MINNEAPOLIS – Contain Russell Wilson, and you contain the Seahawks.
The Vikings proved that Sunday when they found a way to limit the seven-time Pro Bowler and defeat the Seahawks 30-17.
While it took a little while for Minnesota's defense to find its stride, the unit put pressure on the quarterback who can be annoyingly difficult to pin down.
Late in the third quarter on second-and-10, Everson Griffen sniffed out Wilson and sacked him for a 9-yard loss … and an electric eruption of cheers from a packed U.S. Bank Stadium.
The defensive end, who returned to Minnesota after a season away, looked like the same old Griffen, dropping Wilson and then breaking out his signature "Sack Daddy" dance to the delight of fans.
"Being back at U.S. Bank Stadium, it feels amazing. They're the best fans in the game," Griffen said.
Griffen's sack of Wilson marked just the second time in his career he's done so, the first being in the 2015 Wild Card game (Jan. 10, 2016). It was also Griffen's first sack for the Vikings since Dec. 8, 2019, the last time that Minnesota won a home game with fans in attendance.
"It's good. I feel like my feet are getting back underneath me," Griffen said. "The more reps I get, hopefully I can keep getting better.
"But I'm just happy that we got the win. That's really all that matters," he added. "We're 1-2, and the first one is always the hardest, and we got that."
Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks breathed a sigh of relief when Griffen stopped Wilson before he could get a pass off.
"They ran a little bit of a trick play on that," Kendricks said. "My guy was actually open downfield, so I thank Everson for getting a sack."
The takedown contributed to Minnesota's second-half rally and helped energize a defense that got off to a sluggish start.
Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll opted for a conservative play on third-and-19 from deep in his own territory, and Seattle punted after a 5-yard completion to Travis Homer.
The Vikings capitalized on a flipped field and drove down to enable a 34-yard field goal by Greg Joseph to extend Minnesota's lead to 27-17 – after having trailed 17-7 earlier in the game.
"The defense, we had a slow start, but we picked it up and we got composed, and we came back," Griffen said.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer also emphasized the defense's effort.
"We started out a little shaky – they gave us some different things that we had to take care of – and we shut them out in the second half, so I thought that was big."
Minnesota allowed 17 points and 308 yards of offense to Seattle in the first half. In the second half, though, the Vikings allowed just 81 yards on 19 plays and kept the Seahawks off the scoreboard entirely.
"They came out with a lot of looks that we hadn't really seen on film. I mean, teams are going to do that, and it's about us adjusting," Kendricks said. "We talked over how we should play it. When we talked over it originally, maybe it didn't work like we thought, so we changed it again. Then, everybody's on the same page, and we started neutralizing it a little bit."
He later added that the defense "settled down" but also credited the offense for doing its part.
"They kept chipping away, kept running the ball, and it changed the tide of the game," Kendricks said. "It puts more of a position in our favor. It definitely helped us."
Griffen wasn't the only one to sack Wilson, either. Kendricks got in on the fun late in the fourth quarter, dropping the QB for a loss of 6 on a drive that ultimately ended with an incompletion on fourth-and-12.
"I saw [Wilson's] jersey," Kendricks said. "I think they tried to squeeze down, and I just kind of slithered through there in the B-gap and made sure to wrap him up."
Kendricks made a number of impressive plays throughout the afternoon. He led the team in tackles with 11 (six solo) and added a pair of tackles for loss.
"[Wilson is] pretty elusive," he said. "He knows where his receivers are downfield as soon as he breaks the pocket, so it's about plastering the coverage downfield, keep containing and keep running as the plays continue."
The Vikings stifled the Seahawks deep-ball success, as well.
Entering Sunday's game, Wilson had thrown touchdowns of 63, 68 and 69 yards. His longest play of the afternoon at U.S. Bank Stadium? A 39-yard completion to tight end Will Dissly in the second quarter.
View game action photos of the Vikings before the team's home opener at U.S. Bank Stadium against the Seahawks.
Wilson's only touchdown pass was a 10-yard toss to receiver DK Metcalf, who finished the day with six catches for 107 yards.
Receiver Tyler Lockett was limited to four catches for 31 yards before leaving with an apparent leg injury, and the Vikings held Seattle to 106 rushing yards total; Chris Carson led the pack with 80 yards on 12 carries.
Seattle was 3-for-8 (37.5 percent) on third downs and was unsuccessful on its only fourth-down attempt.
"I think the bottom line, holding a great offense and quarterback like that to 17 points, making important third-down stops, fourth-down stops, getting us the ball back, they did a great job," Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins said. "It really takes all three phases to win in this league, and it did today."
Minnesota got the monkey off its back, per se, by defeating Wilson for the first time in eight meetings.
"I try not to think about that really, just go out and play, but it definitely was nice," Kendricks said.
The Vikings improved to 1-2 on the season and will now ready themselves for back-to-back home games against the Browns and Lions.
"We work so hard, we prepare so hard," Zimmer said. "These guys are working their rear ends off every single day. They're studying really hard. They come out to practice, and they go hard. They try to execute, do the things that we're trying to get them to do, and it's just good that it pays off so they can see there's some success at the end of the tunnel."