How much more evidence do we need that Russell Wilson’s injured legs have healed?
He’s CATCHING touchdown passes FROM Doug Baldwin now.
“Yeah, that’s a good way to put it,” Baldwin said inside another poppin’ Seahawks postgame locker room on Sunday.
That was about an hour after Baldwin threw a 15-yard touchdown pass on a throwback trick play to Seattle’s franchise quarterback to make franchise history. Wilson became the first quarterback in 41 seasons of Seahawks football to catch a touchdown pass, one that Baldwin exquisitely placed over his shoulder.
Wilson also threw a touchdown pass that no one else in the league would, one of his signature, improvisational ones to Jimmy Graham. Seattle’s defense sacked, smacked and tracked Philadelphia rookie quarterback Carson Wentz. And the Seahawks bulled through potentially key injuries to beat the Eagles, 26-15, before a roaring, record crowd of 69,190 at CenturyLink Field.
Seattle (7-2-1) won its third consecutive game. It moved three games ahead of defending division-champion Arizona and 3 1/2 games up on Los Angeles with six weeks left in the regular season. The Seahawks strengthened their hold on the second-best record in the NFC, 1 ½ games behind Dallas.
Here they are again: After the injuries, doubt and tumult of September and October, the Seahawks improved to 31-6 in November and December since Wilson became their starter as a rookie in week one of 2012.
“We believe that we can overcome any obstacle and any situation,” Wilson said, “because we’ve been in pretty much every situation, in every way.”
Wilson became the fourth NFL quarterback to catch a touchdown pass since 2008. He was open from Seattle to Tacoma along the left sideline. Baldwin’s perfect pass plopped over the quarterback’s shoulder as the wide receiver was getting hit.
“I was talking to him, saying, ‘We can switch jobs if you want. It may not be pretty,’ ” Wilson joked about Baldwin, over a play they said they’d been waiting four years to run in a game.
Baldwin said it was his first TD throw at any level, even back to youth leagues in Florida.
“It was on point. You saw it. Perfect spiral. Dropped it in the bucket,” he said with a smirk.
“Honestly, I just kind of chucked it up there and Russell made it look pretty.”
As usual. At least now that he’s healthy again.
In his regular job, Wilson completed 18 of 31 throws for 272 yards and the touchdown to Graham. More important than the numbers, for the second consecutive week he moved well — if not completely like his preinjury self — in the pocket and while scrambling.
He’s showing that his sprained right ankle and left knee of September, October and into November are becoming more of his past than his present.
Rookie C.J. Prosise made his second consecutive start and ran 72 yards behind right tackle Garry Gilliam, collapsing down Eagles stud defensive tackle Fletcher Cox for the game’s first score. But on the last drive before halftime, Prosise got a scapula-bone injury on the back of his shoulder that coach Pete Carroll said is going to keep the recently dynamic third-round pick out “a while.”
Thomas Rawls returned from two months out with a cracked fibula to rush for 57 yards on 14 carries, and the Seahawks churned for 152 yards on the ground. That’s their most since last Dec. 20, when they romped for 182 yards against Cleveland.
And — voila! — Seattle’s offense, which couldn’t get out of its own way in a 6-6 overtime tie at Arizona a month ago and in the 9-3 loss at the Rams in mid-September, gained a season-high 439 yards.
That’s 859 yards in offense in the last two games for Seattle, just as Wilson is as healthy as he’s been since the first half of the opening game. What a coincidence.
The Seahawks used a return to the run and what they call “explosive” plays to open the lead to 26-7 by early in the fourth quarter. Wilson had a 44-yard pass down the right slot to Baldwin. He had a 30-yard connection across the field to Tyler Lockett. Rawls had an 18-yard run.
“I think (it’s) in conjunction with Russell’s health,” Carroll said of the offense’s surge.
“With him finally getting to where he can move, somewhat, and get going, we’ve turned our focus on how we’re going to do it.
“The explosive plays and the running game, for 150-something (yards), that’s really what felt right. That’s how we want to look. That’s how we want to feel.”
And that’s how Wilson plays — when he isn’t down to zero healthy legs.
After the Eagles took a 7-6 lead on rookie second-overall pick Carson Wentz’s 4-yard touchdown pass to Zach Ertz early in the second quarter, Wilson made a play only he can make. He rolled left, ran toward the line as if trying to rush for the first down, then contorted his right arm back across his body. He threw on the run to a late-breaking Graham. Graham spun away from a defender inside for a 35-yard catch-and-run to put the Seahawks ahead to stay, 13-7.
“That’s Russell Wilson,” Baldwin said.
That showed the growth in the Wilson-Graham connection since the tight end came to Seattle in the spring of 2015 via a trade from New Orleans. Last season, before he tore the patellar tendon in his knee in November, Graham struggled to read Wilson’s scrambles and come back to his quarterback on adjusted routes.
“I just kind of scrambled and tried to find something,” Wilson said, “then he did a good job of turning and coming back to the football.”
The defense held Philadelphia to 19 yards from halftime through the first minute of the fourth quarter. That’s when the Seahawks turned their 16-7 lead into a 26-7 rout. The Eagles (5-5), the only team remaining on Seattle’s regular-season schedule that entered Sunday with a winning record, had 165 yards of offense through three quarters.
Seahawks middle linebacker Bobby Wagner continued his season of lightning blitzes. He had 15 tackles, a sack, a quarterback hit and two tackles for losses. Kam Chancellor had his third big play in a game and a half since returning from missing a month with a pulled groin. His interception of Wentz over the middle late in the first half came when the Eagles were driving to make a 16-7 game close. End Cliff Avril had his 10th sack this season. It ruined an Eagles drive — and any hopes of rallying — in the third quarter.
Wentz finished 23 of 45 for 218 yards and two touchdowns. Richard Sherman caught Wentz’s second interception, the 30th pick of Sherman’s career.
“I think we are in the right direction,” Wagner said of the Seattle defense — and the team.
The Seahawks play this coming weekend at Tampa Bay (5-5). Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett, a former Buccaneer, vows to play in that game — three weeks after arthroscopic knee surgery.
Bennett was on the field during Sunday’s pregame drills, wearing a black, furry-collared overcoat and Black Lives Matter cap and hugging Wilson.
The entire Pacific Northwest wants to do that, now that its do-it-all quarterback, and thus Seattle’s offense, is healthy again.
“Everything has shifted,” Carroll said of this Seahawks season. “You’ve seen us make shifts in the past. This is one of those big shifts for us.”
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle