Russell Wilson had ’em right where he wanted ’em.
And the Seahawks quarterback didn’t want anything to do with his play caller, either.
Tie score, 1:49 left in last weekend’s regular-season finale against Arizona. Wilson was in his most comfortable and often most successful mode: hurry-up, improvisational offense going for the win. The Seahawks had just converted a third down and were hurrying to the line. Sixty-two seconds now remained, and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer wanted to talk to his quarterback through his helmet speaker between plays.
“He waved me off,” Schottenheimer said Wednesday.
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“He’ll probably deny it, because he denied it to me: ‘I didn’t really wave you off.’ Yeah, you kind of did. I love that,” Schottenheimer said. “He was in the moment. He had a play called. I love that about it.”
What’s not to love?
Wilson, above all else, believes. Believes in his preparation (“the separation is in the preparation”). In his experience in the clutch. In his choices, his decisions.
He believes in himself.
That play Wilson had called before he motioned to his coach to get lost? It became the improvisational, 37-yard pass to Tyler Lockett, who was behind every defender after Wilson’s slide out of the pocket. That set up Sebastian Janikowski’s winning field goal on the final play.
And it, the result of Wilson’s latest cool moment, is why Seattle has 10 wins entering Saturday night’s NFC wild-card playoff game at East division-champion Dallas (10-6).
It was almost identical to the situation, and result, Nov. 25 at Carolina when Wilson and Lockett just knew where each other was going to go before the 43-yard pass behind everyone with a minute left that set up a Janikowski game-winner.
“In the fourth quarter, I think you’ve got to look forward to it. You’ve got to have no fear,” Wilson said Wednesday. “I think also, too, you’ve got to want to have the ball in your hands. No matter if you’re down by 14, no matter if you’re down by four, no matter what the situation is, you’ve got to look forward to those moments.”
Saturday night when the stakes are highest, the fans are loudest, the Cowboys are craziest and perhaps the Seahawks’ odds to win their playoff game at Dallas are longest, Wilson will kneel inside the offense’s huddle. And he’ll be how he always is.
And absolutely, almost unnaturally, at ease.
“One of the things that is admirable about him is that he is always positive. He always has a positive mindset,” Doug Baldwin, the quarterback’s top target their last seven years together on the Seahawks, said Wednesday. “Doesn’t matter what situation we are in, he is always talking about belief, and thinking that no matter how negative the situation may appear we have an opportunity to come out of it unscathed.
“It’s infectious for our team. I think, as the face of the franchise and the leader of our team, you’ve got to have that in order to be successful. In any situation, any given situation.
“It’s a calming thing, for one. I think a lot of guys, especially young guys in this league, they can get overwhelmed by the moment and Russ comes in and he’s no different in the first play to the fourth-and-goal play that we have to get it done. He’s no different and I think that’s a pillar for guys to look to in those crucial moments for a stabilizing, calming presence. I think that’s probably the greatest attribute in the huddle when we’re in those moments.”
Schottenheimer has been an assistant in the NFL for 19 years. He’s coached Brett Favre, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers and, just last year with Indianapolis, Andrew Luck.
What has Schottenheimer noticed about Wilson in pressure situations?
“Very calm,” the veteran play caller said. “That’s a good question. He is different.
“Some guys are more anxious. He’s not. I think that just comes from his confidence and having done it so many times before. I see a very positive person. But he’s definitely very, very calm. Very comfortable in those spots. He’s actually probably good for me in that regard; ‘Hey, you like this? You like this?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, I like that.’
“It’s fun to be around.”
It’s a well-drilled skill.
Wilson has started every game since coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider selected him in the third round of the 2012 NFL draft. Consecutive game number 125 (112 in the regular season, 13 in the playoffs) will be Saturday night.
Wilson has 27 comeback wins in the fourth quarter or overtime. That’s tied with Detroit’s Matthew Stafford and five ahead of Brees for the most in the NFL since 2012. Wilson has four such comeback wins this season, including last weekend in the regular-season finale against Arizona.
“I think the number one thing that they want to rely on is that they’ve done it before,” Schottenheimer said of Wilson’s teammates. “ He can step into the huddle and when he says, ‘Hey guys, we’re going to go do this, we’re going to find a way’ (they trust him).”
The win over Kansas City Dec. 23 that clinched Seattle sixth postseason in seven years made Wilson the first NFL quarterback with a winning record in each of his first seven seasons. He’s the first quarterback to start two Super Bowls within his first three seasons in the league. His 75 regular-season victories are first in NFL history in a quarterback’s first seven seasons.
He’s 28-7 following an in-season loss. That’s the best such record by an NFL quarterback since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger. His 44-17 record in November, December and January regular-season games since 2012 is the league’s best in that span.
And the Seahawks are almost always in close games. Over their last 132 games since week nine of the 2011 season, they have lost just four times by double-digit scores. They had a record streak of no losing by more than 10 points run into December of 2016.
Seven of Wilson’s 12 career playoff starts have finished as one-score games. He’s won four of those.
In 2017, the outlier year of his career he didn’t make the playoffs, Wilson set a league record with 19 touchdown passes in the fourth quarter.
This season, he set a Seahawks record with 35 TD passes, tied with Matt Ryan for third-most in the league behind Patrick Mahomes (50) and Luck (39)—despite Wilson throwing fewer passes than any full-time starter.
“I just try to facilitate the ball to the right guy at the right time and they do, they make all the plays.” Wilson said, in an almost aw-shucks tone.
Saturday night, when it’s late and tight and it’s Wilson’s 8-4 playoff record against Dak Prescott’s 0-1 postseason mark for Dallas, guess which quarterback has every reason and experience to be cooler in the clutch?
The Seahawks are counting on it, to extend their rebound, supposedly rebuilding season.
“The great thing about this team is the fact that everybody was telling us we couldn’t,” Wilson said.
“I think that it shows the will of this team. It shows the heart of this team. And it shows the mindset of this team, to be able to think the way that you want to think and the places that you want to go. To think big, to believe big, to have that belief, to instill that on a daily approach, I think Coach Carroll does a tremendous job of that. ...
“We’ll do whatever it takes. I know for me, I love nothing more than winning.
“I know that we do as a team and we’ve been very, very successful in those moments. And we believe we’ll be successful again in those moments.”