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Wilson continues to roll along
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The world was coming unglued around him. The Seahawks had taken a lead in Chicago on Sunday with 24 seconds to play, only to allow the Bears to complete a 56-yard pass that setup a game-tying field goal on the final play of regulation. They were facing a third-and-5 from the Bears’ 37-yard line in overtime, and desperately wanted to end the game with a touchdown rather than kick a field goal and give the Bears another chance to tie it up.
As the TV camera zoomed in on Russell Wilson’s face in the huddle, the rookie quarterback looked like he was waiting to take the next rep in a spring OTA practice rather than execute the next play in a pivotal December game for a team harboring hopes of advancing to the postseason.
Unflappable. Poised beyond his years. Confident. Cool as the proverbial cucumber. Wilson was all of that, and the view from the huddle was the same as the one on the TV screen in the press box at Soldier Field.
“His calm demeanor calms everybody else down,” wide receiver Doug Baldwin said. “That’s the type of player you want. You want that guy who’s not rattled by anything. He exuberates that confidence, so then everybody else has that confidence about them, too.”
And that third-and-5 play? Wilson ran for 12 yards on a zone-read, and four plays later he passed 13 yards to Sidney Rice for the game-winner.
“His poise when it comes to those close games and those tight situations, he’s the same person that he is from the first quarter to overtime,” Baldwin said. “I think that’s crucial when you’re looking at someone who has to stay calm, especially at the quarterback position. He doesn’t let things rattle him. He just goes out there and keeps performing.
“There’s no rollercoaster effect of emotion or play. He just goes out there and continues to grind. He’s just consistent, and that’s one of the most important things in football is being consistent.”
Wilson’s take? “I just try to be the calm in the storm,” he said on Thursday. “I know that you can’t get too high, can’t get too low. So the biggest thing is just trying to be that calm in the storm all the time for your football team, whether things are going well or not so well. You just want to play one play at a time and stay in the now.”
With Wilson, he has found a way to take the league by storm, by finding a way to be consistently better as the season has progressed. His efforts against the Bears were just the latest quantum leap in his steady-as-he-throws approach that has just about everyone surprised at how well this kid plays in the most pressurized of situations. He completed 23 of 37 passes, flirted with his second 300-yard passing performance (career-high tying 293), ran for more yards than any QB in franchise history (71) and threw TD passes to Golden Tate to give the Seahawks that short-lived fourth-quarter lead and Rice to give the Seahawks a much-needed upset of the then-NFC North leaders.
The sum of his numbers, not to mention the impact, earned Wilson NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors in a weekend where the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson ran for 210 yards, the Lions’ Calvin Johnson caught 13 passes for 171 yards and the Cowboys’ Tony Romo threw for three TDs while completing 81.5 percent of his passes.
Wilson’s response? Typical Russell Wilson, as center Max Unger refers to the QB’s it-ain’t-me-it’s-them reaction to all praise.
“That’s just all because of the football team,” Wilson said, right on expected cue. “All the things that the offensive line is doing. All the things that the running backs – Marshawn (Lynch) and (Robert) Turbin and Leon (Washington) – and the receivers and the tight ends are doing. That has nothing to do with me.
“I thank the Lord that I’m able to play in this amazing game. I just take one day at a time and feel so blessed to have this opportunity to be the starting quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks. So it all goes to them.”
Speaking of one day at a time, what’s next for Wilson? We’re all about to find out. In the final four games of the season, starting with Sunday’s matchup against the Arizona Cardinals, Wilson will do something he didn’t experience at either the University of Wisconsin or North Carolina State – face teams he already has played. The Cardinals, St. Louis Rams and San Francisco 49ers beat the Seahawks in the first two months of the season – at their places, by a combined 17 points. Now, Wilson and the Seahawks get them at CenturyLink Field, with the 49ers coming to town on Dec. 23 and the Rams to follow on the 30th.
And how they finish this season will determine whether they’ll still be playing in the postseason.
“I am looking forward to it a lot,” Wilson said of the fourth quarter of his first season. “The biggest thing is looking forward to this game right now. I can’t look three games ahead or four games ahead. The time is now. That’s the way I always look at it, no matter what the situation is.
