It’s tempting to suggest that Russell Wilson grew up on Sunday, but the fear is it sounds like the set-up to a “height” joke.
So let’s just say that the Seattle quarterback played more like a poised, resourceful, unflappable veteran than an undersized rookie as he tossed a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to lead Seattle to a 24-23 upset of New England.
As pointed out by teammate Richard Sherman, the marvelously unfiltered cornerback/commentator, Wilson has now led fourth-quarter comeback victories over Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay and Tom Brady of New England. “Not many people can say that – and he did it with confidence,” Sherman said.
Wilson apparently does everything with confidence, improving every game as the Seahawks moved to 4-2 with surprising home wins over Dallas, Green Bay and New England now stacked up.
Despite a sluggish third quarter on Sunday, Wilson finished with career highs in passing yards (293) and touchdown passes (3) while completing 16 of his 27 attempts for a passer rating of 133.7.
He bought second chances with his evasiveness, showed a gift for delivering deep balls on target, and an indisputable flair for the dramatic.
But he was the only Seahawks player who came out of the game without a gushing assessment of his performance.
“Obviously, I’m a rookie,” he said. “I’m just trying to help the other 10 guys play at a high level. I just call the play and trust what I see, and just facilitate the ball to the right guy at the right time, and that’s got to be the goal, and for us to get the ball in the end zone.”
The Seahawks had been low on explosive plays of 20 yards or more, but Wilson delivered six of them Sunday. And his 16 completions went to 10 receivers.
Wilson has been the flashpoint of communal debate since the start of the season, because he falls short of accepted league specifications at 5-foot-10.
Teammates in the locker room Sunday afternoon saw no shortcomings.
“It was amazing,” Sherman said. “You start to see flickers of what he did (in college) at Wisconsin. He’s a helluva leader; he never gets down and he never gets down on his teammates.”
Receiver Doug Baldwin benefited from two big passes from Wilson, including a 50-yarder and a 24-yard touchdown. Baldwin graduated from Stanford, but protested that he had trouble coming up with a sufficient description of Wilson’s performance.
“There’s not enough words out there for me to say,” Baldwin said. “The final play itself (a 46-yard touchdown to Sidney Rice with 1:18 to play) shows his poise, his calm nature, and his ability to go out there and get it done – especially when it counts in crunch time.”
Crunch time? The last time Seattle won a game after trailing by 13 or more in the fourth quarter was September 2003, over St. Louis.
Wilson has made steady improvement, and is showing a growing mastery of the offense.
“He’s getting better every week,” Rice said. “I think he’s ready to make this offense explode.”
Several of the big gainers against New England were the result of something the staff stressed last week.
“This week, we made a big point we have not taken advantage of Russell’s movement,” coach Pete Carroll said. “There are huge plays there for us if we just look and fight harder to get open.”
An early deep ball to Baldwin came off a Wilson scramble “which was a great validation for the point that we had made.”
Carroll touted Wilson’s capacity to learn from his mistakes and not repeat them. Several linemen, meanwhile, talked about how cool he was in the huddle on the late scoring drives.
Receiver Braylon Edwards, who caught a fourth-quarter touchdown from Wilson, said he’d watched the rookie closely.
“He’s a guy who continually fights, continually goes in and studies film and knows the opponent,” Edwards said. “He’s making strides and you see that in what he did today. He made some bad throws and then he came right back and made some good throws, and some even better throws after that.”
The Patriots have Tom Brady on offense, of course, and gained almost 500 yards, but the New England defense was not nearly so imposing, ranked 22nd overall, and a lowly 30th against the pass.
So critics can quibble some about Wilson’s numbers if they choose. And it’s unlikely a rookie can play consistently at this level.
But Edwards said those things don’t matter as much as what he saw of Wilson in the second half Sunday.
“That’s what you like to see in a good quarterback – young or old,” Edwards said. “How do you overcome adversity? Today Russell Wilson played well.”Dave Boling: 253-597-8440