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Zulgad: Vikings must relive past in hopes of avoiding a repeat against Seahawks

By Judd Zulgad

If the Vikings wanted to find one positive coming out of their embarrassing 38-7 loss to visiting Seattle on Dec. 6, it was this: A game four days later in Arizona meant coach Mike Zimmer and his team had no time to dwell on their most lopsided defeat of the season.

Players had to watch portions of the tape for the purposes of making corrections but the loss was then quickly forgotten.

Until now.

The Vikings’ victory Sunday night in Green Bay set up a rematch between Minnesota and Seattle at TCF Bank Stadium this Sunday in a first-round playoff game.

That means when Vikings players return to work on Wednesday they will be forced to relive that miserable afternoon. Zimmer, in fact, already will have done so.

The second-year head coach confirmed Monday he will watch, “a lot” of that game. “Even when you’re playing a division opponent, whether you win or lose, you go back and evaluate that game, along with all the other games, really,” Zimmer said. “You try and figure out how they’re trying to attack you or what you could have done better.

“Mistakes that you made in the ballgame that you need to correct. I’m sure their doing to the same thing, as well. Probably not as much since they pounded us like they did.”

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson completed 21 of 27 passes for 274 yards with three touchdowns, including two to Doug Baldwin, and no interceptions in that game. Wilson also ran for 51 yards on nine carries. Running back Thomas Rawls, playing in place of Marshawn Lynch (core muscle issue), rushed for 101 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown.

Seattle, which is looking for its third consecutive Super Bowl berth, entered that game with a 6-5 record but extended its winning streak to three games by beating the Vikings. The Seahawks’ streak reached five games before ending on Dec. 27 against St. Louis. Seattle, however, routed the 13-3 Arizona Cardinals on Sunday and won six of its last seven.

Although Rawls has been lost to a broken ankle, Lynch is expected to return on Sunday after a two-month absence and coach Pete Carroll can turn to the speedy Christine Michael out of the backfield. Strong safety Kam Chancellor (bruised tailbone), left tackle Russell Okung (strained calf) and right guard J.R. Sweezy (concussion) also are expected to return for the Seahawks.

If the underdog Vikings are to upset Seattle this time, a very good defense is going to have to be great. Minnesota was without nose tackle Linval Joseph in the December loss and lost two more key players, linebacker Anthony Barr and safety Harrison Smith, in the opening quarter. Barr and Smith have returned.

Joseph sat out against the Packers because of a foot injury that has kept him out of four of the past five games. His absence would be significant because it would weaken the Vikings’ run defense. Zimmer likely won’t get much sleep this week as the defensive guru concocts a game plan that will attempt to make life far more difficult on Wilson.

It’s not realistic to believe the Vikings offense will be able to carry this team against a Seattle defense that gave up an NFL-low 17.3 points per game this season.

Nonetheless, the run game is going to have to be effective and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater must be far better than he was on Sunday when he established season-lows in completions (10), completion percentage (52.6), passing yards (99) and passer rating (45.7).

Bridgewater also was subpar in the first Seattle game, completing 17 of 28 passes for 118 yards with no touchdowns, one interception and 55.4 rating. The positive was that Bridgewater bounced back with three strong games before Sunday’s performance.

“(Bridgewater) just wasn’t as sharp last night as he’s been these last three weeks,” Zimmer said. “I thought he moved in the pocket too much. He didn’t take some of the easy throws he had. He may be trying to do a little too much, I don’t know. I haven’t really talked to him yet. I’ll talk to him more this week. But he needs to play better.”

The Vikings are going to need a big performance from Peterson, who left the Packers game for a period because of back spasms. The NFL’s rushing leader has surpassed 100 yards seven times this season, but has done it only once in the past five games. That’s’ due in part to inconsistent run blocking by the offensive line.

Peterson voiced frustration with his usage after the first meeting with Seattle, when he carried a season-low eight times for 18 yards as he became a forgotten part of the game plan. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner can’t repeat this mistake.

Bridgewater must play an important supporting role for the Vikings to advance to the second round of the playoffs, but a victory only will come if the defense is fantastic and Peterson is a force on a day in which bitter cold is predicted with sub-zero wind chills.

Zimmer said last week that ever since the loss to Seattle he feels his team’s mentality has changed.

“I think you can just tell how we’re playing,” Zimmer said Monday when asked to elaborate. “I think if you watch us play, without getting too specific, but if you went back and watched the Arizona, Chicago, Giants and last night – I think it just looks different to me.”

How different? By late Sunday afternoon, Zimmer and the Vikings will have their answer.

The post Zulgad: Vikings must relive past in hopes of avoiding a repeat against Seahawks appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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