If Adrian Peterson faced the Seahawks more often, he wouldn’t be the NFL’s rushing champion.
And if Seattle’s defense continues to keep opponents out of the end zone like this, its season may go on for a while.
The Seahawks did on Sunday what they had done when Seattle and the Vikings played here last month. They throttled Peterson “all day,” to borrow the nickname of the seven-time Pro Bowl running back and 2012’s most valuable player.
Peterson was limited to 45 yards rushing on 23 carries as the sixth-seeded Seahawks rallied past the third-seeded Vikings, 10-9, in the NFC wild card playoffs on a frigid afternoon at TCF Bank Stadium.
“Just getting a body on him. Tackling him,” Seahawks Pro Bowl middle linebacker Bobby Wagner said about Peterson. Wagner had a team-high eight tackles and a sack. “Not letting just one guy tackle him. Just getting all on him.”
As the Seahawks did on Dec. 6 in a 38-7 win here, they stayed disciplined inside their assigned gaps, and patient in staying in those gaps instead of chasing Peterson. That limited his ability to make cuts into the open field, one of the specialties that he’s used to rush for 1,485 yards this regular season and 11,675 yards in his nine-year career.
Seattle’s Michael Bennett praised the defensive tackles for shutting down Peterson: “You’ve got to give all the credit to (Brandon) Mebane and Ahtyba Rubin. They’ve been playing great, but they don’t get a lot of credit because they don’t get the stats. But up front, we’ve been No. 1 in defense and those guys played great again today and they didn’t give up anything.”
Peterson had 63 yards on 31 rushes in the two games that these teams played this season. That — and luck at the end of Sunday’s game — are why the Seahawks won both games and will play this coming weekend in the divisional round at Carolina, the NFC’s top seed.
“He’s a great player, Wagner said of Peterson. “But we feel we have a great defense.”
Indeed, the respect was all over the Seahawks’ defense. Peterson said Seattle Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas approached him on the field after the game and said: “Hey, man, I have so much respect for you, because each game you know that teams are coming in and are focusing on stopping the run, and you still come in and continue to chop. That’s why I love and respect you.”
Speaking of respect: The Seahawks have allowed only one offensive touchdown during their six-game winning streak on the road, which is where they will stay as long as they remain alive this postseason. Seattle has allowed only 43 points in those last six away games.
The only points Minnesota scored Sunday, three field goals, came off mistakes by Seattle’s offense and its punting team.
The third mistake came late in the third quarter. Derrick Coleman had Minnesota punt returner Marcus Sherels corralled in Vikings territory. But then Coleman was flagged for a horse-collar tackle. That 15-yard penalty resulted in Minnesota starting its drive at the Seattle 48.
And that resulted in the Vikings’ third field goal, from 48 yards, by Blair Walsh. That gave Minnesota a 9-0 lead.
The game’s only score of the first half, a short field goal by Walsh, came after Seattle’s only huge error of the first two quarters.
Clint Gresham dribbled a snap to punter Jon Ryan. The athletic Ryan deftly avoided the only rusher in the backfield — and had time to reload and punt. Instead, Ryan, a contestant on television’s “American Ninja Warrior” last spring, boldly tried to run the 7 yards for the first down. He got 4 yards, then face-planted into the turf while almost hurdling a Viking.
Seattle’s defense held again following the turnover on downs at its own 29, limiting the damage to the field goal.
The Seahawks had the NFL’s No. 1 rush defense in the regular season, allowing an average of only 81.5 yards per game. They have given up an average of only 36 yards per game in their last four road games.
That’s a mighty fine sign for the Seahawks before they head to Carolina.
“Fantastic,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “A great football player on the other side and we totally respect everything about Adrian. …
“Our guys are capable of playing run defense like this; we’ve been doing it for some time now. That’s what we expected to do — and it was awesome they could carry it out all day long.”
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle