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An interception-infused victory

Posted Nov 18, 2013

Monday metatarsal musings: As usual, big plays by the defense paced the Seahawks’ pre-bye victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. But they didn’t come from the usual suspects.

In the wake of Sunday’s convincing victory over the Minnesota Vikings, it’s tough to determine what was more surprising: The impressive fact that the Seahawks intercepted passes on back-to-back-to-back series in the fourth quarter, or the startling realization that the All-Pro duo of free safety Earl Thomas and cornerback Richard Sherman had not so much as a hand in any of them.

That’s how the Seahawks rolled on this given Sunday, as those interceptions by middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, cornerback Walter Thurmond and defensive tackle Clinton McDonald ignited a 17-point outburst in three minutes to fuel the 41-20 victory that made the Seahawks the first team in the NFL to reach 10 wins.

“It was a party out there,” said Thomas, who along with Sherman is tied for second in the league with four interceptions. “The dam was about to break sooner or later. So it just started flooding. It was just a great experience.”

Here’s what happened:

Wagner, who had dropped an interception on the Vikings’ final possession in the third quarter, got one on their second play of the fourth quarter and returned it 9 yards to the Minnesota 18-yard line to setup Russell Wilson’s flip to Marshawn Lynch for a 6-yard touchdown that made it 31-13.

“I should’ve had two picks. But you know, I got one,” said Wagner, who also had a sack among his nine tackles. “It’s all good.”

Thurmond, who was starting at right cornerback for an injured Brandon Browner, picked his pass – the first of his NFL career – on a third-and-5 play on the Vikings’ next possession and returned it 29 yards for a TD that made it 38-13.

“We have a motto: It comes in bunches,” Thurmond said. “So once you get the one you can expect more to follow. That’s the mindset we have and it showed up in this game. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

McDonald also got his first NFL interception when defensive end Chris Clemons tipped a pass on a third-and-11 play on the Vikings’ next series that ended up in the hands of the 297-pound defensive tackle and setup a 26-yard field by Steven Hauschka that made it 41-13.

“We go through practice learning to get the ball whenever it’s tipped or whenever it’s on the ground,” McDonald said. “And it got tipped in the air and the lights caught me in the eyes and the ball just fell right in my hands. So it was just a blessing in disguise.”

Just as almost everything has fallen into place for the Seahawks during their 10-1 start. Here’s a look at three other things not named Percy Harvin that worked against the Vikings as the Seahawks head into their bye week:

What worked

The rest of the defense – It was Thomas who said the defense needed to turn into piranhas whenever Adrian Peterson got his hands on the ball, and that swarming, attacking mentality wasn’t difficult to generate after Peterson had rushed for 182 yards against the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field in Week 9 last season.

Sunday, Peterson had 65 yards on 21 carries for a 3.1-yard average. The first seven times he touched the ball, Peterson had 13 yards to show for it in the first quarter – including runs of minus-3 and minus-1 yards. He touched the ball seven more times in the second quarter and gained 22 yards. In the third quarter, he had five carries for 30 yards, with 13 coming on one run. He finished with two carries for no yards in the fourth quarter before calling it an afternoon. So 10 of his carries went for 2 or fewer yards, including three for losses.

“It definitely feels good because we’ve been struggling against the run,” said Wagner, well aware the run defense entered the game ranked No. 15 in average yards allowed (111.0). “So this was a real good test because we faced a great running back and I felt like we did a pretty good job.”

The passing game – And this started with the return of three starting linemen – Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung, All-Pro center Max Unger and right tackle Breno Giacomini – because Wilson had time in the pocket, after weeks of whirling and spinning from pressure.

Wilson’s 13 completions in 18 attempts went to nine receivers. In addition to the flip pass to Lynch for a TD, Wilson also fired a beauty to Doug Baldwin the other end zone just before the half for a 19-yard TD. It was all in a day’s work when you’re fashioning a career-best passer rating of 151.4.

“The thing with Russell is that he always finds the open guy,” said tight end Zach Miller, who had four receptions for 69 yards. “He doesn’t play favorites. Whoever is open he’s getting it to. He’s a smart football player who makes such good decisions.”

Marshawn Lynch – What else can be said about the Seahawks’ Beast Mode back? How about this from former All-Pro safety Rodney Harrison, who’s now an analyst for NBC: “Marshawn Lynch is the identity of the team. He is physically wearing people down.”

Sunday, Lynch had 19 touches – 17 carries for 54 yards and two receptions for 9 yards. Not the kind of overpowering yardage totals that Lynch is capable of producing, but he scored three touchdowns. That gives him 11 in as many games to share the league lead with Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson.

“He is a great player,” Vikings defensive end Jared Allen said of Lynch. “You’ve got to try and keep tackling, keep tackling, keep tackling and limit his touches.”

And sometimes even that doesn’t work. Not when things as working as well as they are for the team with the best record in the league.