After a miserable start, Russell Wilson delivers an epic finish
At first he was awful.
Then he was unbelievable.
And ultimately, Russell Wilson was simply unforgettable, tears streaming down his cheeks as he was interviewed on the field after throwing the game-winning touchdown pass in overtime, an oversized NFC Championship T-shirt pulled over his jersey and shoulder pads.
There was no rant after this conference championship. Just the redemption of a quarterback who played the worst football he has as a Seahawk for the first 55 minutes before spinning gold on Seattle’s final three drives.
“We found a way to be just right at the end,” Wilson said.
Actually, they were better than that. Wilson certainly was, from his 1-yard touchdown scramble that started the rally to the whirly-bird throw that resulted in an oh-so-important two-point conversion in the final 2 minutes of the fourth quarter all leading up to his audible that resulted in a 35-yard pass to Jermaine Kearse for the game-winning touchdown.
“There ain’t nothing more beautiful than that last play there,” coach Pete Carroll said afterward.
And just like that, Wilson reached into the ashes of what had been an awful performance and pulled out something truly remarkable.
This game won’t be remembered for the four passes he had picked off by Green Bay, his most interceptions in any NFL game. It won’t be remembered for the fact that he completed only eight of his first 22 pass attempts for 75 yards and had a quarterback rating smaller than his shoe size with 4 minutes left in the fourth quarter.
He was off. Actually, he was awful, and for all the discussion you want to have about the pair of passes that deflected off Kearse’s hands only to be intercepted, there were two picks that Wilson had to own himself. The quarterback who was intercepted just once in his first six playoff games – and that was a Hail Mary heave in Atlanta two years ago – was picked off four times by the Packers.
It’s what happened after that last interception occurred with 5 minutes left in the game, Seattle trailing 19-7, that not only decided Sunday’s game but defined the kind of player Wilson has become. He completed six of seven passes for 135 yards on Seattle’s final three possessions, including back-to-back 35-yard completions on the game-winning drive, twin darts that punctuated Sunday’s game with an exclamation point and more than a few dollar signs.
“He’s a $150 million quarterback,” defensive lineman Michael Bennett said of Wilson, who is eligible for an extension this offseason. “I’m saying it right now: $62 million guaranteed.”
This was Seattle’s fourth overtime game with Wilson at quarterback, and the third time he led the Seahawks to a game-winning touchdown on the opening drive.
“Down the stretch, you want Russell Wilson,” tight end Luke Willson said. “I think everybody in America knows that. And if they didn’t, they know it now. And Canada, too. We’ll throw Canada in there as well.”
Actually, Canada had a fair amount to do with this Seahawks victory. Punter Jon Ryan is Canadian, and he threw the Seahawks’ first touchdown pass on a fake field-goal attempt. Former CFL player Chris Matthews recovered the onside kick with just over 2 minutes left, something that bumped the Seahawks’ odds of winning by 20 percent.
But it was Wilson (with one L) who took the game over down the stretch. Afterward, left tackle Russell Okung was asked what he learned about his quarterback.
“Something we all knew about him,” Okung said. “We know he’s a fighter. We know he’s a fighter. He showed plenty of resolve coming through. He just kept playing. He kept playing. He knew we were depending on him and he came through, made that big play at the end. That’s the Russell Wilson we know.”
And that’s the Russell Wilson that will be remembered from Sunday’s game.