By TIM BOOTH
SEATTLE (AP) — Bobby Wagner leaped over the line of scrimmage, swatted Dan Bailey’s field goal attempt and sparked the Seattle Seahawks to two late touchdowns.
Whether or not what Wagner did was entirely legal, he frankly didn’t care.
“I’m not stressing about that. I made the play. They called what they called,” Wagner said. “There’s times in games where things happen all the time. I’m not stressing on it. It was a big block and we’ll definitely take it. It was amazing.”
Wagner’s block midway through the fourth quarter was the catalyst in a 21-7 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night that pushed Seattle to the brink of a playoff berth.
Chris Carson followed the blocked kick with a 2-yard TD run with 2:53 left, and Justin Coleman capped off the Seahawks’ fourth straight victory with a 29-yard fumble return for a touchdown 18 seconds later.
What was an ugly and mostly forgettable first three quarters turned into a Seattle party in the fourth as the Seahawks (8-5) moved to the brink of wrapping up a wild-card spot in the NFC. One win in Seattle’s final three games — including matchups with lowly San Francisco and Arizona — should be enough to put the Seahawks into the postseason.
“It’s really about the defense. I loved the way they played, they played so hard and so spirited,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “It was almost poetic after last week’s game that Bobby would get to block the field goal and he pulled it off and did it. That was an incredible play.”
Minnesota (6-6-1) twice had scoring chances in the fourth quarter when it was still a one-score game but was turned away each time. Minnesota’s chances of winning the NFC North took a major hit with its second straight loss, but the Vikings still hold the No. 6 spot in the NFC.
“Part of it is being better on third downs. We haven’t really done a good job there. Part of it is being better in the red zone,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “We had the ball on the 2-yard line and didn’t score.”
But much of the conversation centered on Wagner’s block of Bailey’s 47-yard attempt with 5:38 left and whether it was entirely legal. Wagner’s jump through a gap in Minnesota’s offensive line was fine, but it appeared he used his teammates to gain leverage, which allowed him to come through and block the kick. A flag was initially thrown but was picked up by the officials.
Wagner said he attempted it four times in practice without a problem but acknowledged it could be tough to pull off the play during the fourth quarter of a tight game.
“When I did it in practice I was pretty fresh,” Wagner said.
Zimmer said he asked for an explanation of what happened but wasn’t given one. He was told he couldn’t challenge.
“Quite honestly, I didn’t see what happened. I was told what happened,” Zimmer said.
Seattle took possession and Russell Wilson immediately scrambled 40 yards deep into Minnesota territory. Five plays later, Carson scored and Seattle finally had a cushion. Two plays after that, Jacob Martin sacked Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins and the ball popped to Coleman, who weaved his way for the clinching touchdown.
Cousins threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Dalvin Cook with 1:10 remaining, but Seattle recovered the onside kick.
“I feel like all of our losses we, as an offense, we are so slow,” Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen said. “Our defense is keeping us in games. And we’re not pulling our side of the bargain.”
Wilson had one of the worst passing games of his career, completing 10 of 20 attempts for career-low 72 yards and a baffling interception late in the first half, one of the many mistakes by Seattle that allowed Minnesota to hang around. But Seattle’s ground game was outstanding against one of the better run defenses in the NFL. The Seahawks finished with 214 yards rushing, led by 90 yards from Carson.
Sebastian Janikowski hit field goals of 37 and 35 yards to account for all of Seattle’s scoring until the closing minutes.
“If you run it 40-something times, you ought to win. That was pretty good,” Carroll said.
FOURTH QUARTER WOES
Minnesota hung around despite failing to run a play in Seattle territory until there was 4:16 left in the third quarter. Cousins was 20 of 33 for 208 yards, most of that coming late. But he failed to get the Vikings into the end zone from inside the Seattle 5 while trailing 6-0 early in the fourth quarter.
The Vikings had first-and-goal at the Seattle 4 but turned the ball over on downs with 9:06 remaining. Two short runs and an incompletion brought up fourth-and-goal at the 1, and Cousins’ pass for Kyle Rudolph was knocked away by Bradley McDougald. Bailey’s field goal was blocked on Minnesota’s next drive.
Minnesota fell to 0-6 when allowing its opponents to run for at least 100 yards. The Vikings came in to the week giving up 99 yards per game on the ground, good for seventh-best in the NFL. Seattle had 136 yards rushing in the first half.
OTHER CENTURY MARK
Thielen tied Cris Carter as the fastest Minnesota player to reach 100 receptions in a season, both accomplishing the feat in 13 games. Carter did it in 1994 when he finished the year with 122 catches. Thielen is the first Minnesota receiver to get to 100 catches since Randy Moss in 2003. But Thielen didn’t get his first catch until midway through the third quarter. He finished with five catches for 70 yards.
Minnesota: The Vikings return home to host Miami on Sunday.
Seattle: The Seahawks play their final road game Sunday at San Francisco.