It is notoriously tough to win in Seattle. The fans there are a special brand of nuts, and the volume of sound is insane.
I mean all that in a good way.
The Minnesota Vikings know the edge that sort of thing gives you, as the Metrodome is a tough venue to visit.
These are two very evenly matched teams, and this game will come down to who executes the best and most consistently both on offense and on defense.
For the Vikings to come out on top, here's what they could do.
When the Vikings Are on Offense
This is largely going to come down to Adrian Peterson.
Percy Harvin will play a vital role, as always, and Christian Ponder will need to protect the ball.
Ultimately, though, this is a game in which the offense will go as Peterson goes.
There are two reasons for this.
First, and certainly more important in my opinion, is helping Ponder limit mistakes. This is a very tough defense, and it will get after him early.
We've talked about Ponder's issues protecting the ball before, and last week was at least a little better on that front.
Still, the more you pressure him at this point, the sloppier he gets and we can be sure that is tied for seventh in sacks.
Now, the Seahawks are very tough against the run as well, but as was the case against the 49ers back in Week 3, my advice is to run it at the teeth of their defense.
Peterson is a different animal, and he's just hitting his stride after coming back from his knee injury.
Getting him going early will loosen up the defense and keep the front seven from just teeing off on Ponder.
Plus, and I know I've been harping on this for more than a few weeks, but the aggressive style of play which comes from running the ball is what this team has been lacking the last few weeks.
I'm a broken record, I know.
The second thing is, this will keep the Seattle Seahawks offense off the field while also tiring the defense.
So grinding the clock out and wearing down that rough Seahawks defense is a definite need.
In order to get Peterson going, the offense has to block for him like they did on his 64-yard touchdown last week against the Buccaneers.
On the play, Kyle Rudolph sealed off the edge, while Philip Loadholt (the right tackle) took on a defensive lineman and the right guard, Brandon Fusco, pulled to clear off the lane between Rudolph and Loadholt.
Behind Fusco, fullback Jerome Felton trails, cleaning up any trash in the lane.
Another key portion of releasing Peterson into the second level—where he can make people miss—was a block by Jerome Simpson. Simpson (circled in blue in the upper left-hand side of the screencap) slants in and clears out a defender coming to catch Peterson.
It's a great block and the type of move that not enough receivers get praised for. Without it, Peterson may not have had the chance to make the next two defenders miss.
The only issue—and this could have screwed it all up—is that the defender covering Simpson, follows him in, and if it wasn't for a nifty hop by Peterson, the play could have been a lot shorter.
If Felton had waited a second, or concentrated on leading Peterson out of the hole, he would have cleaned the cornerback up and it wouldn't have been an issue.
Still, this is a great example of how to get Peterson past the line of scrimmage and into the second level where his agility and speed will make people miss.
The Seahawks defense is quick and strong, but if you get Peterson into space, give him clear lanes and spring him with an initial block, he can make them miss.
Again, this takes everyone—Rudolph, the line and Simpson or Harvin—to get the job done.
If they can do that, I really believe Peterson will be hard to stop, even for a top-shelf run defense like Seattle.
Finally, running the ball will help negate the crowd noise factor at least a little bit. While you can't stop it altogether (unless you get far ahead, which will quiet any crowd), it's going to be an issue all day.
Ponder is going to have trouble with it. Heck, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees—they had problems with it. You can bet Ponder will.
So run the ball and limit the amount of problems Ponder could have in calling adjustments for pass plays.
It won't be easy, but again, you want to decrease the amount of chance that Ponder will make a big mistake, and you do that by not putting him in a position like trying to call an audible or make adjustments with a billion rabid 'Hawks fans screaming at him.
When the Vikings Are on Defense
The key to stopping this offense is stopping the run game and Marshawn Lynch.
Which means penetration along to the offensive line.
It's awfully hard to slow, much less stop, Lynch. The only team to really do it consistently was the New England Patriots in Week 6 when they held him to 41 yards. Arizona and Carolina also had some success slowing him down, but the Patriots were most effective.
That week, the Patriots stopped him by hitting him behind the line. On the plays where Lynch was able to gain some yards, the Patriots missed him at the line or were sealed off.
Most of the time, though, Lynch was hammered behind the line by defensive linemen and linebackers shooting the gaps.
There are times when the Seahawks offensive line gets erratic blocking both on passing downs as well as running plays.
For example, look at the screencap.
Now, there are blown plays and there are blown plays. As always, there is no way for sure to know who missed an assignment without being in the huddle.
However, just looking at it, someone screwed up.
Lynch is taking the ball and running right, off-tackle. The right side of the line is Breno Giacomini at right tackle and Paul McQuistan at right guard.
McQuistan is currently a backup at left guard now, so clearly they had enough of him, but the right side has still been an issue for the Seahawks as Pro Football Focus rated that side of the line pretty low last week, though admittedly the 'Hawks run to the right less.
Back to the Patriots—on the play, McQuistan and Giacomini each shoot out at an angle to double-team incoming defensive linemen.
Unfortunately, absolutely nobody sees middle linebacker Brandon Spikes blitzing in.
Lynch barely has the ball in his hands when he is hit by Spikes.
Aside from Lynch, something to watch for is Russell Wilson throwing to Zach Miller as he finds the space along the gaps in the Cover 2 formations they run.
There's often some space between the safety's zones and the corners or linebackers which can be exploited if the quarterback has the right amount of touch and the target some athleticism and solid route-running ability.
Russell Wilson is still raw, but he has shown some very nice touch on throws, and Zach Miller, while spending a lot of time blocking, has great hands and is a very good route-runner.
When Lynch isn't running the ball, the Vikings would do well to keep a careful eye on Miller.
This is definitely a winnable game, though you always have a tough time in Seattle. However, these two teams match up well against each other and it should be a very interesting matchup.
Ultimately, the team with the least amount if mistakes on offense and defense will come away with this one.
It's up to the Vikings to make sure they play a tough game both physically and mentally this Sunday.
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