I woke up this morning and grabbed the Seattle Times off the front porch, made coffee and amid the headlines about the Seattle Mariners retiring Ken Griffey Jr.’s number, my eyes drifted toward a small blurb about Marshawn Lynch not playing in tomorrow’s playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings.
To be honest, I don’t think this will be a determent to the Seahawks. Yes, it would have been nice to have Beast Mode behind Russell Wilson, with all of his playoff experience and his ability to rise to the occasion when needed.
But consider just how well the Seahawks have played (except for the Rams game) over the second half of the season without him and Jimmy Graham. All they did was set franchise records for most yards in a season (6,058) and for the fourth time in team history, finished among the top four in total offense in the NFL.
The Seahawks have ridden Lynch to two Super Bowl appearances, winning one of them. And while I appreciate the talent and drive that Lynch has on the field, I think the true identity of this team has come out in Russell Wilson.
Wilson went nuts in the second half of 2015. Much of that came after the bye when the team made adjustments to the passing game in getting the ball out quicker from Wilson. The result of that, Wilson was sacked only 15 times in the second half after getting dropped 33 times in the first.
Benefitting from Wilson’s excellent second half has been Doug Baldwin who has really come into his own, setting team record for most receiving TD’s in a season (14) and achieving 1,000 yards receiving for the first time in his career.
Let’s not forget about Tyler Lockett who was drafted to upgrade the return game. Not only has he done that but he also finished with 51 catches for 664 yards and six TD’s. The Seahawks may have found the deep threat they have been seeking in this kid. He has the talent to become one of the best receivers in the game.
Jermaine Kearse also has had a solid season with 49 catches for 685 yards and 5 TD’s. But he also does the little things that allows other players to shine. On crossing routes, he often frees up the other receiver in ways that he doesn’t get flagged for picking the defender. He blocks well and has made some of the most clutch catches to keep drives alive.
The combined stats for the trio of Baldwin, Locket and Kearse is 178 catches for 2,418 yards and 25 TD’s. I’m pretty sure that any team in the NFL would love that production from their wide receiving corps.
And it’s not like the rushing game was tossed out the window after Lynch went down and later when Thomas Rawls got injured. In stepped cast-off Christine Michael and Bryce Brown along with Fred Jackson who has been good as a third down back. And let’s not forget fullbacks Derrick Coleman and Will Tukuafu who get the calls to either block on short yardage situations or leak out pass the defensive line to gain critical yardage in screen pass situations.
No Jimmy Graham or Luke Willson? In steps Cooper Helfet and Chase Hoffman, both of whom had some clutch catches in the Arizona game.
So we don’t have Lynch…that’s OK, we have everyone else that will keep it going until Lynch is ready to play.
Let’s not forget that defense which for the fourth year in a row finished in the top five in the NFL. They were second in total defense, giving up 291.8 yards a game, second in passing defense, allowing 210.2 yards per game and first in the NFL against the run, allowing a mere 81.5 yards per game.
The key to this game will be the same as it was when the Hawks beat the Vikings 38-7 in week 13. Mitigate yards gained by Adrian Peterson and dare QB Teddy Bridgewater to beat them with his arm.
And all Bridgewater has to do is throw into the teeth of the Legion of Boom of Richard Sherman, Deshawn Shead, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas. That is if he has enough time avoiding the rush of Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Brandon Mebane and Bruce Irvin.
The weather isn’t going to factor into this game. It will affect both teams the same. What it will boil down to is overall talent between the two teams. And while the Vikings defense is ranked 13th overall, the way the Seahawks offense has been clicking, they will wear them down with the run game and the short passing game.
I’m not afraid of the Vikings offense which finished 29th overall in 2015. While they are ranked 4th in rushing (I mean come on, it is Adrian Peterson) they are ranked 31st in passing and 31st in receiving.
So what’s the focus going to be? On Peterson, put at least two spies on him and try to create turnovers. Peterson has fumbled 7 times this year, losing 3 of them.
I’d put Bobby Wagner on him first and second down and have Bruce Irvin cover him on third down if he comes out of the backfield. Wagner is a sure tackler and Irvin has the speed to stay with Peterson and isn’t bad in coverage.
That is if Peterson can get past the road block of Brandon Mebane or Aythyba Rubin up the middle or if he can get around the corner and avoid Bennett and Avril.
Looking forward to this game as the Seahawks will beat the Vikings 23-13.