“It’s time to really put a strong finish in and just play great football.”
Regardless of where these last four games take the Seahawks, their rookie QB already has gone where few expected.
|IN SELECT COMPANY|
With his selection as NFC Offensive Player of the Week, Russell Wilson becomes only the 12th Seahawk, sixth quarterback, third rookie and first offensive player since 2005 to win the weekly honor that the NFL started awarding them in 1984. Here’s a look at the past winners:
Multiple winners: Alexander 7; Krieg 4; Largent 3; Hasselbeck, Kitna, Moon and Warren 2
Rookie winners: Mirer and Galloway
Wilson was the fifth of the 11 quarterbacks selected in April’s NFL Draft – in the third round, with the 75th pick. But his 19 touchdown passes, with 13 coming in the past five games, lead all rookie QBs. His passer rating of 95.2, enhanced by his 105.2 rating since Week 5 and 120.4 rating in the past four games, ranks seventh in the league and is second to the Redskins’ Robert Griffin III (104.4) among the rookies. His seven victories, including a 5-0 record at home, trail only the Colts’ Andrew Luck (eight) in the rookie class. His completion percentage (.634) is second-best among the rookies to Griffin III (.671).
Then there was his recent three-game stretch with a passer rating of 125-plus and the 16 consecutive completions against the Dolphins in Miami. No rookie quarterback in the 93-year history of the NFL has done either of those things.
But wait, there’s more. Wilson has thrown game-winning TD passes in the fourth quarter or overtime three times – against the Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots and Bears. That’s the most by a rookie QB since the NFL/AFL merger in 1970. With his 11 TD passes and no interceptions at CenturyLink Field, he has the highest home passer rating in the league (122.0) and is on pace for the third-best home passer rating in league history behind the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers and the Saints’ Drew Brees.
And look at the list of QBs who Wilson has “beaten” – Rodgers, the reigning league MVP and NFL’s highest-rated passer this season; the Patriots’ Tom Brady; the Bears’ Jay Cutler; Romo; and Cam Newton, last year’s NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
We could go on and on. Instead, we’ll allow a few of his coaches and teammates to go on and on about Wilson.
Michael Robinson, a quarterback at Penn State who has become a Pro Bowl-caliber fullback with the Seahawks: “The thing about Russell, he has so many facets to his game. He can do so much. He can stand in the pocket and throw. He can throw on the run. He can beat you with his legs. He can beat you with his mind. So the sky’s the limit for the guy.”
Unger: “You just don’t really expect rookies to have that type of command. He has demonstrated that he’s got some remarkable talent. I think we all kind of realize that now. Being able to run the two-minute drill and the stuff that he’s done, you’re not used to it for a rookie quarterback.”
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, when asked about Wilson’s demeanor in the final two drives against the Bears: “I would say it’s very determined. I wouldn’t say it’s really rah-rah. I think it’s just very determined, very confident. Even when you throw the touchdown, you may get a fist pump out of him. And that’s about it. He’s not going to jump around and go nuts and jump all over everybody, like some of the rest of us do. I don’t want to say he’s calculated that way, he’s just very determined and very confident.”
Coach Pete Carroll: “Everybody’s been blown away by him. We all have been, and every guy in the locker room has.”
And finally, this dissenting opinion from wide receiver Sidney Rice: “I’m not surprised. I’ve seen all of the throws before the season even started. I definitely knew he was capable of making all the throws, the runs. I watched him throughout his college career and in the preseason just break tackles and extend plays. … When the pressure’s on, he makes it happen.”
But the best thing about this kid? He’s all about winning. He puts personal achievements behind team goals – way behind. He ends every interview session with “Go Hawks.” He wants his first NFL season to include a postseason.
“Just keep watching him go,” Carroll said. “I think he’s going to make a lot of people that might have said something else change they mind a little bit. He’s done it all of the ways, right before our eyes – great challenges and great consistency, really, at this point. And hopefully we can finish with that.
“This is fourth-quarter time. This is his time to finish as a great contributor to this team. I’m excited to see what he’s going to do. I think he’s going to pull it off. I think he’s going to be really solid throughout the end of the schedule. I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t.”