In a heart-breaker, the Vikings 2015 season came to an end on Sunday when the Seattle Seahawks escaped TCF Bank Stadium with a 10-9 victory after a bitter-cold, defense-dominated, drama-filled classic. The Vikings controlled much of the game, fell behind in the middle of the 4th quarter and then got into position to win the game before a missed FG sealed their fate.
Here are five takeaways from Sunday's loss to Seattle
1. This loss was a heart-breaker
Losing is never easy. But losing the way the Vikings did on Sunday is hard to handle. In a game in which much of the outside world gave the Vikings little chance of winning, it was the Vikings who did a lot of the things they needed to do to win the game – they sustained drives and won the time of possession battle, they got off the field on 3rd and 4th downs, they won the field position battle and, ultimately, they were in position to win the game with 26 seconds to play. To lose a game to the two-time defending NFC champs despite accomplishing all of that is gut-wrenching.
2. Missed FG mars Walsh's performance
In a tightly-contested game that was the function of a lot of pivotal plays, it's Blair Walsh's missed 27-yard FG with only seconds to go that everyone is talking about. And rightfully so because before that missed kick NFL kickers were 189 of 191 (99.0%) on FGs of 27 yards or shorter this season (stat from ESPN Stats & Info). It's a kick Walsh should make and that he didn't cost his team the game. With that said, Walsh was also the only Viking to score up to that point in the game, as he connected on a short FG (22 yards) and on two long FGs (43 and 47 yards) earlier in the game. Also, Walsh made more FGs than any other kicker in the NFL during the regular season. Walsh has had his struggles, like any player on any team experiences, but he's also had a lot of shining moments for this team and one can only imagine he'll have many more for the Vikings in the future. Walsh stands to benefit as much or more than any other Viking once the team moves into US Bank Stadium next season.
3. Offense moved down the field late, but it wasn't enough
View photos of players and coaches who have suited up for both the Minnesota Vikings and the Seattle Seahawks.
The Vikings offense took the field on their own 39 following a 10-yard punt return by Marcus Sherels with 1:42 to play in the game and the Vikings trailing 10-9 with two timeouts. After an incompletion, the offense picked up a 1st down by virtue of a Kam Chancellor pass interference penalty when Kyle Rudolph burned him with a double move. On the next play, Teddy Bridgewater threaded the needle to find Rudolph in single coverage for a gain of 24 yards to the Seattle 18. Peterson carried the ball on the next three plays for a total of 9 yards, and that set the stage for Walsh's 27-yard game-winning FG try. It was a spark produced by the offense, but it was too little too late. Peterson was held to 45 yards on 23 carries by an elite run defense, Bridgewater was efficient and didn't turn the ball over but he wasn't able to create explosive plays in the passing game and the offense as a whole generated just 183 net yards.
4. Cold weather was a factor
All week, all everyone could talk about was the weather. Historically cold conditions were expected, and Mother Nature came through. At kickoff, it was six degrees below zero, making it the coldest game in Vikings history and the third-coldest game in NFL history. The weather had an impact on the game, too. A Seattle offense that averaged 32.0 points per game over the final seven games was held to just 10 on Sunday – credit goes to the Vikings defense more than the weather, but there's no question the weather made it tougher for Seattle to operate. Seattle Head Coach Pete Carroll opted to go for it on 4th and 13 in the first half when his offense was driving toward the west (open) end of the field, and the Vikings rushed on the field to get a FG attempted before time expired in the 3rd quarter and they were set to flip sides and drive toward the west.
5. Defense, fans made it tough on Seattle offense
The Vikings defense showed up in a big way, and Vikings fans were right along for the ride. In the first half, Seattle's possessions ended like this: downs, punt, downs, punt, INT, punt. At halftime, the Vikings defense had allowed only 39 pass yards, kept Seattle to 1 of 5 (20%) on 3rd downs and didn't allow more than two 1st downs on any drive. Also, the TCF Bank Stadium crowd was consistently loud and contributed to Seattle having to use all three of its timeouts on offense. The impressive performance continued in the second half, when rookie CB Trae Waynes nabbed his first career INT, Everson Griffen and Sharrif Floyd sacked Russell Wilson on back-to-back plays and the defense continued to keep the team in the game by giving the ball back to the offense in the final moments.