Where would the Seattle Seahawks be right now without Russell Wilson?
Not 3-1 and tied atop the NFC West entering Sunday’s game against surprising Dallas (4-1) at CenturyLink Field.
No matter how bad the offensive line continues to play, no matter how many penalties the offense commits, no matter how many times he has to run to keep from getting drilled, Wilson continues to save the Seahawks.
The third-year quarterback’s latest salvage trick came Monday night at Washington.
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“Phenomenal,” is what Seahawks coach Pete Carroll called Wilson after Seattle’s 27-17 win over the Redskins.
Carroll used that term for him twice in a span of five minutes.
“Exquisite” works, too.
“We got beat by, as far as I’m concerned this weekend, the best player in the NFL,” Washington safety Ryan Clark told the Washington Post. “Russell Wilson made every play he had to make for his team to win. And we didn’t.”
It’s not a stretch to think the defending Super Bowl champions would be 1-3 if Wilson hadn’t taken much of the first four games into his own hands — to be more exact, his legs. They wouldn’t have beaten Denver in overtime without him running on his own on the drive to the winning touchdown. And the Seahawks may have fallen at Washington without him again taking off on runs that were supposed to be passes Monday.
As defenders have swarmed through his porous line, Wilson’s looked like a grown-up being chased by kids in a playground game of tag. Without the “tag” part.
“I don’t think running for me is ever part of the game plan,” he said. “It just kind of happens.”
Wilson’s 209 yards rushing is the NFL’s highest for a quarterback. He has been sacked nine times — but that number could easily be at least a league-leading 21.
Against the Broncos in Seattle’s previous game Wilson avoided at least six sacks with his now-common twisting, turning around and running outside opposing pass rushers who can’t contain him. That happened at least a half-dozen more times against Washington. The home team finished with three sacks — and could have had nine.
Instead, Wilson finished with Seahawks and Monday Night Football records for yards rushing by a quarterbacks, 122 on 11 carries. That broke the Seattle record for a QB of 102 yards rushing he had last October at Indianapolis. He had 80 yards at the end of the first quarter. Maybe five of those 11 carries were called runs, including his dash around left end for a 9-yard touchdown that made it 17-0 midway through the second quarter.
After Washington cut the deficit to 24-17 with three minutes left, the Seahawks had a third and 4 at midfield with 2:33 remaining. Wilson did it again, making the play of the game.
“That play at the end of the game was unlike any I’ve seen in a while,” Washington coach Jay Gruden said.
“Russell is a hell of a player.”
Almost immediately after the snap three unblocked Washington defenders poured into the backfield reaching for Wilson. He ran around and away from each of them toward the Seahawks sideline. He flipped his feet, aimed his shoulders momentarily in the direction of safety-valve running back Marshawn Lynch, who was standing open about 10 yards in front of him. He flicked his wrist to get the ball over a leaping defender to Lynch just as Wilson got pummeled on a hit to his torso by Washington’s Chris Baker.
Lynch’s rumble for most of the 30-yard gain to the Washington 20 put the Seahawks into position to run another 21/2 minutes off the clock before Steven Hauschka’s clinching field goal with 27 seconds to go.
“The scrambles, that’s him finding a way to make a play,” Carroll said. “I can’t wait to see the play (the pass to Lynch). I don’t know what the heck happened on that play. For everybody to be right and not grab somebody or do something wrong in the middle of all that chaos — and we come out of it with a 30-yard play was phenomenal by both guys.”
Oh, yeah, Wilson also completed 18 of 24 throws for another 201 yards and two touchdowns. It could have been 20 for 26 for 268 yards and four TDs, but officials called back his scoring passes of 26 and 41 yards to Percy Harvin in the second and fourth quarters because of guard James Carpenter’s personal foul for hitting a player while he was down on his back and a false start on Harvin for flinching and going into mini-motion a split-second before the snap.
Wilson is tied with San Diego’s Philip Rivers for the league’s best completion rate, 70.3 percent. Only Rivers and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers have higher passer ratings than Wilson’s 112.3 — Wilson’s only loss this season was opposing Rivers while he beat Rodgers on opening night.
How good has Wilson been?:
That completion rate through four games of 70.3 percent is almost a full seven percent higher than his career average entering this season (63.6).
He has 852 yards passing, on pace for a career-best 3,408. His eight touchdowns and one interception through four games extrapolate to 32 TDs and four interceptions for the season.
His 209 yards rushing is on 29 carries, an eye-popping average of 7.2 yards per carry.
He’s even caught his first career pass, two games ago for 17 yards from wide receiver Jermaine Kearse on a flea-flicker against Denver.
And he’s enlisted Justin Timberlake and Derek Jeter in his new foundation to raise money to oppose domestic violence. He announced that initiative last week as part of his new role as the senior editor of Jeter’s new athletes’ website, The Players’ Tribune.
About all Wilson has yet to do is raise the 12th Man flag immediately before kickoff at CenturyLink Field — though the way he is moving he could do that high above the second deck of the south end zone and still get down onto the field for the game’s start.
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell is doing as he did in Wilson’s first two seasons, calling bootlegs and designed runs off zone read-option plays. But Wilson has turned many more of Bevell’s other, pass-play calls into a personal willing of Seattle to wins with improvisational runs so far this season.
So what is giving him such confidence to take off with his improv “stuff” right now?
“What gives me the confidence with the improv stuff?” Wilson repeated, as if to buy time to ponder a response — or to mock its vague, generic wording.
Then he smiled.
“No, I just trust my reads and I just go through them,” he said. “And if it’s not there I just try to extend the play and make the smart play. Don’t really try to force it. … But, you know, I’m still learning. I’m still trying to get better every day.
“My goal is be a facilitator. It’s to get the ball to the right guy at the right time, to be the point guard and be like (San Antonio Spurs NBA champion) Tony Parker and get the ball to the guy.
“If I need to make some plays every once in a while, then that’s what I need to do.”
The team left Washington on Tuesday afternoon after a rare stay-over in a road city following the game. Had they left immediately after Monday’s game, which ended just before midnight Eastern time, the Seahawks likely wouldn’t have landed in Seattle until 6 a.m. Tuesday, the players’ weekly off day. So Carroll chose to have the players sleep in their team hotel’s beds rather than their charter jet’s seats. The players will be back on the practice field Wednesday to begin full preparation for Dallas.