode for a second straight week, but the Seahawks enjoy an efficient passing day nonetheless. Wilson finishes with 185 passing yards and two touchdowns—one to Baldwin and the other to rookie Tyler Lockett.

Bridgewater, meanwhile, will be forced to throw a game-winning touchdown but is stopped by the Legion of Boom with a pass breakup or interception. 

It's for these reasons the Seahawks will prevail on Sunday, earning a second-straight statement win against a quality opponent.

Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

Ethan is a Seattle Seahawks Game Day Correspondent for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @ebai_today for Seahawks coverage and musings about the NFL.

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