By Mike Salk
It’s really easy to watch the Seahawks and get caught up in Russell Wilson. He is, after all, the most fascinating player on the field at all times. He plays the game’s most important position and it does it unlike anyone since Fran Tarkenton (I’m told). He is cool, creative, smart, poised, accurate, fast, shifty, robotic, artistic, strong-armed, decisive and hard to contain.
And now he’ll be taking that act to the postseason, thanks to a 42-13 mollywhopping of the supposed best team in his division.
Wilson was incredible against what is considered the best defense in the league, finishing 15 of 21 (71 percent) for 171 yards, four touchdowns and one (tipped) interception.
With four touchdown passes against San Francisco Sunday night, Russell Wilson is now one shy of Peyton Manning’s rookie record of 26. (AP)
It was fun watching him throw darts, like the 17-yard completion to Jermaine Kearse on third down. It was fun to watch him pump-fake six yards down the field and trick defenders into jumping in the air before rushing right around them. It was fun to watch him scramble back, forward, left, and right before making a play or avoiding a sack.
And it’s comforting knowing that he has over-prepared for every game. That he obsessively studies film. That he knows how to protect the ball and his body.
It’s been fun watching him take any criticism and work to completely eradicate it from his game. Remember when he couldn’t convert third downs? He was 11 of 13 on Sunday. Remember when he couldn’t convert in the red zone? He was 4 of 4 with four touchdowns; the team has scored on its last 23 trips inside the 20.
Those are the reasons Pete Carroll made the difficult decision to start him over Matt Flynn. That is why Carroll finally allowed him more leeway to make plays on his own. Wilson has vindicated his coach from so many that questioned the logic of “sacrificing” early games while the kid developed. Those critics have changed their tune.
Some will be so impressed by his total package that they’ll vote for him for offensive rookie of the year. They’ll point to him (at least) challenging Peyton Manning’s rookie record for touchdowns. Manning had 26, Wilson now has 25. They’ll recognize his contributions to a 10- or 11-win team.
Wait, did I just write that Wilson has 25 touchdowns? Holy cow! Are you serious? That is a crazy number!
How about this: while Manning needed 575 attempts to set that record in 1998, Wilson has thrown it just 374 times. I don’t see him tossing 201 balls against the Rams, but you never know.
Even more, Manning achieved 26 touchdowns as a rookie, but they were accompanied by 28 picks. Wilson has a mere 10. Oh, and Wilson adds three more rushing touchdowns that Manning did not have.
Manning also did not achieve a quarterback rating as high as Wilson’s until his sixth season.
I’m sorry, though. I’m getting caught up in Wilsonism and that’s not the point of this column.
No, the point is this: while it’s easy to get caught up in watching (or writing about) Russell Wilson, the real story of this game was the reemergence of Seattle’s defense.
It’s not so much that they only allowed 13 points to an offense that had been fairly explosive the last few weeks, scoring 27 or more in four of its last five games. It’s not so much the two turnovers or extra forced fumble that they nearly recovered. Or the excellent third-down defense, holding San Francisco to just three conversions in 11 chances.
Those things were nice, but I was more impressed with the return of the swagger that had been missing recently.
It was evident on the first series when Jeremy Lane defended a deep ball and they forced a three-and-out. That set the tone.
It was even more evident when Kam Chancellor laid the wood to LaMichael James, forcing a fumble.
And it was never more evident than when Chancellor pummeled Vernon Davis, knocking their biggest weapon out of the game with a concussion.
After that, no one wanted to catch the ball in traffic. It was reminiscent of the games against St. Louis and Green Bay, where the receivers short-armed passes and dove to the ground after every reception.
That was the style that we expected to see from this defense. And if it has returned for the playoff run and is now coupled with a newly explosive offense?
There is no limit for this team. They are fully capable of beating anyone they play.
They’ll get a chance to start proving that on the biggest stage.