MINNEAPOLIS – Despite giving up a couple of big gains early, the Vikings defense shut down the Seahawks when it mattered most.
Minnesota did not allow an offensive touchdown to Seattle, who was 0-of-3 in trips to the red zone, and it paid off in the Vikings 25-19 win Sunday night.
"That's good. Shoot, we score more points than the opposing offense, and usually we win the game," linebacker Eric Kendricks said with a smile. "Yeah, no touchdowns is good. Really good."
But the Vikings first-team defenders shared a consensus following the game: while acknowledging a solid red zone performance, there is room to make corrections.
After playing just one series in their first preseason game at New Orleans, Minnesota's starters played through the first four minutes of the second quarter Sunday. The Seahawks picked up more chunk plays than Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer would have preferred during that span.
Over Seattle's first two possessions, the Vikings allowed pass plays of 16, 19 and 33 yards, respectively, by Russell Wilson. The 33-yard completion to wide receiver Jaron Brown occurred on a third-and-10 situation.
After the big pickup, the Vikings clamped down and limited the Seahawks to a field goal.
"It means a lot [to keep them out of the end zone]; that's one of the things we pride ourselves on," defensive end Weatherly said. "But me personally, we didn't give up an offensive touchdown, but we did give up a bunch of yards. There's always something to improve on."
Linebacker Kentrell Brothers said that Zimmer expressed frustration with the first half defensive performance.
"At halftime, he came in and was telling us our third downs were bad," Brothers said, "Which, they weren't the best to start off with, but we started to settle down, we started communicating a little bit. The DBs were playing real tight coverage, we got the ball out a couple times. It's just doing our job and trying to get off the field. That's our goal, three-and-outs at all times."
When all was said and done, Seattle converted just four of its 12 third-down attempts on the evening.
View game action images as the Vikings take on the Seattle Seahawks at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday night.
Weatherly credited the defensive group's ability to stay level-headed and not spiral after allowing a big play or two.
"We don't ride that emotional wave. Whenever anything bad happens, we just drift back to our fundamentals," Weatherly explained. "We know that we have been trained well, so even if they get a big play or maybe we blew something on our end, we know that at the end of the day, if we just go back to our fundamentals, we'll go back to being a sound defense."
Kendricks and Brothers both said the Vikings "settled down" and were able to return to their "traditional" style of defense.
"You've got to sift through all the B.S. and focus on the keys," Kendricks said. "There's a lot of motions and a lot of tricky stuff they were bringing at us. We kind of kept them contained, so I give us props, but we've got to do better initially."
He added: "It's good to get hit in the mouth a little bit, and it's good to respond."
Brothers pointed out that the Seahawks ran several play-actions early on and "caught us slipping a couple times" but credited the defense's communication for righting the ship.
"It was about anchoring down when those situations come and just doing your job and staying positive," he said.
Brothers believes the Vikings continuity and familiarity on defense allows them to play good situational football and get back on track if needed.
"I think that has a lot to do with our relationships off the field, as well. We know each other really well," he said. "Today, once we got that first drive, actually the first couple drives, [we were] telling each other to calm down – 'Hey, we know what we're doing, we're beating ourselves.' And then we took care of business after that."
Safety Anthony Harris echoed Brothers' sentiments.
Harris said it's important for every member of the defense to understand his individual responsibility as well as expect there to be ups and downs during any given game. What matters is how the team responds.
"We just have to weather the storm and try to make adjustments and settle into the game and play our ball," Harris said. "When teams get those big chunk plays, as long as they're not catching the passes in the end zone, we've still got another down to play. So we have to put the play behind us and then just try to improve and make plays to keep them from getting in the end zone and limiting points."
The Seahawks did make four field goal from distances of 33, 52, 27 and 20 yards, respectively.
Harris said it's the ultimate goal to keep points off the board in any form but recognized the significance of Seattle's only touchdown occurring on a pick-six.
"When we can keep teams out of the end zone, it's encouraging. It motivates guys to keep that as a standard," Harris said. "It's just something that we just try to prepare each week – try to come into a positive attitude and just believe in each other and play the next play if it's there."