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Monday metatarsal musings
In this season of the rookie quarterback in the NFL, no one has been mentioning Russell Wilson in the same breath with Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck in the discussions about which one deserves offensive rookie of the year honors.
That seems to be changing, after Wilson’s latest are-you-kidding-me performance in the Seahawks’ 23-17 overtime victory against the Bears in Chicago on Sunday.
After Wilson drove the Seahawks 97 yards in 12 plays to a go-ahead touchdown in the final minutes of the fourth quarter and 80 yards in 12 plays to the game-winning TD in overtime, Bears coach Lovie Smith offered, “A lot of the success that they had was kind of based on what (Wilson) did.”
Kind of? On the fourth-quarter drive, Wilson was 6 of 9 for 80 yards – including the 14-yard TD pass to Golden Tate, but also a 7-yard completion to tight end Zach Miller on fourth-and-3. Wilson also ran twice for 19 yards. Oh, and he recovered the fumble after Marshawn Lynch lost the ball at the end of a 10-yard completion.
On the overtime drive, Wilson ran three times for 28 yards and also completed each of his three passes for 38 yards – including the 13-yarder to Sidney Rice for the game-winner.
The performance prompted Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall to say, “Even as a rookie, a young guy, Russell Wilson is a guy that is going to be special. He is special already.”
Not surprisingly, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman threw his support behind Wilson, as well, even though he played with Luck at Stanford.
“I love Luck to death, because he’s my guy and he’s probably one of the best quarterbacks out there. But I don’t think Russell gets enough credit,” said Sherman, who also used Wilson’s Twitter handle – DangeRuss – when referring to the rookie QB. “I think he should get rookie of the year consideration even over those other guys because he is leading our team in some great games.”
One of the best aspects of Wilson’s latest wow-effort was that it was played out on a bigger stage, against a better team. As good as Wilson was in the pre-bye wins over the Minnesota Vikings and New York Jets at CenturyLink and the post-bye loss to the Dolphins in Miami, Sunday’s effort came against an 8-3 team that was leading its division on the Bears’ home field.
Even the national pundits had to take notice.
“What I love about him is the maturity,” former Pro Bowl safety Rodney Harrison said during NBC’s “Football Night in America” pregame show. “The fact that he went into that huddle and he said, ‘Hey guys, we’re going to go down and we’re going to score a touchdown’; the poise which he showed.”
“He’s a winner. He’s a leader. He’s mobile. He can do all the things that you need from a quarterback,” former Colts and Buccaneers coach Tony Dungy said on “Football Night in America.” “Those players love him and Pete Carroll loves him.”
With all of that said – finally – here’s a look at three other things that worked against the Bears, and three things that need work as the Seahawks prepare for Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals at CenturyLink Field:
Red Bryant – The 323-pound defensive end wasn’t even expected to play because of the plantar fasciitis in his right foot that forced him to sit out practice all week. But boy, did he play. Bryant was credited with only two tackles, but that doesn’t come close to measuring the disruptive impact he had.
“That’s amazing, because we didn’t think he was going to play,” Carroll said after the game. “That was a great challenge for him and he pulled it through and toughed it out.”
The catchers – Especially Tate and Rice. They scored the go-ahead and game-winning touchdowns, and they did not come on catch-the-ball-and-waltz-into-the-end-zone receptions.
Tate caught the ball at the 10-yard line and a quintet of Bears had a shot at stopping him – cornerback Charles Tillman, safety Major Wright, cornerback Kelvin Hayden, defensive end Shea McClellin and linebacker Brian Urlacher. All whiffed.
Rice caught the ball at the 3-yard line and took a shot to the helmet from Wright just after crossing the goal line.
Tate caught five of the six passes Wilson threw his way for 96 yards, while Rice caught six passes on nine targets for 99 yards.
The punter – Jon Ryan pinned the Bears deep in their territory all afternoon. Three of his five punts were downed inside the Chicago 20-yard line – at the 12, 5 and 6. Another went out of bounds at the Chicago 23.
WHAT NEEDS WORK
The run defense – Against opposing quarterbacks, that is. The Bears’ Jay Cutler ran four times for 27 yards, a 6.8-yard average. Against the Dolphins, Ryan Tannehill had 33 yards on four runs, an 8.3-yard average.
It wasn’t just that they ran, but when. Cutler picked up three first downs, including runs on third-and-7 and third-and-8. Tannehill got lose for runs of 19 and 15 yards, picking up two first downs.
The pass rush – The Bears were forced to do some serious shuffling of their offensive line because of injuries. But the Seahawks had only one sack, and that came on a play where Cutler dropped the ball and recovered his own fumble. They also had one sack against the Dolphins, despite facing a rookie right tackle and left tackle Jake Long, who had allowed a career-high six sacks.
Those two sacks in two games are the fewest generated by the Seahawks since they also combined for two in Weeks 1 and 2.
The revenge factor – Three of the Seahawks’ remaining four games are at home, and against their NFC West rivals who beat them on the road earlier this season. At 7-5 and holding the No. 2 wild-card spot in the conference playoff picture, the Seahawks control their own destiny. If, that is, they can finish with a flurry of payback performances.
“We’ve just got to keep plugging,” fullback Michael Robinson said after the win over the Bears. “This is just one game. We’re into a five-game playoff. We’ve got to keep going.”