SANTA CLARA, Calif. For his latest trick, “amazing” Russell Wilson made his offensive-line issues disappear.
For the first time since 2015.
The slippery Seahawks quarterback did his usual magic in the second half Sunday. He turned another Seattle slog into a 24-13 victory over San Francisco 49ers who flailed like so many frustrated foes before them.
"It’s like a cat-and-mouse game," 49ers defensive tackle Sheldon Day said.
The beaten defenders were Tom, dazed and confused. Wilson was Jerry.
Sunday was the latest example of how absolutely vital Wilson is to every aspect of the Seahawks’ offense. From the 17th-ranked running game entering the game that would be 32nd and dead last if not for his scrambling, to his offensive line, to third downs, through the unspoken synchronization he has with his receivers on his playground plays.
Most of all, Sunday showed again how Wilson can mitigate issues in pass protection and render an opposing pass rush almost futile at times.
Wilson dropped back to pass 39 times against San Francisco. He didn’t get sacked once. That’s the first time he’s gone through an entire game without being sacked since Dec. 13, 2015, a span of 35 games.
The Seahawks would like to believe that was because Luke Joeckel returned Sunday from knee surgery last month to start next to left tackle Duane Brown for the first time. While that may have helped, Wilson did the rest.
He ran. He twirled. He twisted. He spun. He befuddled the poor 49ers by eluding at least six sacks to make plays, including the third-down conversion pass to Doug Baldwin in the third quarter when it was a 7-6 game. Coach Pete Carroll called it the play that got Seattle going on to 17 unanswered points and the win.
The Seahawks (7-4) enter Sunday night’s home game against soaring Philadelphia (10-1) with reinforced belief Wilson doesn’t have to get pummeled every game, even when pass protection breaks down--as it will, again.
If the NFL kept a stat for hands on a quarterback, Wilson had maybe 49 of those against the 49ers. He could have been sacked at least six times. Yet he never went down.
The key offensive play of the game: third and 9 for Seattle at its own 30 early in the third quarter with the Seahawks leading 7-6 and the 49ers with the momentum after just scoring. Wilson turned away from pressure off the left edge. He ran up the middle as if he was going to scramble there. He ran on a diagonal to the right to buy more time for Doug Baldwin to break into another of his uncanny improvisational pass routes. Wilson flicked the ball up the right hashmark and Baldwin made a deft, twisting catch for a 23-yard gain across midfield. Instead of punting up by one, the Seahawks scored a touchdown on Wilson’s perfectly placed pass over as a linebacker to number-three tight end Nick Vannett for a 14-6 lead. The 49ers never got closer.
“I thought the offensive line did a great job today, too, as well. (I was) getting a lot of good time, away with the scramble, was able to make some great plays,” Wilson said. “Did things quickly, too. Were able to get some big shots down the field there in the second half, as well.
“We just kept coming up big. ... It really comes down to third downs, staying on the field, making some key plays, key catches, and no mistakes. We did a great job of doing that today.”
San Francisco rookie first-round draft choice Reuben Foster was spying Wilson on one third-down pass play about 4 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Wilson took off yet again away from pressure up the middle. Foster was directly in front of the QB just past the line with a prime chance to stop Wilson short of the first down. Wilson gave a jab step and head fake to the right in the open field. That left the 31st-overall grasping at nothing but gray air. Wilson ran past Foster for a first down.
“It’s crazy. But that’s him,” Foster said.
“He’s an amazing guy. He’s shifty and he’s quick. God gave him that athleticism, so I can’t fault him for that. That’s just a God-given talent that’s in him.”
The Seahawks ran for 90 yards on 30 carries against the league’s 31st-ranked run defense. Take away Wilson’s five scrambles and two called runs--a 2-yard touchdown on a read-option keeper after Bobby Wagner’s interception in the first quarter and an 11-yard run around right end on a naked bootleg for a first down on another drive to a touchdown and a 21-6 lead early in the fourth quarter--and Seattle got just 68 yards on 21 carries from their two running backs.
Those were Eddie Lacy and J.D. McKissic. Lacy got 35 snaps, McKissic 29--and mothballed Thomas Rawls just one, as the offense continued to move far away from him.