The priority during the bye week for Vikings coach Mike Zimmer and his staff was not difficult to discern. Pass defense that has uncharacteristically been a problem in several recent games needed some work.
Improvement will be of immediate importance with the impending road trip to face Russell Wilson
and the Seattle Seahawks on Monday night.
The eighth-year quarterback, who has already won a Super Bowl and been picked for Pro Bowls, has put together a next-level season. He’s tied for the NFL lead with 24 touchdown passes, with only three interceptions, and with three additional rushing scores has maintained his status as one of the league’s most dangerous dual threats.
“He moves really well. We can’t just rush and stop and peak. We have to rush,” Zimmer said. “We have to be disciplined in our rush lanes and be where we’re supposed to be, because he’ll go up, he’ll go back, he’ll go out, he’ll go left, he’ll go right. He goes all the different places.”
Last season in Seattle, the Vikings limited Wilson to a career-low 72 passing yards. The Seahawks had only three points in the first three quarters. With the ball and a 6-0 lead with less than five minutes left in their own territory, Wilson evaded a would-be sack by three Vikings rushers in his immediate vicinity and turned it loose for a 40-yard gain up the left sideline to set up their first touchdown and essentially put the game out of reach.
“There’s a good chance he’s going to give the receivers like 13 seconds. He’s going to run around. He might run 30 yards down field backward, if he can find someone open. You never know,” Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes said. “He’s going to eventually do something to get his team in the best situation.”
Meanwhile, playing two weeks after suffering a leg contusion that led to a two-night hospital stay, Tyler Lockett
wasn’t quite at full speed last week, resulting in a quiet game for him with just one catch for 38 yards.
“It maybe wasn’t 100 percent, even though he could run and play and all that,” head coach Pete Carroll said. “He just feels better now. I think it’s going to take all the way to Monday to really kind of put it in the rearview mirror, but he’s in good shape.”
With Wilson feeling better, he and the passing game will look to get going after being held somewhat in check against two very good defenses in San Francisco and Philadelphia.
Minnesota’s recent history suggests that there should be opportunities for Lockett and the rest of Seattle’s pass catchers.
The Vikings have surrendered 663 passing yards in their past two games, and over their last three they allowed 21 explosive passes (16 or more yards), tied for the second most in the NFL over that span. The Seahawks will try to run the ball and be balanced, as always, but against a Minnesota run defense that ranks sixth
in the NFL (94.2 yards per game), this could be a week in which the Seahawks end up relying on Wilson, Lockett and company.
Rhodes, the two-time Pro Bowl pick who is tied for the third-most defensive penalties in the NFL with seven, has been as vulnerable as anyone in the secondary in coverage lately for the Vikings, who have fallen to 20th in the league in passing yards allowed.
Generally speaking, Minnesota has allowed the fourth most fantasy points to wide receivers this season, including the most to the perimeter both for the season and over the past month.
Though both Rhodes and Trae Waynes on the other side have struggled, the Vikings are especially bad against the latter's side of the field.
According to ESPN's Mike Clay, Waynes has been heavily targeted and Minnesota is surrendering the most fantasy points to right perimeter receivers on the season, over the past eight weeks and over the past month. Josh Gordon
has aligned there on 19 of his 32 routes since joining Seattle and stands to benefit most. Of course, DK Metcalf
will also get a lot of run on the outside and can be upgraded.
Lock Metcalf into lineups along with Lockett, and though Gordon isn't playing enough snaps yet to make him a safe weekly play, Clay views him as an interesting dart throw in DFS tournaments.
Meanwhile, for most of the season, Chris Carson
has carried the load for Seattle’s run game, while Rashaad Penny
took on a complementary role, only getting a handful of carries.
That changed last week against the Eagles. Penny was the star, rushing for a career-high 129 yards and a clinching 58-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Carson was relegated to a lesser role, getting only eight carries to Penny’s 14. Carson also added to his league-leading fumble total with one that was credited to him and another that was his fault. Carson’s seven fumbles are the most among running backs in the NFL.
Carroll said Penny has earned more carries, but Carson will still get his share.
“Rashaad did great. I’m really fired up for that,” Carroll said. “We need his explosiveness. He continues to show up. He has had the real home run type of style of play. We’ve got to give him chances to bring that to us.”