By Joseph Gunther
The Minnesota Vikings were in the game after three quarters before falling to the Seattle Seahawks 41-20 Sunday at CenturyLink Field.
Four Vikings miscues allowed the Seahawks to turn a four-point lead into a 28-point blowout. The Vikings scored a late touchdown to get the game within three scores.
Blair Walsh made a 45-yard field goal with 45 seconds remaining in the first half, but former Viking Percy Harvin returned the ensuing kickoff 58 yards to set the Seahawks up with a short field.
The Seahawks turned that into a touchdown with 10 seconds left.
Early in the fourth quarter, Christian Ponder made two poor throws. The first was way behind Adrian Peterson and into the arms of Bobby Wagner. Two plays later, Russell Wilson flipped a pass to Marshawn Lynch for a touchdown. After Ponder threw an incomplete pass, he hit Seahawks cornerback Walter Thurmond in the numbers for a pick-six.
Matt Cassel replaced Ponder and had his second pass attempt tipped and interception to set up a short field goal.
The Seahawks (10-1) melted the game away with their second unit, including backup quarterback and former Viking Tarvaris Jackson.
Offense Grade: C-
The Vikings (2-8) offense played well for most of the first half, with the exception of the offensive line.
The offensive line could not open holes for Peterson, keep the pass rush off the quarterback or keep the pass rush from getting their hands in the passing lanes.
The Vikings started with the ball, but Phil Loadholt was cleanly beaten off the line of scrimmage by Cliff Avril for a forced fumble on a sack. The Seahawks recovered and got the board first with a field goal.
The offense had a chance to turn the game around after the defense forced a three-and-out on the first drive. However, the offense failed to get a first down themselves and punted after attempting a short pass to John Carlson on third-and-one.
Jarius Wright led the Vikings offense with three catches for 69 yards and two touchdowns.
Defense Grade: C
Like the offense, the defense had a string of good play. However, the miscues by the offense put the defense in bad positions.
The best stretch of the game for the Vikings defense was in the third quarter when it held the Seahawks to one first down and no points in three drives.
However, throughout the other three quarters, the unit missed a lot of tackles and got out of position on run plays. The secondary also had breakdowns in coverage that allowed the Seahawks to get some big plays through the air.
Quarterback Grade: D-
Ponder was okay in the first half–he was nothing spectacular, but had no big miscues either. The second half was a completely different story. He really struggled to get the offense moving after coming out of the break and made two horrible throws for interceptions.
Cassel wasn’t much better in his limited work in relief of Ponder. He was not able to get the offense into a rhythm until the Seahawks were playing the reserves late in the fourth quarter.
Special Teams Grade: D
The Vikings special teams units have been difficult to judge this season because of the problems on offense and defense.
Today the kickoff return unit was okay with Cordarrelle Patterson, the league’s leading returner, averaging 29.3 yards per against the league’s best kickoff coverage unit at keeping opposition inside the 20-yard line.
The Vikings kickoff coverage unit was good, with the exception of Harvin’s 58-yard return. The other main Seahawk return men had 38 yards two returns.
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Joseph Gunther is an avid fan of Minnesota sports, including football, hockey and baseball. He covered a wide variety of sports while attending Hastings College in Hastings, Neb. While at Hastings College, he was a part of the first collegiate media group to broadcast a national tournament via television, radio, internet and newspaper at the 2004 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. He grew up in the Twin Cities playing three years of varsity football in high school. Joseph is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.