Balanced Vikings return to Seattle for MNF rematch

Field Level Media

December 01, 2019 at 10:42 am.

Pete Carroll is a big fan of the Minnesota Vikings’ offense.

The Seattle coach will get a first-hand look at the unit Monday night, when the Seahawks (9-2) play host to the Vikings (8-3) in a key NFC matchup.

“They’re really well-balanced,” Carroll said. “A real commitment to the running game shows up. They have a style that we really appreciate, because they do run the football and try to play ball-control football with their short passing game.”

In fact, the Vikings have the most balanced offense in the NFL, running the ball on 50.15 percent of their plays.

Running back Dalvin Cook ranks second in the league in all-purpose yards (1,472), third in rushing yards (1,017) and fifth in touchdowns (11).

This will be the second straight season in which the teams have met on MNF in Seattle. The Seahawks won 21-7 last year, Minnesota avoiding the shutout with a touchdown in the final two minutes.

That game led to the Vikings’ offensive transformation.

Minnesota called 35 pass plays and 21 runs in that game, and head coach Mike Zimmer fired offensive coordinator John DeFilippo shortly after the team’s red-eye flight back to the Twin Cities had landed.

“I just did what I thought was best at the time,” Zimmer said this week.

Kevin Stefanski was named the interim coordinator and got the full-time gig in the offseason.

“He’s grown a lot (with) the way the offense has evolved and the way we”re trying to attack defenses, communication with the players,” Zimmer said.

Cook has perhaps been the biggest beneficiary, as the Vikings rank fourth in the league in rushing this season after being No. 30 in 2018.

“Everybody got what they wanted to do,” Cook told The Pioneer Press of St. Paul, Minn. “That was Coach Stefanski’s game plan. That’s what we wanted to do. That’s what we’ve got to execute, but I think things have been different since (Stefanski) has stepped in.”

The Vikings have won six of their past seven games to pull even with Green Bay in the NFC North. Quarterback Kirk Cousins has thrown 18 touchdowns and just one interception during that stretch.

The Vikings had a bye last weekend after rallying from a 20-point deficit to defeat Denver 27-23 the previous week. Cousins was 29 of 35 for 319 yards and three touchdowns in that game.

“I am pleased, yep,” Cousins said. “I think it’s been a real positive the way we’ve run the football, the way we’ve protected, the way we’ve thrown the ball.”

Cousins downplayed the suggestion that the turning point came after the loss to Seattle last year.

“There are so many moments you can point to, and I’m sure for people who love to create a narrative, that’s fun to talk about,” he said.

The Seahawks, who are coming off a 17-9 victory at Philadelphia, enter the weekend a game behind San Francisco in the NFC West.

Rashaad Penny, Seattle’s first-round pick in the 2018 draft, rushed for a career-high 129 yards, including a clinching 58-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.

With Chris Carson having fumbled seven times, the most in the league by a running back, Penny might see more of the ball Monday as the Seahawks try to emulate Minnesota’s balanced attack.

“Rashaad did great. I’m really fired up for that,” Carroll said. “We need his explosiveness. He continues to show up. He has had the real home run type of style of play. We’ve got to give him chances to bring that to us.”