So how’d they do it?
How did the same Seahawks defense that Pittsburgh and Ben Roethlisberger seared for more than 500 yards the week before throttle NFL rushing leader Adrian Peterson to just 18 yards rushing and Minnesota to an league season-low 125 yards on Sunday?
Wagner’s correct. It does speak volumes -- about how to beat, and get beaten by, Seattle’s defense.
The Steelers were what has proven to be the worst kind of matchup for these Seahawks: A spread team that throws the ball all over the yards and sends squandrons of receivers deep at Seattle zone and man-zone coverages. Do that with a standout tight end, too, and you have a formula for big plays Seattle has yet to solve this season, as the games against St. Louis, Cincinnati, Carolina and Pittsburgh showed.
But Minnesota and its league-leading rushing offense did none of the above. The Vikings ran directly at Seattle, testing its front eight -- including strong safety Kam Chancellor. He got to play closer to the line of scrimmage as a quasi-linebacker where he is better suited to excel (opposed to having to drop into the deep middle in pass coverage). That plays directly into the Seahawks’ strengths -- as the 38-7 final score with Minnesota’s only points coming on a kickoff return indicates.
Wagner had said the key to slowing down NFL rushing leader Adrian Peterson was each defender having the patience to stay in his assigned gap rather than chasing Peterson into others’ responsibilities – and thereby becoming exposed to the Viking star’s cutback runs.
That’s exactly what the Seahawks did to Peterson Sunday. They waited, and he smacked into them near the line of scrimmage all day, to match his nickname. His 18 yards on eight carries was the third-lowest output of his career, and second-lowest since his rookie season of 2007.
"We were just disciplined: Let the plays come to you," said Wagner, who had seven tackles. "Everyone was selfless and did their job."
So was Wagner surprised his defense held Peterson, who had 1,164 yards through 11 games, to just 18?
"Nah," Wagner said. "He could have had zero yards."
In four career games against Seattle, Peterson has averaged 86.8 yards per game and two total touchdowns. His average for his 10-year career against the league is 98.7 yards.
Baltimore, Seattle’s next foe Sunday in Maryland, has been leaning more Steelers lately than Vikings. It’s been more pass than run since lead back Justin Forsett, the former Seahawk, broke his arm a few weeks ago. But the Ravens (4-8) won’t have quarterback Joe Flacco Sunday against Seattle; Flacco is out for the season with a knee injury. Matt Schaub, the former Texans starter, completed 32 of 46 passes for 308 yards in Miami’s 15-13 win over Baltimore yesterday. The Dolphins won despite just 219 yards of offense because they turned two deflected interceptions of Schaub into touchdowns.
Schaub has had interceptions returned for scores in each of the two games he’s started for Flacco the last two weeks.
Without Forsett, the Ravens used running back Javorious Allen as a receiver. A lot. Allen got 12 passes for 107 yards and a touchdown out of the backfield.
The Seahawks can expect that and more from Baltimore on Sunday. More like Pittsburgh’s plan of offensive attack and less like Minnesota’s, that is.