Dave Boling

Dave Boling: Maybe Russell Wilson’s rushing will lead to a passing revival

Seattle Seahawks fans seem divided on the performance of quarterback Russell Wilson the past few weeks.

It’s been a career-worst stretch as a passer if you go by ratings, but it’s been an impressive continuation of his advancement as a rusher as he picked up his third 100-plus yard rushing game of the season Sunday against the New York Giants.

So, you can view the glass as half-full or half-empty.

Or you could just bag the Wilson debate and chug the drink to celebrate the team’s three-game winning streak.

His passing numbers Sunday were uncommonly weak, a 53.7 rating with two interceptions and no touchdowns. He clocked in with a 63.9 the week before against Oakland, and a 77.5 rating the previous week at Carolina.

Never in his career has he had three consecutive games rated below 78.

But he added 107 rushing yards to Marshawn Lynch’s 140 versus the Giants to help the Hawks to a franchise-record 350 yards on the ground.

“The threat of the quarterback run had a lot to do with the overall success,” coach Pete Carroll said at his Monday afternoon press conference. “Marshawn’s and Russell’s numbers really fit together well.”

Wilson’s rushing numbers are nearing a record pace. Michael Vick rushed for a quarterback record 1,039 yards in 2006 with Atlanta. Wilson has 500 yards through nine games to rank 15th in the NFL as of Monday afternoon. That would make him the leading rusher on 18 NFL teams.

And that’s on just 66 carries, which is 44 fewer than any other player in the top 15. His 7.6-yard average is more than 2 yards per carry better than any of the other top rushers.

But his passer rating has dipped below 90 for the season, well beneath his career numbers.

His two interceptions Sunday, Carroll said, were the result of faulty timing on the route on one, and a well-disguised coverage on the other. The week before, he consistently threw the ball too high for his receivers.

Wilson cited his footwork and mechanics as the issue — things that are correctable.

It seems that for much of the season, though, the lack of solid protection has caused him to be skittish in the pocket. He so rarely had time to plant his feet and go through his progressions, he became conditioned to bailing out and taking off on a scramble.

And that has worked in many cases. Those plays seem to have a double impact, turning a potential sack or incompletion into positive yardage and often first downs. They wear down defenders and cause those in coverage to have to be aware of the quarterback sprinting past them.

The ability to scramble effectively, Carroll said, always has “a big effect in the passing game.”

But “when you’re able to incorporate it into the running game, it just adds a total different dimension,” Carroll said.

Sunday, the bulk of Wilson’s carries were on planned plays rather than scrambles under pressure. The plan, devised by assistants Tom Cable and Darrell Bevell, was to probe the edges of the defense.

“You saw Russell really execute the game plan well, attacking the perimeter,” Carroll said. “They allowed it to happen, so we just kept taking it. Some of that was off the hard, downhill running game, and some was off the read (option) game. (Wilson) was really on his reads, (and) with Marshawn running like his hair was on fire, it made for a great match.”

Defenses are put in the position of being unable to jam the middle of the line to stop Lynch. And when Wilson has the option of giving the ball to Lynch or keeping it himself, the defender is forced to make a decision, and Wilson reacts in a way that makes them pay.

“He’s really good at it,” Carroll said. “It’s just taking what the defense gives you, and we took full advantage.”

Giants defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins labeled the Wilson-Lynch tandem “definitely one of the best, hardest combinations to stop.”

Wilson has compiled enough evidence over 21/2 seasons to suggest the recent passing slump is temporary and fixable.

And if anything, with defenders having to focus on trying to stop the best rushing attack in the NFL, it should only open up things for everybody when it comes time to pass.

Dave Boling: 253-597-8440

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@thenewstribune.com

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