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Seahawks sink Vikings for sixth win in a row

Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch (24) rushes against the Minnesota Vikings during the third quarter at CenturyLink Field. Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY

By Scott Johnson, The Sports Xchange

Seattle 41  Minnesota 20

SEATTLE -- With the victories piling up and the Seattle Seahawks moving toward the NFC West title, the players are attempting to keep the big picture in focus.

"We haven't done anything yet," Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson said Sunday after the Seahawks routed the Minnesota Vikings 41-20 for their sixth in a row. "We're 10-1, and that means a lot, but that wasn't our goal. Our goal is to win it all."

Two interceptions thrown by Minnesota quarterback Christian Ponder helped Seattle score 14 points in less than a minute, and the Seahawks turned a close game early in the fourth quarter into a blowout.

After linebacker Bobby Wagner intercepted a Ponder pass in Minnesota territory, Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch scored his third touchdown of the game to give the Seahawks a 31-13 lead with 13:14 remaining. Forty-four seconds later, cornerback Walter Thurmond III picked off Ponder and raced 29 yards for the score to seal the win for the Seahawks (10-1).

Thanks to the San Francisco 49ers' loss to the New Orleans Saints, the Seahawks hold a 3 1/2-game lead in the NFC West with five games remaining.

Wilson completed 13 of 18 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns.

Lynch had 17 carries for 54 rushing yards and two touchdowns, and Wilson hit him with a basketball-like, back-handed flip pass to account for another score early in the fourth quarter. That 6-yard touchdown put Seattle comfortably ahead before Thurmond's interception padded the lead and sent Ponder to the bench.

Ponder, who was coming off an injury to his non-throwing shoulder, completed 13 of 22 passes for 129 yards. He was playing pretty well before throwing interceptions on back-to-back possessions.

Vikings backup quarterback Matt Cassel came on to replace Ponder after the second interception, and he promptly threw one of his own when Seattle defensive end Chris Clemons tipped a pass that was caught by defensive lineman Clinton McDonald at the Minnesota 18-yard line to set up a Seahawks field goal. Three consecutive Vikings drives were ended by interceptions, all of them coming within a span of two minutes, 13 seconds.

Had it not been for a Ponder pass that Wagner dropped near the end of the third quarter, the Seahawks would have had interceptions on four consecutive Minnesota possessions.

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said the decision to bench Ponder was simply a search for momentum, not necessarily a nail in the coffin of Ponder's career as a starter.

"We just wanted to see if Matt could give us a spark, if Matt could help us," Frazier said. "That was the reason."

Frazier wasn't saying whether Ponder, Cassel or Josh Freeman would start next week.

"We'll sit down Monday and talk about things we've got to do," the coach said.

Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson gained 65 yards on 21 carries -- he sat out most of the fourth quarter -- after busting out for 182 yards in a loss to the Seahawks last season. Backup Toby Gerhart had a team-high 67 yards on just seven carries.

Lynch also sat out most of the fourth quarter.

The Seahawks went into halftime leading 24-13 after a surprisingly competitive first half until the final minute. Former Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin made his Seahawks debut and had a huge impact on two touchdown drives despite only being on the field for a handful of plays.

Harvin's first kickoff return as a Seahawk went for 58 yards, setting up a Seattle touchdown after the Vikings (2-8) pulled within 17-13 on a Blair Walsh field goal with 48 seconds remaining. Five plays and 38 seconds later, Wilson hit wide receiver Doug Baldwin for a 19-yard touchdown pass to give Seattle an 11-point halftime lead.

The Seahawks did not plan on using Harvin as a kickoff returner Sunday, but a first-quarter injury to return man Jermaine Kearse opened the door for Harvin.

"I realized he was back there, (but) I thought we could cover the kick," Frazier said. "He didn't, and they ended up with great field position, and they scored. A big sequence."

Harvin wound up with one reception for 17 yards. After the game, he said it was a longer road back than many people knew. He mentioned an appendectomy and a procedure to remove a tumor, in addition to hip surgery.

"I had a lot going on other than just the hip," he said. "It was emotional for me just being out there. ... Today was the No. 1 test. I went through all the practices and wasn't limited at all. I don't see any more setbacks. I'm looking to take off from here."

Minnesota wide receiver Jarius Wright caught three passes for 69 yards and two touchdowns, the second one coming on a 21-yard pass from Cassel with 2:18 remaining.

Cassel played the final three series for Minnesota, and he completed five of 13 passes for 78 yards with a touchdown and an interception. The Vikings de-activated Freeman for the third consecutive week before the game, but it seems realistic that the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback will be considered for next week's start.

"I just continue to work," Freeman said after the game. "It's not going to change my approach; it's not going to change my attitude. I'm going to be the best Josh Freeman I can possibly be for this team."

Wright said he wasn't concerned with the identity of the team's quarterback.

"It shouldn't matter," he said. "Even if one of y'all (in the media) got back there and threw it, we as receivers are going to catch it. That's our mindset."

NOTES: The Seahawks welcomed back three starting offensive linemen: C Max Unger, LT Russell Okung and RT Breno Giacomini. Injuries left the Seahawks without all three players in last week's win over the Atlanta Falcons. Okung (toe) made his first appearance since Week 2. ... Vikings WR Jerome Simpson, who was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving last week, played but did not start Sunday. He made one catch for 1 yard. ... Seattle was without CB Brandon Browner, who suffered a groin injury against Atlanta and is expected to be out multiple weeks. ... Seahawks WR Jermaine Kearse suffered a concussion during a first-quarter kickoff return and was out for the remainder of the game. ... Vikings C John Sullivan suffered a head injury in the fourth quarter and did not return.