O’Neil: Russell Wilson didn’t cost Seahawks the game in Green Bay, but he didn’t win it either
GREEN BAY, Wisc. – Russell Wilson certainly didn’t lose the game for the Seahawks.
He didn’t win it either, though.
And while that’s not a criticism of Seattle’s quarterback, it’s not letting him off the hook entirely, either.
That’s part of the burden of being a franchise quarterback in the NFL. More accurately, it’s the burden of being paid like a franchise quarterback in a salary-capped league. There are lots of times where the quarterback is not just asked, but expected, to make up the difference.
Sunday’s 17-9 loss in Green Bay was one of those times.
Wilson wasn’t bad in Green Bay. Not like last year when he was intercepted five times in that blowout loss at Lambeau Field in December. There were even a couple of times Wilson managed to muster something resembling momentum after the Seahawks had switched to a no-huddle offense and he mounted scoring drives.
But Wilson finished the day an eminently forgettable 14-for-27 passing for 158 yards, and Seattle’s offense had laid yet another stinker on the road.
Kind of like last year’s road opener in Los Angeles, when the Seahawks were held to three points against the Rams. Or that overtime tie in Arizona when the Seahawks managed six points in five 15-minute periods. Or the five-point abomination that occurred in Tampa Bay last November.
That puts an awful lot of pressure on a Seattle defense that was on the field for more than 20 of the 30 minutes in the first half.
“It has been like this for eight years,” safety Earl Thomas said. “We understand that sometimes our offense is not going to be in a rhythm like they need to be. We’ve just got to stand up.”
Thomas was not complaining. He was vowing the defense needed to up its game.
“It’s just going to make us stronger,” Thomas said, “because when we have tough challenges like that, it’s just going to build our character. We needed that.”
That’s nice of Thomas to say and noble to have that ambition, but the reality is that Seattle needs its offense to do more than tread water if the Seahawks are going to be any more of a credible playoff threat than they’ve been the past two years.
Up through 2014, it was a running game led by Marshawn Lynch that gave Seattle’s offense the power required. And for the final eight games of 2015, it was Wilson who was operating at a historically prolific rate from the pocket.
On Sunday in Green Bay, Wilson wasn’t good enough to counterbalance the rest of the difficulties on offense. The Seahawks scored nine points in Green Bay and they cost themselves seven with a turnover that set up the Packers with first-and-goal at the Seattle 6 in the third quarter.
There are plenty of places to point for that loss starting with an offensive line that looked every bit as inadequate as it did a year ago. Also, the rebuilt run game wasn’t capable of much more than a brisk walk.
Wilson certainly didn’t cost the Seahawks the game. Then again, he didn’t win it either, and in that way a second-quarter play in which he overthrew Tyler Lockett captured the storyline of the game.
You can’t blame Wilson for overthrowing Lockett. The Packers’ carnivorous defensive lineman Mike Daniels was bearing down on Wilson, both hurrying Seattle’s quarterback and preventing him from truly stepping into the throw.
At the same time, it was a play that could have made the difference in the game. The kind of play you hope your franchise quarterback can make when the opportunity presents itself however unexpectedly.
And on Sunday, a fully healthy Wilson wasn’t any more capable of single-handedly elevating this offense than he was last year while playing through injuries to his ankle, knee and pectoral muscle.
It doesn’t matter whether that expectation is fair or not. It’s the reality a franchise quarterback faces in this league. It’s something Aaron Rodgers has faced and Peyton Manning before him. The quarterback is counted upon to counteract any of the other ills that befall the offense even on the road.
No wait, especially on the road.
Two weeks from now in Tennessee, we’ll see if Wilson can rise to that challenge.