SEATTLE – It’ll take a few days before the words “Number 74 is reporting as eligible” make their way out of this brain after hearing how many times Seahawks coach Pete Carroll leaned on 6-5, 322-pound tackle George Fant as an extra blocker in Monday night’s 37-30 win over the Vikings at Century- Link Field.
“You know what’s coming,” Vikings safety Harrison Smith said of the heavy formations that helped make Seattle the NFL’s sixth-best rushing team heading into Week 13. “But they’re tough, though. They execute that running game very well.”
So well that they’re likely to jump up in the rushing rankings after tagging the Vikings for 218 yards, the second-highest total of the Mike Zimmer era behind only the 230 yards given up at San Francisco to open the 2015 season.
“Well,” Zimmer said of Monday night’s total, “[Twenty-nine] of those came on a fake punt. That counts.”
Yes, but the Vikings also have little to be proud of for how they played the run, especially with nose tackle Linval Joseph returning after missing two games because of knee surgery.
Seattle ran the ball 43 times for 218 yards (5.1) and two touchdowns on a defense that had allowed only three rushing touchdowns and no more than 147 yards rushing all season. The Vikings’ third-ranked running game countered with 78 yards.
“Limiting the run and keeping guys under 100 yards is something we take pride in,” said safety Anthony Harris. “That’s our DNA.”
It sure wasn’t on Monday night. Chris Carson, a 222-pound sledgehammer, pounded out 102 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries. Rashaad Penny, another 220-pounder, added 74 more and another touchdown on 15 carries (4.9).
So, sorry Mike, but the fake punt doesn’t take the tarnish off this one. Especially when it was just 51 weeks ago that the Vikings came into this same building and gave up 214 yards.
Zimmer’s Vikings have given up more than 200 yards rushing only four times in six seasons. In addition the Seahawks and 49ers, Carolina ran for 216 yards against the Vikings in 2017.
“You can’t give up this many yards rushing and expect to win many games,” Smith said. “Whether it was tackling or not fitting it right, we got to do better than that.”
Seattle’s plan wasn’t a secret. They’re known to go big with Fant lining up to one side or the other and often being flanked by 245-pound tight end Jacob Hollister.
“[Fant’s] another big body in there,” Zimmer said. “And the back is a hard runner. They also bounced the ball to the perimeter more tonight than they have in the past.”
Zimmer was asked if it’s hard to maintain gap integrity with such a heavy dose of an extra tackle. He shrugged and said no.
“I’m assuming we got knocked out of some gaps,” Zimmer said. “And didn’t get off blocks.”
The Seahawks ran 76 offensive plays. Fant was declared as eligible 12 times in the first quarter, including the first three plays, which netted 16 rushing yards; five in the second, 12 in the third and 13 in the fourth quarter.
Seattle led 34-30 when it took possession of the ball after the Vikings failed to convert on fourth-and-3 at their 42. Fant reported as eligible on the next six snaps. On first down, Carson went right for 6 yards. On second-and-4, he went up the middle for 3 more. On third-and-1 with 2:17 left, he blasted through the line for 11 yards.
Four plays later, Seattle kicked a 36-yard field goal.
“To be able to run the ball there at the end, get the first down and give them the ball back with about 20 seconds was big,” Carroll said.
C.J. Ham’s fumble on the ensuing kickoff put Seattle’s offense back on the field for a final snap. And in case the words weren’t already burned into everyone’s brain, it was announced one final time that “Number 74 has reported as eligible.”
Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraigNFL E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org