Russell Wilson had just taken the final snap and knelt down to end his most recent playoff victory.
But the Seahawks’ franchise quarterback didn’t keep the ball as a memento for himself.
Wilson didn’t fire it into the CenturyLink Field stands, where 68,000 fans were roaring about Seattle’s 10th consecutive home playoff win.
He turned behind him in the offense’s victory formation and presented the ball to a nine-year veteran fullback. A man who had never been to the playoffs until last Saturday night, when he started and finished Seattle’s reviving win over Detroit in the wild card round.
“This one’s for you,” Wilson told Marcel Reece. “First one.”
“Most people probably didn’t catch it. It meant a lot to me,” Reece said Tuesday as he and the Seahawks (11-5-1) prepared for Saturday’s NFC divisional playoff game at Atlanta (11-5). “It was right on the field, we were in victory offense and it was the last kneel-down.
“It was a great experience. My first playoff appearance — and my first playoff win.”
The former University of Washington wide receiver is just four weeks into his Seahawks tenure. He spent the first eight seasons in Oakland, making four Pro Bowls and becoming an All-Pro in 2013.
When he was there, the Raiders were nowhere near the playoffs, let alone Reece getting a playoff game ball.
So where’s the ball Wilson gave him going?
“My mom thought it was going to her, for her birthday,” Reece said; his mom’s birthday was also Saturday.
“But that one’s going in the man cave.”
It’s not the only prize the Seahawks produced against the Lions. Reece’s rise in importance coincided with Seattle rushing for 177 yards against Detroit. It was a revelation after months of inconsistency from the NFL’s 25th-ranked run game.
Line coach Tom Cable said Reece’s innate sense for where to plow the running lane for the tailback is the best blocking awareness for a Seahawks fullback since Michael Robinson excelled at that for the team from 2010-13.
“It happens after the snap. Obviously his experience, where he’s been and our past and all that, he understands how to do all that,” Cable said. “It’s well done. Kind of the same things we’d get out of Mike Rob when he was here.”
Reece is becoming key at the same time rookie running back C.J. Prosise is returning. The third-round draft choice and third-down back practiced Tuesday for the first time since he broke his scapula Nov. 20 during the win over Philadelphia. It was the best sign yet Prosise will play Saturday at Atlanta.
And Reece’s foot injury is not as severe as the broken bone the team first feared when he got it stepped on early in the win over Detroit.
“He’s practicing,” coach Pete Carroll said of Reece. “So he’s in good shape. Bouncing back fairly quickly.”
Reece is emerging. Prosise is returning to join him and Thomas Rawls, the lead back who is coming off a Seattle playoff-record 161 yards rushing against the Lions. Wilson has ditched the left knee brace he’d been wearing since the first of October, so he’s running more freely, if not at full speed.
Plus, the maligned offensive line is coming off what offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell on Tuesday called its most complete, consistent performance from start to finish this season.
This is the most dynamic the Seahawks’ running game has been all season.
Bevell said of the win over Detroit: “It kind of felt like us again.”
For sure, the Seahawks are now more equipped to run the ball — and thus more dangerous offensively — than they were when they gained just 72 yards on 27 carries while beating Atlanta 26-24 on Oct. 16 at CenturyLink Field. It was one of seven games this regular season the Seahawks averaged fewer than 3 yards per carry
Prosise and Rawls have not played a complete game together. Prosise broke his wrist in the opening game Sept. 11 against Miami. Rawls cracked his fibula the following week at Los Angeles; he did not return until late November. By then, Prosise had wowed with 153 yards combined rushing and receiving in the win Nov. 13 at New England. He had a 72-yard touchdown run early in the victory the next week over Philadelphia. But the Notre Dame product broke his shoulder blade late in the first half of that game
“It’s been a process. I mean, it’s been a huge process to be able to move through the year the way we have with the run game,” Bevell said. “We’ve had all kinds of issues, all across the board.
“It’s gratifying now to have it where it is. I mean, we’re excited. We kind of feel we are moving in the right direction. By no means is everything fixed. So there’s still a lot of work to do.
“Hopefully we will be able to put another game on top of that one and the way we did it.”
They’ve done it by going to more I formation with Reece ahead of Rawls and more straight-ahead blocking against Detroit than their usual single-back sets and almost exclusive zone blocking.
Reece played 45 percent of Seattle’s 75 offensive snaps against Detroit. Last weekend’s total was Seattle’s second highest in rushing this season.
Hmmmm. See a correlation? The Seahawks think they do.
“I’m looking forward to keeping this run going,” Reece said. “I’m ready, willing and able to do anything they want me to do.”
The Seahawks signed Reece on Dec. 6, three months after Oakland released him. The idea was Reece knew Seattle’s run game and blocking schemes from Cable’s time in Oakland from 2007-10.
Reece made his Pro Bowls from 2012-15 as a versatile receiver and blocker. But, he said Tuesday, the Seahawks didn’t talk I formation or any schemes when they signed him.
If the Seahawks are to finally find consistency and run it again nearly as well Saturday at Atlanta, Reece figures to have another big role.
The Seahawks’ best chance to beat the Falcons is to run. Going three and out with three passes on offense would leave too much time and too many opportunities for quarterback Matt Ryan and Atlanta’s offense. That’s a bad idea. The Falcons score a league-best average of 3.2 points per drive. They scored 540 points this regular season, tying the St. Louis Rams’ 2000 “Greatest Show on Turf” for seventh-most in league history.
Prosise would give Seattle the third-down, pass-catching back that Reece, rookie Alex Collins and J.D. McKissic — a waiver pickup from Atlanta last month — have taken turns trying to be while Prosise has been healing.
“He’s going to work through the week. He was out there in the (morning) walk-through today and will get to practice (Tuesday) to see what he can do,” Carroll said of Prosise. “I really don’t have any forecast for you at this point. We need to get more information.
“He’s going to have to go full speed and let it rip. If he’s holding back, he won’t play.”
Given the stakes, there’s little chance of Prosise holding back. So expect him and Reece to join Rawls Saturday.
And expect the Seahawks to keep rushing the ball to see if their run is indeed for real.
“I wish we could find that consistency. That’s what we’re looking for,” Cable said.
“The one thing that came out of (the Lions) game was a level of consistency, from beginning to end.”
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle