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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Notebook: Vikings’ stingy pass defense set for ‘full-day affair’ with Wilson, Seahawks

By Andrew Krammer

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. – It might be the nanobubbles, or it might just be Russell Wilson is a really good quarterback.

The Seattle Seahawks (6-5) have won four of the last five games, and boast an offense that has overshadowed their once-vaunted, but still extremely talented, defense. They’ve plugged holes on offense as Marshawn Lynch could be done for the year, so undrafted free agent running back Thomas Rawls ran for more than 200 yards just two weeks ago. While Wilson’s arm has done the heavy lifting with eight touchdowns to no picks over the last two games.

When Wilson is under center, it’ll be strength vs. strength at TCF Bank Stadium: The Vikings’ stingy pass defense, ranking fourth in yards per game, against the red-hot Seahawks.

“They’ve averaged over 30 points per game the last three weeks,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “They’ve got a good combination of guys, they had five touchdowns last week. [Doug] Baldwin, they’ve got [Tyler] Lockett with speed, Russell Wilson is playing at a high level. I think [Thomas] Rawls runs the ball extremely hard, they’re offensive line is doing a much better job than they did earlier in the year.

“It’ll be a full-day affair.”

Safety Harrison Smith could return from a knee injury this week, which would give the Vikings a boost. Though without him, they were still able to limit Julio Jones to seven targets last week, his second-lowest of the season. Fresh off a successful outing shadowing Jones, cornerback Xavier Rhodes likely won’t be tasked with following a Seahawks receiver, but he could spend more time in coverage. Since the Seahawks drafted Wilson in the third round of 2012, he’s been one of the NFL’s best at extending plays with his feet, stressing the pass rush and defensive backs chasing broken plays.

Wilson’s 399 rushing yards rank only second to MVP-candidate Cam Newton for ground gained by a quarterback. Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd places Wilson in the same category as Aaron Rodgers in the combination of arm strength and accuracy while on the move.

There aren’t many starting NFL quarterbacks today that’d be considered ‘mobile,’ though if you put Rodgers in that category — the Vikings held him to 47 percent completion and six rushing yards, but surrendered two touchdowns. Zimmer has two wins and three losses all-time against Rodgers, while Wilson has never faced a Zimmer-led defense.

“[Wilson] and Aaron Rodgers are the only two I can truly think of that can throw touchdowns from the 50-yard line on the run. And 80-yard bombs whenever he’s ready,” Floyd said. “We have to keep him in the pocket, keep him looking downfield. That’s what’s best for our defensive line and for us.”

The Vikings (8-3) catch the Seahawks after a torn patellar tendon on Sunday ended tight end Jimmy Graham’s season.

Similar looks

Teddy Bridgewater could have some room to throw on Sunday against a Seahawks defense that has been susceptible through the air, though if the Vikings can run through Seattle like Adrian Peterson did the Falcons, then Bridgewater could do more handing off than throwing.

Falcons head coach Dan Quinn brought his system from Seattle to Atlanta in the offseason, and while that gives the Vikings a jump on some preparations, they’re wary of the Seahawks’ Super Bowl-pedigree talent ranging from cornerback Richard Sherman to defensive end Cliff Avril, who has 7.5 sacks this season.

“They’re similar in schemes, but this Seattle team is much more talented we feel,” Bridgewater said. “They have guys who have been playing together since last year; Super Bowl, eight returning starters. We’re aware of those things, we know that they execute a little better than Atlanta did, it just shows that they’re more comfortable running that scheme.”

No Lynch, still a problem?

The Seahawks offense has produced nearly 1,000 yards over the last two games, including 290 rushing yards from Thomas Rawls, the man tabbed with replacing Lynch.

Lynch may be done for the season after undergoing surgery for a hernia, but the offense has only improved. Wilson has completed 45 of his last 59 throws, and Rawls is second in the league by averaging 5.6 yards on 122 attempts this season.

“We can’t say, well Lynch is 90 percent of their team so we don’t have to worry about the run anymore,” Floyd said. “Still a good running back back there, still a good offensive line.”

The Vikings have only allowed three 100-yard rushers this season, but two have come in the last two weeks in Green Bay’s Eddie Lacy and Atlanta’s Tevin Coleman.

‘An honor’

Vikings players voted Phil Loadholt as this year’s Ed Block Courage Award recipient, an annual recognition chosen by players on each NFL team for a teammate who exemplifies “commitments to the principles of sportsmanship and courage.”

Loadholt has missed the entire season after tearing his Achilles tendon on Aug. 15 in an exhibition game against Tampa Bay.

“It’s definitely an honor, thanks to my teammates for voting me,” Loadholt said. “It means you have to go through a lot of adversity, for sure, but I think it says how I’m dealing with the adversity. It’s an honor to be a part of it.”

Loadholt and the other 31 winners will travel to Baltimore for an annual gala in March at the local Courage House at St. Vincent’s Center. Greg Jennings (’14), Kevin Williams (’13) and Adrian Peterson (’12) were the Vikings’ most recent recipients.

The post Notebook: Vikings’ stingy pass defense set for ‘full-day affair’ with Wilson, Seahawks appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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