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Three things to know about Vikings-Seahawks game

By Dan Wiederer, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) –

MINNEAPOLIS — With a weekend off, the Vikings backed away from Thursday night’s embarrassing 36-17 home loss to Tampa Bay and have returned to work convinced their struggles are easily correctable. On Sunday, however, they could face another sobering afternoon against an energetic Seattle team. But wait, there’s more. Here’s a trio of other things you should know.

1. Cornerback Richard Sherman is the spokesman of an active and disruptive Seahawks defense.

You might know Sherman as the guy who openly heckled New England quarterback Tom Brady immediately after Seattle’s 24-23 upset of the Patriots in Week 6.

Then last week, he changed his Twitter handle to become “Optimus Prime,” the Autobots leader from “Transformers.” Ya know, because Sherman was preparing to face “Megatron,” a.k.a. Lions star Calvin Johnson.

Yep, the 6-3, 195-pound Sherman doesn’t lack for swagger.

“He’s growing as a player here in the league,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “And he’s trying to find his way as he grows. He’s very confident. He is very smart. He’s a very athletic kid and he’s had a lot of good things happen (early in his career). … He is very confident. And that’s what you’re looking for in guys who play out there on the edge.”

Sherman and Brandon Browner (6-4, 221) give the Seahawks two big corners who like to disrupt timing by constantly jamming receivers. That’s been Carroll’s modus operandi forever, even dating to his late 1980s days as a Vikings assistant when he’d turn Reggie Rutland and Carl Lee loose.

This season, Carroll’s desire to have his corners attack is paying off. Seattle ranks fifth in yards allowed (312 ypg) and third in points allowed (16.8 ppg). Which is why Vikings coach Leslie Frazier is on high alert.

“Sometimes when those big guys get their hands on you, it’s sometimes tough to get away,” Frazier said. “If they can throw the timing off between the quarterback and the receiver, advantage to the defense.”

2. Josh Robinson’s big opportunity may have arrived early.

With cornerback Chris Cook placed on injured reserve last week because of a broken arm, the Vikings are scrambling to solidify their secondary. And Robinson should get the first crack at starting opposite Antoine Winfield.

A.J. Jefferson might also get a look. But Robinson’s rapid rise through training camp and the early parts of the season has given the Vikings coaches confidence he can excel in a leading role.

He’s fast. He’s fearless. And when he does make mistakes, he’s able to quickly recover.

Jefferson could make the conversation interesting this week, given that, at 6-1, he’s 3 inches taller than Robinson. At the very least, Jefferson should get an extended look as the third corner in nickel packages.

As for what Frazier is looking for in identifying a second starter?

“Consistency in practice and who grasps the game plan the best and gives us the best chance at this stage of the season to go out and be effective at the corner position,” Frazier said. “We have an idea of which direction we want to go. But we have to see how it goes in practice.”

3. The Seahawks’ passing attack may be restricted some Sunday.

Attrition is the word of the week for the Seattle receiving corps. Ben Obomanu was put on injured reserve Monday after suffering a wrist injury in last weekend’s loss at Detroit. Braylon Edwards didn’t play in that game, scratched late because of a swollen knee. And Doug Baldwin is also iffy this week as he works back from a high ankle sprain suffered Oct. 18 in a loss at San Francisco.

Top targets Sidney Rice (28 catches, 367 yards, three TDs) and Golden Tate (20 catches, 255 yards, three TDs) still are going strong. Which is something.

But now, unheralded rookie Jermaine Kearse, a practice squad promotion, will make his NFL debut and could see a bit of action in the passing game. Charly Martin will also see a heightened role if Baldwin and Edwards can’t return.

Frazier talks often about making opponents “play lefthanded.” Sunday that will mean keying on running back Marshawn Lynch and daring the Seahawks ordinary receiving corps and rookie quarterback (Russell Wilson) to beat them.

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