What We Learned: The narrative that Seahawks QB Russell Wilson needs a great defense can be retired
Two weeks ago, the Seahawks’ playoff chances were pegged right about 25 percent. Now they’re more like 75 percent, because quarterback Russell Wilson led a fourth-quarter comeback for the second time in two games, which has Seattle sitting at 6-5 and staring ahead to a home stretch that includes four games at CenturyLink Field in the final five weeks.
It’s Wilson’s efficiency down the stretch that leads off our list of the three things we learned from Sunday’s win in Carolina:
1. Time to retire the narrative that Russell Wilson depends on a great defense.
Because this Seahawks defense isn’t great. It might not even be that good. The Panthers gained an average of 8.5 yards per offensive snap and seven of their nine offensive possessions wound up in Seattle’s red zone – yet somehow the Seahawks won.
Actually, Russell Wilson was how the Seahawks won. He was not intercepted for the third consecutive game, and then in the fourth quarter he turned ruthless as an executioner.
Facing fourth-and-3 with his team down 27-20 in the final 4 minutes, he threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to David Moore. On Seattle’s next possession, facing third-and-5 with the score tied in the final minute, he fired a 43-yard pass to Tyler Lockett, who was on the opposite side of the field.
This wasn’t some sort of efficient matriculation down the field in crunch time. These were the actions of a truly cold-blooded quarterback who stares daggers and throws dimes. Anyone who’s still saying that he is nothing more than the caretaker of an offense that must be buttressed by a championship defense is trapped in 2013 and should be informed of this new reality that exists right here in Seattle in 2018.
2. Receivers need a stat like slugging percentage.
If we had that, we might appreciate just how incredibly, devastatingly efficient Tyler Lockett has been this year. Of his 43 receptions, eight have scored touchdowns. Of all players in the NFL with more than 30 catches this season, only Colts tight end Eric Ebron has had a higher percentage of his catches result in a touchdown.
But it’s more than just the scoring punch.
Lockett has caught 43 of the 54 passes he has been targeted on, which is an impossibly high 79.6 percent. Put it a different way, the Seahawks gain an average of 12.2 yards on plays in which Lockett is targeted. Julio Jones leads the league in receiving yards. He’s caught 84 of the 125 passes on which he has been targeted (67.2 percent) for an average of 10.4 yards per target. Minnesota’s Adam Thielen leads the league with 93 catches on his 124 targets (75 percent) for an average of 9.2 yards per target.
That’s not arguing Lockett is having a better season, but to point out how much more Lockett is making out of drastically fewer opportunities. We’re so focused on volume in today’s game of pass-happy offenses and inflated receiving totals that it’s really easy to lose sight of the extraordinary impact Lockett is having for the team that throws the fewest passes of any offense in the league.
3. The Seahawks can’t wait to get Mychal Kendricks back.
Barkevious Mingo has been better than expected in pass coverage. The bar wasn’t set all that high, though, considering he had never been utilized as anything other than an edge pass rusher in the five seasons he has spread among three different teams since entering the league.
Mingo has been a really good addition to this team, but his inexperience in pass coverage was evident in the game at Carolina. And with K.J. Wright’s availability in doubt for next Sunday against San Francisco because of an ongoing issue with his knee, Seattle could really use Kendricks, who is now practicing with the team but must miss one more game because of an NFL suspension relating to his guilty plea to a felony charge of insider trading.
Personally, the only thing I find outrageous is the length of his suspension for this particular crime, but professionally, there’s no doubt that Seattle’s defense will be helped by Kendricks, who looked great in the four games he did play for the Seahawks before he received the suspension.