Rost: Playing like ‘man on fire,’ Wilson leads Seahawks to empty-stadium win

Sep 21, 2020, 9:08 AM
Seahawks QB Russell Wilson...
Seahawks QB Russell Wilson has nine touchdowns through Week 2. (AP)

The Seattle Seahawks beat the New England Patriots in the final seconds of a Sunday night thriller, and after defensive end L.J. Collier tripped up quarterback Cam Newton on the Patriots last-chance effort to cross the goal line, the sound of 100 or so voices cried out in victory. Players and coaches rushed across the field. It was a celebratory excitement that felt odd in front of an empty stadium that would normally be holding nearly 70,000 similarly screaming fans.

O’Neil: Seahawks, Patriots add another thrilling finish from 1 yard out

Instead, Seahawks fans watched from home.

On the one hand, that brings the best seat in the house for touchdowns. But there were small moments missed on Sunday’s televised broadcast; things that fans would normally be privy to. Fans miss moments where personalities shine through – perhaps no one dances more than David Moore in pregame warmups – as well as small displays of maturity and leadership – Duane Brown is frequently the first player to extend a hand to Russell Wilson after he’s knocked off his feet.

In the final seconds of the defense’s stand against the Patriots, fans missed the rest of the Seahawks players jumping up and down on the sideline of an empty stadium, waving their arms to draw noise from an invisible crowd to fuel a final stop.

Two more moments came during separate Seahawks touchdowns. On first-and-10 with just over two minutes remaining in the third quarter, a blown coverage left rookie wide receiver Freddie Swain wide open. Wilson threw a quick pass across the middle to Swain. Wilson was almost immediately knocked backwards by a Patriots defender, but for a few seconds he remained on the ground and watched the rookie sprint down the sideline for what was a sure score. At first, I wondered whether he was injured. Then I wondered whether he’d seen enough in those few seconds to recognize that that Swain would be able to run into the endzone untouched.

Another play drew a different reaction. Late in the fourth quarter with Seattle deep in Patriots territory, Wilson found running back Chris Carson in the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown pass.

Seattle hadn’t scored since the third quarter. Wilson and the rest of the offense had just watched the Patriots drive down the field to narrow Seattle’s lead to five points. Worse still, Seattle’s prior drive had three penalties and went nowhere. After this touchdown, a fired-up Wilson – to what looked like no one in particular – pumped his fist and cried out. It was as though all emotion had boiled to burst from the normally calm-and-collected quarterback.

That reaction feels like the Wilson fans have seen these past two weeks. Wilson is a consummate professional, so composed in press conferences and so polite to reporters and that it’s easy to forget how obsessed he is with winning – with being the best. Never mind that he’s said this in countless interviews. When asked days ago whether he believes he’s the best quarterback in the NFL, Wilson said “I believe so, without a doubt.”

“I didn’t come to play this game to be second place,” he told reporters after Sunday’s victory.

It’s hard to see what else Wilson can do to prove his case.

Seattle’s star has been playing like a man on fire. Wilson has nine touchdowns in two games and is a combined 52 of 63 (82%). According to NFL Research, that makes him just the third player in the Super Bowl era with nine or more passing touchdowns and one or fewer interceptions across the first two weeks of a season. He’s always excelled at the deep ball and it’s been on display in Seattle’s back-to-back wins, with perhaps nothing looking prettier than his 54-yard pass to DK Metcalf Sunday.

Wilson, for all his winning, hasn’t received the accolades of some of his peers. Last week, Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Wilson is, in a way, underrated. Maybe part of that is the growing excitement around a rush of younger players, led by Patrick Mahomes. But at just 31 years old himself, Wilson hardly seems ready or willing to accept second place. Already, he’s leading the league in touchdown passes (9), completion percentage (82%), and passer rating (140.0).

“I think that if I’m not thinking (I want to be first), I’m crazy to,” Wilson said, “because if you want to be great you have to believe in who you are and what you have and all the things that you do. I put tons of work in this game and I want to be the best in the world, but I can’t do it alone. It’s all the guys that we have around me, and they have done a great job of making plays … it’s really special group of men that we have on offense and defense and just I’m grateful to be able to play with such amazing guys.”

Follow Stacy Rost on Twitter.

More from the Seahawks’ win over New England

Unlikely duo saves the day, DK Metcalf has a star-making game
Instant Reaction: 710’s voices on Hawks’ win
Seahawks stop Cam Newton, Patriots on final play to win 35-30

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