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Pressuring Russell Wilson could be key for Vikings at Seattle

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) scrambles against the San Francisco 49ers during the third quarter at CenturyLink Field in Seattle on Dec. 2, 2018. Joe Nicholson / USA TODAY Sports

EAGAN, Minn. -- When the Vikings get to the opposing quarterback, they usually win. When they don’t, they lose.

That’s pretty much been the case this season. When the Vikings (6-5-1) have three or more sacks, they’re 6-1-1. When they have fewer than three, they’re 0-4.

In last Sunday’s 24-10 loss at New England, Minnesota was held without a sack for just the second time this season. In fact, the Vikings had just one quarterback hurry on Tom Brady the entire game.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer is hoping that will change Monday, Dec. 10, at Seattle.

“It’s always important to get pressure on people, make them make bad throws or bad decisions,” he said. “So, we’ll see.”

Despite his ability to run, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has been susceptible to pressure, sacked 37 times this season, sixth-most in the NFL — although 12 of those came in the first two games, before Seattle developed a better running game behind Chris Carson.

“I know this week it’s all about just being able to affect the quarterback, get pressure on him,” said Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter. “Have the (defensive backs) do what they do on the back half and the linebackers do what they do. We should be able to all work together and affect the quarterback.”

At times this season, that has seemed easy, especially for Hunter, who leads the Vikings with 11 1/2 sacks. In a Nov. 4 victory over Detroit at U.S. Bank Stadium, Minnesota dropped quarterback Matthew Stafford a franchise-record 10 times. Three other times, the Vikings have combined to sack the QB four times.

Against some of the better teams in the NFL, though, the Vikings have struggled to get to the quarterback. They had no sacks in losses to New England and New Orleans, and one in losses to the Los Angeles Rams and Chicago.

Defensive end Everson Griffen said the Patriots’ game plan “completely eliminated the D-line.”

“You look at what they did, especially on third down; we got a lot of screens, a lot of runs, those kinds of things,” Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards said. “. …We’ve got to do a good job on first and second down to where we can make those longer (third-down) situations.”

Since Zimmer arrived in 2014, the Vikings have twice faced Wilson when it counted. They sacked him just once in a 38-7 home loss in 2015 and twice in a 10-9 playoff home loss later that season.

The Vikings also have faced Wilson in preseason games in each of the past three seasons, including a 21-20 win last August at U.S. Bank Stadium. With Wilson playing only about a half in each of those games, they sacked him four times in 2016, once in 2017 and didn’t drop him last summer.

“He’s going to create out of the pocket if you get to him,” said Vikings defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, Wilson’s teammate last season. “So, just keep your rush lanes and just try to get to him.”

Wilson was sacked six times in each of the first two games this year when Carson only gained a combined 75 yards. Since then, Carson has emerged as an upper-echelon running back, and that has helped keep foes off balance.

Carson has 704 total yards rushing, and the Seahawks lead the NFL with an average of 148.8 yards rushing a game. Zimmer went so far this week as to call Carson “one of the best backs in the league.”

If Carson is on Monday, that will make it more difficult to pressure Wilson.

“You’ve got to earn the right to rush,” Richardson said. ‘You’ve got to play from out front. Hopefully, we get a chance and an opportunity to rush, but we’ve got to stop the run first.”