As his goal is always to be “the calm in the storm,” Russell Wilson last week was predictably direct in cutting through the swirling speculation over his subpar performance against Arizona.
He offered a simple and indisputable observation.
“Sometimes you just have a bad day,” the Seattle Seahawks’ second-year quarterback said.
Well, yeah, that’s right. Happens to the best of them.
Peyton Manning and Brett Favre each had games with lower quarterback ratings than Wilson’s on Sunday during seasons in which they won league MVP honors.
But the thing about these unavoidable clunkers — for the great ones at least — is they don’t stack up or come in bunches. They arrive unexpectedly and are gone the next week.
And that’s an important subplot to Sunday’s critical regular-season finale at home against St. Louis.
The Seahawks need the win to capture the ever-improving NFC West Division and earn home-field advantage throughout the postseason.
Staring into the teeth of a nasty St. Louis pass rush, Wilson will be out to prove his numbers in the loss to Arizona were a fluke.
The 17-10 defeat to the Cardinals at CenturyLink Field was the first home loss in Wilson’s career; his 108 passing yards a career low. In addition to uncharacteristic inaccuracy, he was conspicuously ineffective on third downs.
The Hawks called passes on all 13 third-down situations. Just two were completed, two resulted in sacks, and the other nine fell incomplete.
“I think the biggest thing on third downs is we’ve just got to execute and I’ve just got to be better,” Wilson said. “I’ll take the blame for it.”
In other games when defenses have limited the Seahawks’ passing yardage or efficiency, Wilson has made them pay by scrambling or rushing (10 rushes for 77 yards vs. Houston, for instance).
But the Cardinals sacked him four times and held him to just two rushes, although he was productive with 32 yards on those two.
St. Louis has been one of his toughest opponents, though. In three career games, his touchdown/interception ratio is an even 3 to 3, and he’s been sacked 15 times. Those are his worst numbers against any divisional rival.
“So, we’re playing a really good football team. They do a great job in terms of mixing up coverages and mixing up blitzes,” Wilson said. “So we really have to be in tune and just make the plays and get first downs.”
In the loss at San Francisco on Dec. 8, the Niners did a good job decoding the scramble rules for receivers, keeping them covered when Wilson broke from the pocket.
Arizona managed to keep Wilson pinned in the pocket in a way that kept him from finding cracks to slip through on those improvisational escapes that buy second chances and have been so critical in his big plays.
A good game Sunday will show that Wilson and the offense can adapt and evolve as defenses devise their own solutions.
Wilson has been an absurdly fast learner, applying his lessons to immediate effect through his first two seasons.
After the Seahawks’ six regular-season losses in his career, he’s led them to five rebound wins.
And while the fan base has spent the past week dithering over his performance against the Cards, Wilson has merely gone back to work, his confidence intact.
“You have to be able to adjust,” Wilson said, citing his critical examination of his performance by digging to find root causes of the various issues. “So, I’m not worried about it, in all honesty. I’m focused on the positives; I’m focused on what we can do extremely well, and I know we can be great. …”
Wilson reverted to a competitive reality he learned in baseball.
“Some days you go 0-for-5,” he said. “It’s one of those things that you come back and keep swinging. So, I think the biggest thing for me is just to continue to do what I’ve done all year; continue to try to be consistent and be clutch when we need it, and be the calm in the storm.”