The indestructible Russell Wilson was limping. He had bulbous, black-tape wraps on the outsides of his ankles. He looked as if he was laboriously trekking the Wonderland Trail in hiking boots as much as quarterbacking the Seahawks.
The back of his right ankle had gotten kicked by Miami’s big, bad Ndamukong Suh during a sack in the third quarter. Wilson could no longer move away easily from defenders. The 27-year old was short and soft on some of his throws. He couldn’t take off running as he has so devilishly for four wondrous Seattle seasons.
He looked like his offense: He lacked zip.
“I was pretty limited,” Wilson admitted. “I was telling Coach (Pete) Carroll and some of the trainers, ‘When I’m 43, 44, 45 years old and still playing, that’s probably what I’ll look like.”
If he looks like he did at the end of Sunday’s season opener, Wilson can have a Seahawks job for life.
Down 10-6 to huge underdog Miami, Wilson rallied Seattle on a 14-play drive in a two-minute drill with two fourth-down conversions. It ended with his two-yard flip to Doug Baldwin in the left corner of the end zone with 31 seconds remaining. The score came on a play the QB changed at the line. Baldwin said Wilson had never before done that particular switch.
That touchdown allowed the Seahawks to escape the Dolphins — and themselves — in a 12-10 victory at a relieved CenturyLink Field.
Wilson’s finish had his teammates referring to higher powers.
“He has shown the propensity,” Baldwin said, “to do miraculous things.”
Cornerback Richard Sherman said, aptly: “It’s a blessing we came out with a win.”
The winningest quarterback to begin an NFL career has never missed a Seahawks play or even practice. Could he miss preparation time this week for next Sunday’s game at Los Angeles?
“We’ll see,” Carroll said following his third win in seven openers as Seattle’s coach when asked about Wilson’s availability throughout this week: “Yes, we have to look at it.
“He got in a really bad situation there, you know, when he got kicked.
“How tough can you be? It didn’t even faze him.”
It fazed the Seahawks. They prepped backup Trevone Boykin to enter the game. The undrafted rookie put on his helmet, threw passes and took snaps with starting center Justin Britt in front of the bench.
But during one of five three-and-outs the Seahawks’ defense forced out of Miami, a trainer did a lightning-fast tape job on the Seahawks’ starting quarterback. Wilson, who completed 27 of 43 throws for 258 yards with that touchdown and an interception under duress in the first half, was putting on his helmet before he was even off the training table.
So what that his right ankle was throbbing and it largely immobilized the most mobile QB around?
Wilson’s got two ankles.
“He’s Russell Wilson,” said Thomas Rawls, the running back who returned from his broken ankle in December to rush for 32 yards on 12 carries.
“He’s going to finish that game some type of way — even if it’s on one leg.”
In the big picture, the best thing to say about the Seahawks’ day was to use one Carroll’s favorite faint praises for a tepid performance: They got through it.
The offense kept committing penalties. It allowed three sacks. It was failing to generate first downs, momentum, or anything beyond two field goals.
With a 3-0 lead after one period, the Seahawks netted 31 yards on their first 13 snaps of the second quarter. Their average drive start in the first half was their own 21.
Wilson’s 26 passes to start were his most in a first half in his five-year career. Nineteen of Seattle’s first 27 play calls were passes, most of them quick ones to help his offensive line that had new starters in four positions — including J’Marcus Webb at right guard for the injured Germain Ifedi, the rookie first-round draft choice.
But, as it often has, Seattle’s defense kept the team ahead. Miami had 118 total yards, seven in the third quarter. The Seahawks led this slog 6-3 deep into the final quarter.
Then, out of nowhere, the Dolphins went 86 yards on seven plays. Jarvis Landry and Arian Foster got free for long catch-and-runs against Seattle’s zone coverages. The Dolphins took a 10-6 lead with 4:08 left on a two-yard quarterback draw by Ryan Tannehill.
For the moment, that rendered moot plays that until then appeared pivotal. So much for 6-foot-4 Seahawks defensive end Cassius Marsh’s blocked field goal on a 27-yard try by Miami’s Andrew Franks with 10½ minutes left. Or the dropped pass by the Dolphins’ Kenny Stills in the first half when he was six yards behind Earl Thomas for what would have been a touchdown.
Christine Michael kept the Seahawks’ final drive alive when he converted a fourth-and-inches play with a seven-yard run inside. On fourth and 4 from the Seattle 47 and 2:08 left, Wilson’s lofted pass found Baldwin for a 22-yard gain to the Miami 31.
Then Jimmy Graham picked a decent time for his first catch since his torn patellar tendon in his knee Nov. 29, down to the Miami 16.
After the game in the locker room, Carroll hugged Graham. The coach whispered in his ear and noted the tight end’s long, lonely 9½ months of recovery from major knee surgery.
“It was such a big injury, such an extraordinary rehab,” Carroll said.
“It was very emotional.”
Another catch by Baldwin got Seattle to the 2; he finished with a career-high nine receptions for 92 yards in his first game since signing a $46 million contract extension.
Two plays later, he and Wilson won the game.
“When the plays count, we know how to finish,” Baldwin said. “We’ve shown that for five years, so it shouldn’t be a surprise.
“Obviously, we want to start cleaner. We want to do things more consistently. But you can always count on us to execute at a high level when you need to finish things.”
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle