By Danny O’Neil
Russell Wilson completed passes to eight different Seahawks on Sunday, threw for a pair of touchdowns and didn’t have a single rushing yard in the first half.
Hard to tell which of those facts was most important in Seattle’s 41-20 victory over Minnesota, which was a lesson that less can be more. At least that’s true for the Seahawks and their quarterback. Specifically: the less the team relies upon Wilson to do everything in this offense, the more he can do for this offense.
That fact shouldn’t be lost amid all the attention and praise sure to be heaped upon Percy Harvin’s debut. Yes, Harvin is as fast as advertised. He showed that on the 58-yard kickoff return. He’s physical, too, a very gifted athlete whose one-handed juggling act led to a 17-yard reception. And if there was any doubt about the attention he’d demand from a defense, look back at those two passes Doug Baldwin caught behind the Minnesota defense. Those catches came when Harvin was lined up in the slot, just inside of Baldwin.
But can we pause the applause over Harvin’s unveiling? Because it’s worth taking a good hard look at what is happening with the guy who will be getting him the ball.
Wilson’s ability to distribute the ball efficiently, almost evenly, was the single most important achievement for this offense. Well, that and the fact that Wilson didn’t have to spend the first 4 seconds of every play using evasive maneuvers to escape the opposing pass rush.
The Seahawks had 24 points at halftime – matching their season-high for points in the first half – scored a touchdown on each of their first four red-zone possessions, and they did all that without any single player gaining so much as 70 yards from scrimmage. That was a testament to Wilson’s ability to distribute.
Eight different players caught a pass from Russell Wilson on Sunday, including Percy Harvin in his Seahawks debut. (AP)
For the first half of the season, the Seahawks leaned on Wilson very heavily. When they couldn’t run the ball in Carolina, Wilson won it with his passing. Three weeks later, the Seahawks were getting manhandled in Houston until Wilson took the game over in the fourth quarter and overtime.
But for the first eight games of this season, Wilson was also getting hit entirely too often and after that Week 8 comeback against Tampa Bay, it showed. Simply taking off his shirt was obviously painful, and his postgame interview was delayed.
Well, he has been sacked once in each of the past two games, and darned if that hasn’t coincided with two of Seattle’s more complete offensive performances.
The Seahawks scored 17 points in the final 6:30 of the first half at Atlanta and 14 in the final 6:26 against Minnesota, and Wilson is getting a chance to play quarterback like a point guard, setting up his playmakers.
“He is right where we want him,” coach Pete Carroll said.
Which is to say that he’s getting everyone involved. For all the hoopla over Harvin’s debut, it was tight end Zach Miller that led Seattle with four catches for 69 yards. Baldwin’s 44-yard reception in the first quarter was Seattle’s longest completion of the game and his 19-yard touchdown catch may have been the most difficult.
That brings us back to Harvin, whose enthusiasm for his quarterback was equal to the anticipation being felt around town for what that combination can do.
More coverage of Seattle’s Week-11 victory over the Vikings at CenturyLink Field.
|• Recap | Stats | Photos | Postgame interviews||• O’Neil: What We Learned||• Henderson: Harvin shines in Seahawks debut||• Wyman: The Percy Harvin Effect||• Pete Carroll: 10-1 Seahawks only getting better|
“I’ve been in love with Russell since I got over here,” Harvin said. “Just the way he prepares for the game, he just makes everybody else feel that much more comfortable.”
This is coming from a player who a year ago felt stymied in Minnesota, that the Vikings’ lack of a vertical passing game was holding the team back. Harvin was asked after the game how the offense he’s in compared to the one he left.
“This offense does the exact opposite,” Harvin said. “It allows you to stretch the field.”
That’s more than just the scheme, but the quarterback who’s running it – a guy who spent the first eight weeks taking hit after hit and still spinning gold as he ran out of the pocket.
The protection was hardly perfect on Sunday. In fact, there were several times it wasn’t all that good, but it’s much better than it was even three weeks ago.
That’s translated to less of a burden on Wilson and a chance to show how much he can do with this offense.