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Russell Wilson leads Seahawks from a big stage to a bigger stage
Just when you thought you’d seen the full extent of the impact Russell Wilson can have on a game, there was the rookie quarterback serving as lead blocker for Marshawn Lynch on what proved to be the decisive touchdown in the fourth quarter of the Seahawks’ wild-card playoff victory over the Washington Redskins on Sunday.
His brush block on Josh Wilson was just enough to shield the Redskins’ cornerback from Lynch as he dove into the right corner of the end zone, and help propel the Seahawks into this Sunday’s NFC divisional playoff game against the Falcons in Atlanta.
The reaction to the rookie quarterback morphing into a lead blocker for the team’s Pro Bowl running back?
“He picked out a good guy, a guy that’s his own size in Josh,” coach Pete Carroll said of Wilson, a former Seahawk who is 5 feet 9, 188 pounds. “They went at it a little bit downfield. I thought it was a good choice by him.”
Offered offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, “I just think that every play for him, he plays it to the end. He’s a competitor and you’ve seen it. He’ll throw his body around. It’s not like it’s any bone-crushing (blocks). He’s going out there, he’s being smart about it, he’s shielding and he’s trying to help out. Sometimes that’s enough to be able to get 5, 10 more yards. It was a nice block on the touchdown run.”
And the reaction of his teammates when Lynch’s 27-yard TD run came up in the video review?
“Guys were just excited that we won the game,” Wilson said through a smile on Thursday, when his weekly media session was held in the auditorium at Virginia Mason Athletic Center for the second consecutive week rather than in a hallway outside the locker room.
“That was a big play in the game, in terms of blocking for Marshawn. Marshawn is an unbelievable player. I think the biggest play of the game was when he picked up my fumble (in the second quarter). That was pretty awesome by him. … He picked it up like a shortstop, I told him. It was pretty nice.”
Vintage Wilson. He not only turned the attention away from himself, he directed it at a teammate.
Wilson also was asked which quarterbacks he watched and emulated.
“When I was growing up, I watched Steve Young a lot,” Wilson said of the Hall of Fame QB for the San Francisco 49ers who now is an analyst for ESPN. “In college, I studied (the Saints’) Drew Brees a ton. He’s a guy I watch all the time. I still watch him today.
“I like guys who have a competitive nature, great leadership and attention to detail, love to win and love to compete.”
Wednesday, it was Young’s turn to talk about Wilson when asked during a conference-call interview about the impact of this year’s rookie QB class.
“Obviously, I love the idea of athletic quarterbacks,” Young said. “But what's happening is, you're getting athletic quarterbacks that have been trained as quarterbacks. … I think you're going to see that people will see the benefits of mobile quarterbacks in the long-term and that will still be hopefully the prototype.
“I think you're starting to see that the potential for what mobile quarterbacks can do on third down and just piercing plays to defenses, as they learn the job. Because as soon as a mobile quarterback learns the job … that's when you get to complete capitulation of defenses. They just don't know what to do. You've seen RG III do that at times this year as a rookie and you've seen Russell Wilson do that as a rookie. It’s incredible the things these guys can accomplish.”
Don’t look now, but Wilson is the only one still doing it. The Colts’ Andrew Luck and Redskins’ Robert Griffin III, the top two picks in April’s NFL Draft, were eliminated from the playoffs last weekend. The Dolphins’ Ryan Tannehill and Browns’ Brandon Weeden, the other QBs selected in the first round, didn’t even get to the postseason. The Broncos’ Brock Osweiler, the other QB selected ahead of Wilson (second round), threw four passes as Peyton Manning’s backup.
So the last rookie QB standing is the one who was drafted in the third round, with the 75th pick overall. And look at the postseason company he is keeping: The future Hall of Fame trio of Manning, the Patriots’ Tom Brady and Packers’ Aaron Rodgers; the Ravens’ Joe Flacco and Falcons’ Matt Ryan, first-round picks in 2008; as well as the Texans’ Matt Schaub and 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick, who entered the league as third- and second-round picks in 2004 and 2011.
Wilson’s reaction? Again, predictable. He turned a question meant to credit him into praise for others.
“I think that this draft class has been very special, from the quarterbacks all the way to other positions as well,” he said. “You look at our football team, just in general.”
Wilson then rattled through a list of his rookie teammates that started with middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, who leads the team in tackles and is “an unbelievable player and one of the leaders of our defense,” as Wilson put it; and didn’t stop until he had included defensive end Bruce Irvin, running back Robert Turbin, cornerback Jeremy Lane and guard J.R. Sweezy.
“The exciting part just from our standpoint, in terms of the Seahawks, is we’ve got a lot of guys playing early and doing a tremendous job of it,” Wilson said.
Wilson can deflect the limelight all he wants, but the more he does, the more others are taking notice. In addition to Young, Hall of Fame coach and iconic broadcaster John Madden also weighed in on Wilson during an interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio.
“I tell you, he is really an impressive guy,” Madden said. “I heard him talking to you guys yesterday and I always thought, when Peyton Manning – when you talked to him – it would be like talking to half player and half coach. Some part of the conversation it would sound like you were talking to a coach. And as I was listening to you guys yesterday talking to Russell Wilson and I had that same feeling. I said, ‘This guy’s Peyton Manning. He’s half a coach.”
First Wilson ties Manning’s NFL rookie record by throwing 26 TD passes during the regular season, now he’s being compared to the mental aspect of Manning’s game that always has set him apart – and above.
“He must have been one of those guys that back in grammar school he was the class president, in high school he was that leader, and all those things in college,” Madden said of Wilson. “I know he went to two colleges, but wherever he was he just looks like that guy. Once he walks in a room, he has control of that room. Once he walks into any situation, he has control of it.
“And I felt last week in that game – when they were down 14-0 and they just kept chopping wood, just kept playing, playing, playing – that at no point did he ever look like that stage was too big for him.”
Because of that, and his lead block for Lynch, Wilson has led the Seahawks to an even bigger stage in Sunday’s divisional playoff game.