The Seahawks had nearly done everything necessary to secure a victory over the Minnesota Vikings despite some tense moments in the fourth quarter.
The defense came up with a fourth-down stop to protect a 4-point lead, then the offense picked up a key first down to run the clock down before Jason Myers made it a 7-point lead with his third field goal of the night. But the Seahawks still had to kick the ball off to the Vikings one more time with 25 seconds left, meaning they needed one more stop to secure the victory that would move them into first-place in the NFC West.
And it was only fitting that in a game in which the Seahawks played well on special teams all night, they got one more big play out of that unit, keeping the defense from ever having to make that final stop. After Myers squibbed the kickoff to avoid the threat of a long return, Vikings fullback C.J. Ham picked up the ball and attempted a return, but receiver Malik Turner hit Ham low with a perfectly placed hit that knocked the ball loose, and rookie running back Travis Homer recovered to secure the win.
While that was the final big play on special teams, it was hardly the only one in that phase of the game. Homer, who has taken over kick return duties from Tyler Lockett with the receiver recovering from a leg injury and more recently from the flu, had two solid returns, gaining 24 and 27 yards. He also gained 29 yards on the first rushing attempt of his career, a fake punt that saw him take the snap and run around a well-blocked right edge for a big gain.
Punter Michael Dickson also continued a strong stretch of play, pinning the Vikings inside the 20 with all three of his punts, including his last punt of the day that went out of bounds at the 16 to give Minnesota's offense a long field with 3:27 left on the clock. Going back to last week's game in Philadelphia, Dickson has seen eight of his last nine punts downed or go out of bounds inside the 20.
Myers, meanwhile, went three for three on field goal attempts and made all four of his extra points, making him six for six on field goals and nine for nine on extra points in his last three games since he had three misses in a Week 9 win over Tampa Bay. And the two times the Vikings tried to return kickoffs prior to Ham's fumble, the Seahawks stopped them short of the 25-yard line, including a great open-field tackle by Ugo Amadi that prevented a potential big gain.
"It was a beautiful night," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of the special teams performance. "There wasn't a play in there that wasn't a solid play for the situation. We placed some balls inside the 20. Michael killed that punt late in the game, with no return opportunity. The squib kick was handled beautifully, and the ball comes back to us. J-Myers did his thing. That was a big field goal, that last one. That was a big field goal, and that was great that he pulled that off."
On the fake punt, Homer said once they got the call that the fake was on and saw the favorable look from the Vikings, "it was pretty much a 99.9 percent chance that it was going to succeed."
As a result, he wasn't nervous about executing on a fake punt that also happened to be his first NFL carry.
"I was chillin'," he said "I was chillin'. I knew we had it, so ain't no point in stressing."
The Seahawks are 10-2 this season in large part because of the MVP-level play of Russell Wilson, his playmakers on offense and the line that protects him and paves the way for the running game; and because of a defense that has played very well over the past three games in particular. But Monday's win served as a good reminder that there truly are three phases to the game, and that special teams play can make all the difference.
"Special teams has been playing amazing," linebacker Bobby Wagner said. "Coach Carroll mentioned before the game he was going to run (the fake), but I forgot, so I was surprised just like everyone else when it happened. We were getting ready to go back out there on the field and we saw Homer running up the sidelines. I was like, 'Oh yeah, I forgot about the fake punt.' It was great timing, great call, amazing execution and it's great to have all three levels playing well."
Game action photos from the Seattle Seahawks' Week 13 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings.