With four minutes remaining and the Vikings four points behind today, Minnesota Coach Les Steckel elected to go for a field goal on fourth and seven at the Seattle 17.
He figured the Vikings would get the ball back and they did, but not until the Seahawks' Eric Lane had run 40 yards for the touchdown that sealed Seattle's 20-12 victory.
Lane rushed 113 yards, and quarterback Dave Krieg completed 17 of 27 passes for 222 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Franco Harris, the NFL's third-leading career rusher, enjoyed his best day since joining the Seahawks. Harris, 34, ran nine times for 52 yards, including gains of 16 and 19 yards. He's 228 away from Jim Brown's rushing record.
The Seahawks' improving defense, ranked fifth in the NFL before today, held the Vikings without a touchdown and sacked Minnesota quarterback Tommy Kramer five times. All of Minnesota's scoring came on field goals by Jan Stenerud, who raised his 18-year career total to 352.
"That's the best defense we've faced all year," said Kramer, who completed 16 of 31 passes for 227 yards under relentless pressure from end Jacob Green and his cohorts.
Seattle (4-1) needed its big-play defense to overcome 126 yards in penalties and four turnovers.
"We made a lot of mistakes and took a lot of penalties," said Seattle Coach Chuck Knox. "I don't know why. What saved us was putting good pressure on Kramer. You can't give him time. If you do, he'll put the ball in the crack."
The game started like an offensive battle. Minnesota (2-3) drove 54 yards to set up Stenerud's 43-yard field goal following the kickoff, then Seattle rolled 83 yards in seven plays, six runs and a 20-yard touchdown pass from Krieg to Steve Largent.
But a series of giveaways prevented further scoring until 61 seconds remained in the half, when Stenerud kicked a 44-yarder that was matched by Norm Johnson of Seattle from 41 yards with three seconds left.
Green had two big plays in the first half, deflecting Kramer's pass that was intercepted by Greg Gaines at the Seattle 17 and recovering Kramer's fumbled snap at the Seattle 43.
In the third quarter, Green's fine tackle of Ted Brown, three yards short of a first down at the Seahawks' 11, forced Stenerud to kick one from 28 that made it 10-9.
Johnson increased the margin to 13-9 from 31 yards on the first play of the fourth quarter.
When Green hit Kramer as he tried to pass, Seattle's Keith Simpson recovered a most controversial fumble at the Minnesota 17. While the replay, displayed repeatedly on the scoreboard, showed Kramer's arm moving forward, Seattle blew its chance to clinch the game as Krieg's pass was intercepted by Scott Studwell at the five and returned to the 25.
The suddenly revived Vikings moved to a first down at the Seattle 20, where Green sacked Kramer for a five-yard loss. After Brown ran for eight yards, Kramer seemingly defeated a blitz with a pass to Sammy White at the three. However, the ball hung long enough for Simpson and Terry Jackson to converge on White and break it up.
Steckel then made his choice, opting for Stenerud's fourth field goal, which gave him 14 in 15 tries this season. The move backfired in part because the 41-year-old Stenerud, on the ensuing kickoff, got it only to the Seattle 13 and David Hughes was able to bring it back to the 35. Six plays later, Lane ensured the Seahawks' victory.
Thanks to a 30-yard penalty on Green, for roughing Kramer and kicking the flag, Minnesota was awarded a first down on the Seattle 20 with a last-minute chance to beat the point spread (Seattle plus two), but it could not even accomplish that for the remnants of the crowd of 57,171.
"I want to apologize to my teammates," Green said. "That could have cost us the game."