Seahawks’ Russell Wilson won’t be MVP, but he’s playing like one

Dec 20, 2015, 6:21 PM | Updated: Dec 21, 2015, 11:18 am
Russell Wilson’s 162 straight passes without an interception is the second-longest streak in ...
Russell Wilson's 162 straight passes without an interception is the second-longest streak in team history. (AP)
(AP)

Russell Wilson is not going to be named the NFL’s MVP.

That’s more about politics than performance, though.

Because for all that Cam Newton has done as the best player on the league’s only undefeated team – and he’s done a ton – Wilson has done something even more significant.

He took hold of a season that was on the brink in Seattle and guided the Seahawks back to the playoffs with five straight games in which he has played as close to perfect as a quarterback can. Not only that, he did it even as the Seahawks lost impact player after impact player on offense.

Recap | More TDs for Baldwin | Good showing by RBs | Okung injured | Photos

No Marshawn Lynch. No Jimmy Graham. And now, no Thomas Rawls. No problem. Nineteen touchdown passes. No interceptions. That’s what he has done during this five-game winning streak while completing 74.2 percent of his pass attempts and throwing 10 scoring passes to Doug Baldwin.

“Make ’em notice,” Seattle safety Earl Thomas said of Wilson. “That’s one of his sayings. He’s in a zone. Especially him and Doug. He’s taking over. He’s separating himself in this league.”

Wilson was 21-for-30 passing against Cleveland on Sunday, throwing three more touchdown passes without being intercepted.

Don’t look to the MVP balloting for validation, though. There are 50 voters, each of whom is asked to pick a single winner. Newton is the favorite with New England’s Tom Brady and Arizona’s Carson Palmer also considerations.

It’s possible that Wilson won’t get a single first-place vote, and that’s a shame because of all the MVP candidates, Wilson is the one whose role changed the most over the course of the year as he went from a facilitator to the focal point of Seattle’s offense.

Brady has been his team’s cornerstone for a decade now. Palmer was always going to be the key for Arizona while Newton is playing the role in Carolina that Wilson served the past three years in Seattle: the most dynamic offensive element of a defensively oriented contender.

Those guys have steered the seasons for their respective teams. Wilson, on the other hand, saved Seattle by stepping up after the injuries to three of Seattle’s most important players. Seattle hasn’t just survived those losses, the Seahawks have thrived. They’ve scored 30 or more points in four successive games for the first time under head coach Pete Carroll and only the second time in the franchise’s history.

“A lot of it is just because Russ,” Baldwin said. “He’s the man right now. He’s balling.”

For three years, Wilson has been one of the league’s very best playmakers. Someone who could improvise and scramble and create all while not turning the ball over.

What has happened the past five weeks is something different, though. He has been the league’s very best quarterback in that time whether it’s adjusting protections at the line of scrimmage, diagnosing coverages or passing from the pocket.

It wasn’t that he never did those things before. He’s just never done it as well – nor as consistently – as he has been doing. He has thrown 162 consecutive passes without being picked off, the second-longest streak in franchise history.

Midway through the season, there were still questions about whether Wilson would ever be an above-average passer while in the pocket. These past five weeks, he has been unparalleled in that regard.

That is the reason that Seattle is riding a five-game winning streak, and that is something that differentiates this December from last year. The Seahawks won their final six regular-season games last year because the defense found its footing and dug in its heels.

This year?

“You see just the efficiency of our offense is the best it has been since we’ve been here,” Carroll said.

Carroll has said he wants his quarterback to be a point guard, which is exactly what Wilson is doing, except he’s playing that position like the Warriors’ Steph Curry.

Cleveland coach Mike Pettine drew attention earlier this week when he declined to include Wilson among the upper tier of the league’s quarterbacks. The guys like Brady and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, who can transcend their supporting cast.

That wasn’t as curious as what Pettine said afterward when asked about the streak Wilson is on. Instead, Pettine pointed to the pass that cornerback Tramon Williams nearly picked off in the end zone with less than 4 minutes remaining and the Browns trailing by 14.

“That’s the difference in the game,” Pettine said.

No. The difference in the game was that Wilson played another afternoon of error-free football in a game in which neither of Seattle’s top two running backs were on Seattle’s roster when the week began on Monday.

Here’s hoping that MVP voters are more observant than Cleveland’s coach, because no one has made a bigger difference in his team’s season than Wilson.

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Seahawks’ Russell Wilson won’t be MVP, but he’s playing like one