Did the Seahawks pound the Minnesota Vikings when the teams met last month? Yes, they did.
Will that matter Sunday when the teams meet again in the playoffs? Not according to Vikings safety Harrison Smith, who believes every week in the NFL is a new week.
“You always think you know what’s going to happen, and things get wild,” Smith said in a conference call from Minnesota. “So we’re just focused on studying the tape, seeing who the Seahawks are right now, and kind of planning accordingly.”
The Seahawks project as basically the same team that pounded Minnesota, 38-7, on Dec. 6 — plus Marshawn Lynch. The Vikings will be different — healthier. Much healthier. And especially on defense.
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Seahawks (10-6) at Vikings (11-5), 10:05 a.m., Ch. 7, 710-AM, 97.3-FM
In December, the Vikings used a patchwork defense that developed more holes as the game progressed. Nose tackle Linval Joseph was out with a foot injury. Linebacker Anthony Barr went to the sideline in the first quarter after aggravating a groin injury that had kept him questionable most of the week.
Safety Robert Blanton left the game after colliding with a teammate, so Terence Newman shifted to safety and rookie Trae Waynes moved to Newman’s normal left cornerback spot. Smith also went out in the first half with a left hamstring injury.
“(Smith is) … an extremely talented football player, can do it all,” Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson said. “Barr is all over the field. (Safety Andrew) Sendejo didn’t play last time, if I remember right. … I think they have Joseph playing this time too; so you have all those four guys that are great football players.”
Tackle Kenrick Ellis (ankle) was the only defensive player held out of Thursday’s practice, while Joseph and defensive end Everson Griffen (shoulder) were limited. Coach Mike Zimmer said Joseph should be “good to go” by Sunday.
We feel good. We feel like we’re playing good football. But … you can get bitten by any team any week.
Vikings free safety Harrison Smith
“We feel good,” Harrison said. “We feel like we’re playing good football. But … you can get bitten by any team any week. And Seattle, they’re hot right now, playing very good football across the board. So we have a lot of things to get ready for.”
Harrison acknowledges that while the Vikings’ defense could be healthier, the Seahawks offense gets a boost with the return of Lynch. He missed the earlier game with an abdominal injury. In his absence, Thomas Rawls rushed for 101 yards on 19 carries.
This time, Rawls is out with an ankle injury and Lynch has returned to full participation in practice. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said he expects Lynch to be “full go” on Sunday.
“I’ve only played against him once — that was in 2012,” Smith said. “He’s a heck of a player, hard to bring down. I’m sure you guys have seen it a thousand times: makes incredible plays. But they’ve also had a lot of success while he’s been away. So bringing him back, I think, is only going to help them.”
However, having Smith and most of his defensive mates back also should help the Vikings.
Smith, in his fourth season out of Notre Dame, has 12 career interceptions and a franchise-record four interceptions returned for touchdowns. This season he ranks fifth on the team with 66 tackles.
“He’s a very instinctive guy,” Zimmer said. “He makes a lot of plays. He’s got good vision. He’s a good tackler. He’s tough. He’s one of our better players, and when he’s out there he kind of settles things down quite a bit.”