Seattle had just torched the Vikings defense for 308 yards in the first half when it picked up a quick first down on its opening drive of the second half of Sunday's game at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The Vikings led only 24-17 after an 8 ½-minute drive to start the third quarter produced only a 43-yard Greg Joseph field goal.
In other words, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson had the Vikings right where he wanted them. Right where he's always toyed with them, going 7-0 against the Purple at that point in his career.
Then Everson Griffen, the 33-year-old pass rusher in his second stint with the Vikings, changed the game back in the Vikings' favor. For good. His 9-yard sack on second-and-10 led to a Seattle punt two snaps later, and Seattle never really threatened again as the Vikings pulled away to a 30-17 victory.
"That play was actually huge for me," linebacker Eric Kendricks said. "They ran like a little bit of a trick play. My guy actually was open down the field. So thank Everson for getting the sack on time."
For Griffen, it was his first sack since returning to the Vikings after a year away in Dallas and Detroit. Now a situational pass rusher, he had one near-sack in the opener at Cincinnati and then missed Week 2 at Arizona with a concussion suffered when he said he swerved to miss a deer and struck a tree while driving to the Vikings practice facility.
"I feel like my feet are getting back underneath me," Griffen said. "The more reps I get, the better I feel like I'm going to get, and I'm going to start making my team better."
He certainly jump-started an amazing turnaround defensively in the second half.
Seattle ran 33 plays for 308 yards (9.3) and 17 points in the first half. In the second half, the Seahawks ran 19 plays for 81 yards (4.3) and zero points.
Seahawks receiver D.K. Metcalf had five catches for 88 yards and a touchdown in the game's first 16 minutes. Seattle led 17-7.
In the game's final 44 minutes? Metcalf had one catch for 19 yards. Meanwhile, Tyler Lockett, one of the league's best deep threats, had a quiet four catches for 31 yards with a long of 15.
"They've got two great receivers in Metcalf and Lockett," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. "We're trying to focus on those guys and back them down a little bit. We just kept plugging away. They hit us on a couple of boots early. We kind of messed up a couple of those things but we settled down. I think the players did a good job of adjusting."
Kendricks admitted the Seahawks' game plan caught the Vikings off guard.
"They came out with a lot of looks we really hadn't seen on film," he said. "I mean, teams are going to do that. It's about adjusting. We talked over about how we should adjust.
"We talked over it originally and maybe it didn't work the way we thought so we changed it again. And everybody was on the same page, and we started neutralizing it a little bit."
Kendricks had a team-high 11 tackles, including the other sack of Wilson. Harrison Smith had eight tackles and an excellent pass breakup of a fourth-down deep ball into the end zone that essentially ended the game in the closing minutes. And Griffen had three tackles and two hits on the quarterback.
The Vikings defense, of course, was helped tremendously by an offense that held the ball for 36 minutes and a stadium that was filled with fans — very loud fans — for the first time since 2019.
"Being back at U.S. Bank Stadium, it feels amazing," Griffen said. "They're the best fans in the game. And I haven't seen Kirk play like this in a long time. He's playing great football right now. You've got to recognize that."
As for the defense, well, as Griffen said, "We had a slow start, but we picked it up."
Yes they did. Right after sack No. 75 ½ of Griffen's Vikings career.