Donovan McNabb (Jim Brown/US Presswire)
The Vikings had the ball for only two minutes in the first quarter, yet they had the lead thanks to an interception and a stout goal-line defense. They made Tarvaris Jackson look bad and Minnesota came away with a 20-7 win.
It may have seemed like déjà vu for fans who have seen Tarvaris Jackson-run offenses before, but it was a familiar refrain in the first 16 minutes of Saturday night’s 20-7 win over Seattle that was the turning point of the game.
For those who missed the game and were told later that one team held the ball for 14 of the game’s first 16 minutes and had a fumble recovery in the middle of it, it would be natural to assume that the ball-controlling team would be ahead 10-0, 14-0, 17-0 – somewhere in that range. Instead, the score was 7-0 – and Seattle was on the losing side of things.
Things couldn’t have been worse from the Seattle perspective. The Seahawks defense forced the Vikings into a three-and-out drive on their opportunity thanks to a sack from defensive end Raheem Brock.
It appeared as though the Seahawks had the first big advantage of the game when return man Marcus Sherels fumbled a punt that was recovered by the Seahawks on the Vikings 46-yard line, but, three plays later, Sherels would make amends.
Facing third-and-7, Jackson fired a pass to second-year pro Golden Tate that went through his hands, but not before he slowed down the velocity considerably. The ball bounced held in the air long enough for Sherels, who was the first to react, snatching it and running the distance – rolling 64 yards for a touchdown and giving the Vikings a 7-0 lead with 5:35 to play in the first quarter.
Jackson’s next drive was moderately impressive. He picked up a first down with a 7-yard scramble on third-and-7 play and, with the ball on the Vikings 32-yard line, the Seahawks gambled and picked up a first down. Two plays later, Jackson fired a 17-yard pass to Mike Williams at the 2-yard line and it appeared as though the game would soon be tied.
But nobody informed the Vikings defense.
On the final play of the first quarter (and the 12th play of the drive), Justin Forsett took a carry up the middle, where he was met by Letroy Guion and David Akinniyi for a 1-yard gain, leaving the Seahawks less than three feet from a tie game. As the game moved to the second quarter, Forsett got the ball again. This time, DT Christian Ballard and LB Larry Dean converged to bring Forsett down a foot or two behind the line of scrimmage. On third down, Forsett got the call again. He was met head on by DE Adrian Awasom for no gain, bringing up fourth down. On the first three plays, five different Vikings backup defenders had stopped the Seahawks on three plays. Going for the tie on fourth down, former Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell called another run to Forsett. He met heads-up with Guion and was brought down for no gain, turning the ball over to the Vikings with 13:52 remaining in the first half.
To date, the Vikings had the ball for two minutes, with most of that time elapsing as they cleared the pile off of McNabb when he was sacked. Seattle had the ball for 14 minutes, 8 seconds … and the score was 7-0 Minnesota.
Given a chance to run a second drive, McNabb, Adrian Peterson and the Vikings offense rolled from their own 1-yard line to the Seattle 13-yard line without ever facing a third-down situation. A false-start penalty on Phil Loadholt helped stall the drive, but Ryan Longwell came on and converted a 36-yard field goal to give the Vikings a 10-0 lead and allow head coach Leslie Frazier to call off the dogs.
In many ways, it was critical for the Seahawks to sell their fan base on Jackson as their starting quarterback. Instead, he was the least impressive of their three quarterbacks, will have the Sunday morning types in a full lather and, in the process, created a pretty significant turning point of the game.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.