Vikings keep it close, then get blown out
Two interceptions thrown by Minnesota quarterback Christian Ponder helped Seattle score 14 points in less than a minute Sunday, as the Seahawks turned a close game early in the fourth quarter into a 41-20 victory over the Vikings.
After linebacker Bobby Wagner intercepted a Ponder pass in Minnesota territory, Seattle's Marshawn Lynch scored his third touchdown of the game to give the Seahawks a 31-13 lead with 13:14 remaining.
Forty-four seconds later, Seattle cornerback Walter Thurmond III picked off Ponder and returned it 29 yards for a score as the Seahawks (10-1) wrapped up their sixth victory in a row.
Lynch had 54 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the ground before Russell Wilson hit him with a back-handed flip pass to account for his third touchdown of the game early in the fourth quarter. That 6-yard touchdown reception put Seattle comfortably ahead before Thurmond's interception padded the lead and sent Ponder to the bench.
Ponder, who was coming off an injury to his non-throwing shoulder, completed 13 of 22 passes for 129 yards and played pretty well before throwing interceptions on back-to-back possessions.
Matt Cassel came on to replace Ponder after the second interception, then promptly threw one of his own when Seattle's Chris Clemons tipped a pass that was caught by defensive lineman Clinton McDonald at the Minnesota 18-yard line. That set up a Seahawks field goal.
Three consecutive Vikings drives ended with interceptions, all coming within span of 2 minutes, 13 seconds.
Had it not been for a Ponder pass that Wagner dropped near the end of the third quarter, the Seahawks would have had interceptions on four consecutive Minnesota possessions.
Minnesota's Adrian Peterson had 65 rushing yards on 21 carries before sitting out most of the fourth quarter. He had run for 182 yards in a loss to the Seahawks last season. Backup Toby Gerhart had a team-high 67 yards on just seven carries.
Lynch also sat out most of the fourth quarter after carrying the ball 17 times. Wilson completed 13 of 18 passes for 232 yards and two touchdowns.
The Seahawks went into halftime leading 24-13 after a surprisingly competitive first half until the final minute. Former Viking Percy Harvin made his Seahawks debut and had a huge impact on two touchdown drives despite only being on the field for a handful of plays.
His 58-yard kickoff return, his first as a Seahawk, set up Seattle's final touchdown of the half after the Vikings (2-8) had pulled within 17-13 on a Blair Walsh field goal with 48 seconds remaining. Five plays and 38 seconds later, Wilson hit Doug Baldwin for a 19-yard touchdown pass to give Seattle an 11-point halftime lead.
Seattle took leads of 3-0 and 10-3 before the Vikings tied the score 10-10 when receiver Jarius Wright beat cornerback Richard Sherman for a 38-yard touchdown reception from Ponder early in the second quarter.
The Seahawks answered with a nine-play, 79-yard drive that culminated in Lynch's second touchdown of the game, a 1-yard run that gave Seattle a 17-10 lead with 6:26 remaining in the first half. The highlight of that drive was a third-down circus catch by Harvin, his first reception as a Seahawk.
Harvin had missed the first 10 games of the season following August hip surgery. He was activated late last week and was only on the field for a handful of offensive snaps Sunday. He had a 12-yard reception and just the one kickoff return.
Wright caught three passes for 69 yards with two touchdowns, the second one coming on a 21-yard pass from Cassel with 2:18 remaining.
Cassel played the final three series for Minnesota and completed 5 of 13 passes for 78 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. The Vikings (2-8) de-activated veteran Josh Freeman for the third consecutive week before the game.
Notes: The Seahawks welcomed back three starting offensive linemen in center Max Unger and tackles Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini. Injuries left the Seahawks without all three players in last weekend's win over Atlanta, while Okung (toe) was making his first appearance since Week 2. ... Vikings receiver Jerome Simpson, who was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving last week, played but did not start Sunday. ... Seattle was without cornerback Brandon Browner, who suffered a groin injury against Atlanta last weekend and is expected to be out multiple weeks. ... Seahawks wide receiver Jermaine Kearse suffered a concussion during a first-quarter kickoff return and was out for the remainder of the game. ... Vikings center John Sullivan suffered a head injury in the fourth quarter and did not return.
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