The Vikings had already rushed for 201 yards when, late in the fourth quarter, one more would have all but guaranteed a victory.
So it was hard to fault the logic of Vikings coach Mike Zimmer when, rather than kick a field goal to take an eight-point lead with two minutes left to play, he instead left his offense on the field to try to put the game on ice.
And not only had the Vikings put up impressive offensive numbers against the Seahawks, they also were coming off of back-to-back touchdown drives, one of them a 97-yarder, so again, why not go for it?
But as has been a defining trait of Seattle's defense all season long, that unit was able to rise to the occasion even when the stat sheet suggested they probably shouldn't have. And when Alexander Mattison took a handoff on fourth-and-1, Benson Mayowa helped cave in the line, and Bobby Wagner and Cody Barton met Mattison to stuff him for no gain.
That stop gave the ball back to Seattle's offense, and from there Russell Wilson, DK Metcalf and company drove 94 yards to give the Seahawks a 27-26 win.
So often you've heard Seahawks defensive players, led by Bobby Wagner, talk about "one blade of grass" as in, give them even a blade of grass to defend between an opponent and the end zone, and they'll do everything in their power to get the stop. In Week 2, that meant stuffing New England quarterback Cam Newton at the goal line to preserve a win, and on Sunday night it meant getting a crucial fourth-down stop against an offense that was averaging 5.0 yards-per-carry before that decisive carry.
"That comes from a really deep-seated belief that you can get it done," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "You watch them go down the field on us, why would we think we could stop them on fourth down? But we did, we stopped them on third down and fourth down. The resilience that it takes to come through in situations like that comes from somewhere, it comes from a belief that you're going to be able to get it done, and if you don't feel like that, then you relent. That's not what these guys are about."
And while the Vikings did manage 449 yards and 31 first downs, that fourth-down stop was far from Seattle's only big moment on defense. After giving up two long scoring drives to start the game, the defense settled down to get a couple of stops, then helped turn the game around with two takeaways.
After the teams traded punts to start the half, the Seahawks made it a one-score game on a Russell Wilson to Will Dissly touchdown pass. Soon after that, defensive end Damontre Moore hit Vikings quarterback on the arm for a sack/forced fumble that K.J. Wright recovered, giving Seattle a short field that Wilson and the offense quickly turned into a 14-13 lead. Minnesota's next possesses lasted only one play, with Wright intercepting Cousins with an impressive leaping, one-handed grab that came a week after he couldn't hang onto two potential interceptions.
Carroll joked last week that they were going to make Wright catch balls out of the Jugs machine to work on his hands, but instead Wright practiced catching tennis balls with one hand, a common post-practice drill for receivers and tight ends.
"I did not hit the Jugs machine, I hit the tennis balls with Coach (Ken) Norton," Wright said. "We did it Wednesday and Thursday. He was like, 'When it comes, squeeze it.' It's funny, we actually do one hand, we catch the tennis ball with one hand. All the credit goes to Coach Norton. It was just a phenomenal play, big time. We needed that as a team. To get two turnovers was big, we needed every play that we got. That was real fun today."
The Seahawks want to be better on defense than they have been over the past five weeks, but they also can take pride in knowing that they can come up with big plays when they need them most.
"Throughout the game, whether you're playing good or whether you're playing bad, it's all about the next play," Wright said. "It's all about having confidence. It's all about executing the next play. We're going to correct those things that happened throughout the game. We know that teams are going to try and come out and do exactly what Minnesota did against us, so we have to use those as learning moments. When it comes down to whatever play is up, that has to be our best play of the game. We were all confident. I believe it came off of a timeout on the fourth down-play and we knew that they were going to run the ball. Give the ball back to Russ, and we'll correct stuff on Monday."
In addition to their two turnovers, the Seahawks also stopped a 2-point conversion when Wright and L.J. Collier, who also had a sack in the game, stopped Cousins' rush attempt short of the goal line. And in the game's final seconds, with the Vikings hoping to get into field-goal range, Benson Mayowa sacked Cousins, forcing a fumble that, while recovered by Minnesota, caused the clock to run out.
"We're not playing the way we want to play on defense the whole game, but we make plays when we have to make them, we make the stops when we have to make the stops," Carroll said. "They come up and they rise. It's a marvelous character that's going on with these guys."
The best photos from Week 5's Seahawks-Vikings game at CenturyLink Field, fueled by Nesquik.