It's a critical road trip to the Twin Cities for the Seattle Seahawks (1-1) as they are set to face the Minnesota Vikings (0-2) at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Both teams are coming off tough, nail-biter losses and will be in a bit of desperation mode heading into this week's contest.
These two teams met last year in Seattle in a game that was a tale of two halves, with the Seahawks rallying to win 27-26 as Russell Wilson threw a six-yard touchdown pass to DK Metcalf with 15 seconds left in the game to complete an impressive comeback on "Sunday Night Football."
Seattle's game last week was a tale of two halves too. The Seahawks bolted out to a 24-9 halftime lead against a very good Tennessee team. Unfortunately, that didn't last, since the Seahawks had less than zero answers for the Titans' Derrick Henry, who had 237 yards from scrimmage on 41 touches. Henry did most of his damage in the second half as Tennessee rallied for a 33-30 overtime victory. The loss was the biggest fourth-quarter collapse at home under Pete Carroll; Seattle had been 65-1 including playoffs when leading by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter prior to last Sunday. Russell Wilson went 22-of-31 for 343 yards and three touchdowns, but the offense slowed down in the second half. Moreover, the undisciplined version of the Seahawks was on display as they had 10 penalties for 100 yards, including a taunting penalty on D.J. Reed that was inexplicable at best. Taunting is a new point of emphasis by the NFL, and that cannot continue. In addition, the defense was simply on the field for too long, as the Titans ran 83 plays and had the ball for more than 42 minutes, including overtime. Contrast that to Seattle, who ran 52 plays.
Minnesota dropped a second heartbreaker to start the 2021 season, falling to the Cardinals 34-33 last week. Greg Joseph's potential game-winning 37-yard field goal in the final seconds missed to the right, ending what had been an exciting back-and-forth affair. Kirk Cousins and the offense did their part against an aggressive Arizona defense. Cousins went 22-of-32 for 244 yards and three touchdowns. The offense racked up 419 yards, led by Dalvin Cook, K.J. Osborn, and Justin Jefferson, but struggled to come up with the big conversion. The Vikings were just 2-for-10 on third down, something that must improve. The defense also got gashed for several big plays through the air, which is not an encouraging sign entering this matchup with Wilson and company.
Seattle (1-1) at Minnesota (0-2)
Kickoff: Sunday, Sept. 26 at 4:25 p.m. ET
Spread: Seahawks -1
Three Things to Watch
1. Seahawks' offensive consistency
After a tough second half, it will be interesting to see how the Seattle offense responds this week. After jumping out to a 24-9 lead at halftime against Tennessee, the Seahawks only scored six points in the third and fourth quarters and did not adjust very well to increased aggressiveness from the Titans' defense. One thing that will help this offense is getting increased production from Metcalf, who is not playing up to his potential so far in 2021.
Metcalf needs to lock in and focus on making plays instead of trash-talking like he has done during the first two games. He has just 113 receiving yards through Week 2 after averaging 81.4 yards per game last season. Minnesota has had its issues defending the pass, as Joe Burrow and Kyler Murray have torched this young secondary for an average of 294.0 yards per game. However, Seattle can't abandon the run either, like last week when Chris Carson didn't get a carry after the 6:22 mark of the third quarter. Carson rushed for 31 yards on just 13 attempts, which doesn't cut it for a team that has put so much emphasis on protecting its quarterback.
2. Dalvin Cook's health and how will Minnesota attack Seattle's defense?
Cook rushed for 131 yards on 22 carries against the Cardinals despite leaving the game a couple of times. He sustained an ankle injury with less than 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter but was able to return. The injury has limited him in practice but he is expected to play on Sunday. To say that the Vikings need Cook to stay healthy is an understatement, as his hard physical running sets the tone for the rest of the offense. Cook had 17 carries for 65 yards and a touchdown in last year's meeting against the Seahawks before leaving that game with a hamstring injury. The matchup between Cook and linebacker Bobby Wagner (NFL-leading 33 tackles so far) will be a fun one all afternoon long. Cousins will be the biggest beneficiary of a strong running game since it will allow him to go to work in the play-action passing game to slow down the Seattle pass rush and put the defense on its heels. So, look for Vikings offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak to pound the rock early and often to wear down the Seahawks and keep the ball away from Russell Wilson on offense.
3. How long will Mike Zimmer last as head coach in Minnesota?
Zimmer is in his eighth season as head coach and has a .571 winning percentage, but that is not enough because he's enjoyed minimal postseason success since leading the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game in the 2017 season. Minnesota has not executed the little things on and off the field at a high enough level. If you go back to the Cincinnati game, where the Vikings started slow and battled back, Cook's fumble in overtime set up the Bengals' game-winning field goal. The 0-2 start certainly doesn't sit well with fans, so unless Minnesota turns things around quickly, Zimmer's job security may become the prevailing topic with this team. While Zimmer probably won't publicly acknowledge that his seat is getting warm, it will be interesting to see if he changes his demeanor on the sidelines or takes more chances in games moving forward.
This game should come down to the final possession because these teams always find a way to create drama. Wilson should end up having his way with the Minnesota secondary as Tyler Lockett and Metcalf make enough plays to salt the game away. Cousins will be efficient for the Vikings, but it won't be enough to overcome his counterpart. Seattle will improve to 2-1 on the year and get ready for two crucial NFC West games against the 49ers and Rams. As for Minnesota, it will be interesting to see how ownership responds to an 0-3 start since their loyal fans will not tolerate losing for a long time.