What We Learned: Wilson leading Seahawks’ surge, not their defense
The Seahawks made a point on Sunday night.
That point was made clear to the entire country about how formidable this Seattle team remains.
But the reason it’s so formidable is different now, and it has to do with quarterback Russell Wilson more than ever before.
He is the signature of this team, not the defense. That sounds weird to say considering that Seattle has allowed the fewest points in the league for each of the past four seasons. But the Seahawks’ win over New England was the fourth time in five weeks that Seattle has given up 20 or more points. The Seahawks were 1-6 last season when opponents scored 20 or more. They are 3-1 this season, and the reason for that has very much to do with the quarterback, which starts our list of what we learned.
Three things we learned:
1. Wilson is more than capable of winning a QB duel. Tom Brady threw for 300 or more yards for the 75th time in his career Sunday night. He also failed to throw a touchdown pass, which is only the fifth time that has happened in his last 101 regular-season starts. On the other hand, Wilson threw for 348 yards, which was a regular-season career-high, and passed for three touchdowns without being picked off. There was a lot made of the fact that last year’s victory over Pittsburgh was the first time Seattle won a game in which the opponent scored 25 or more points during Wilson’s tenure. Let’s take that one step further, though. From 2012 through 2015, a span that includes that victory over the Steelers, the Seahawks were 9-14 in games in which opponents scored 20 or more points. This season? Seattle is 3-1 in those games, and that is a testament to how much more proficient Wilson is when the team has to rely upon him to keep pace with the opponent.
2. C.J. Prosise is more than a pass-catching third-down back. Let’s be clear: He can do that, too. In fact, looks like he’s going to be really good at it as he led Seattle with seven receptions and had the second-longest catch of the night, outrunning a linebacker down the sideline for a 38-yard gain in the first half. But Prosise looked like anything but a converted wide receiver with the way he ran inside, the hits that he took and perhaps most importantly the one he delivered along the Patriots’ sideline in third quarter before he went out of bounds on a 10-yard gain. “He’s really tough,” coach Pete Carroll said of Prosise. “I love the ball, he catches one and runs up the sidelines and he’s got a chance to step out of bounds or whatever and laid the wood to a guy. Our guys really respect that. He was trying to make every inch he could, and he had a couple of really good finishes.”
3. The running game is not necessarily an oxymoron for Seattle. Ninety-six yards rushing might not sound like all that much. In fact, it isn’t all that much when you consider Seattle averaged more than 130 rushing yards in each of the previous four seasons. But the 96 yards the Seahawks rushed for on Sunday night was the most Seattle has had on the ground since Week 3 against San Francisco. And in the second quarter, Seattle rushed for 47 yards, which helped control the clock. In fact, Seattle held the ball for more than 8 minutes in both the second and the fourth quarter, which was very telling.
Three things we’re still trying to figure out:
1. The physics behind the dent Earl Thomas put in Rob Gronkowski’s chest. Seattle’s free safety is giving away at least 50, maybe even more than 60 pounds in a collision with the Patriots tight end in the second quarter. “That was a big hit for sure,” Gronkowski said afterward. “Probably one of the hardest I’ve got hit in my career, for sure, by a good player. A good fast player who’s like a missile. It was a good, clean hit, nothing against it.” Thomas got up skipping afterward while Gronkowski was shaken up, and there were reports on Monday that he suffered a punctured lung. Now we just need ESPN’s sports science to explain all the vectors that equated to such a vicious hit, which was absolutely ruthless.
2. Is George Fant going to start at left tackle the rest of the season? This was the third game Fant has started in place of Bradley Sowell, who has been out with a sprained knee ligament. And as Carroll praised the play of the three interior linemen, he added a compliment to Seattle’s undrafted rookie, the converted basketball player who switched to football only last year. “For the first game, George didn’t have a mental error in the game, which is a great sign of progress,” Carroll said. “Most of the guys have a mistake in there somewhere. And he made it through the game, graded out beautifully in terms of his assignments. So that’s just getting better, doing things right more.” Throw in the fact that Carroll mentioned last week that Sowell may practice some at right tackle, and Fant may not be the left tackle of the future. He might be the left tackle of the present.
3. Should we be concerned about Seattle’s defense? Sounds weird to ask. After all, this is a group that held two of the first six opponents without a touchdown this season. But over the past three games, the Seahawks have allowed more touchdowns (eight) than they’ve forced punts (seven). Now, those are also the three games that defensive lineman Michael Bennett has missed, and he’s expected back at least by December, which is good. But there’s no doubt that Seattle’s defense is different now than it was early this season.