Russell Wilson was simply Super on most pivotal down

Posted Feb 7, 2014

The Seahawks did so many things so well in their impressive victory over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII. But don’t overlook what Russell Wilson was able to do on third downs.

Of all the impressive things the Seahawks did while winning Super Bowl XLVIII, don’t overlook one of the most crucial: The offensive performance on third downs.

Converting on the pivotal down had been an issue down the stretch in the regular season, as well as in both of the Seahawks’ postseason games, as the Seahawks faced five Top 10 defenses in six games. It had affected the offense’s ability to sustain drives, which played directly into the concerns about how they would be able score enough points to defeat the New Orleans Saints in their divisional playoff game and the defending conference champion San Francisco 49ers in the NFC title game.

The answer in those playoff games was that the Seahawks’ No. 1-ranked defense did not allow the Saints (15) or 49ers (17) to score enough points to win – so that the Seahawks could by scoring 23 points in each game.

But in the 43-8 victory over the Denver Broncos at MetLife Stadium last Sunday night, those third-down conversions seemed to come as easily for the Seahawks as everything else.

What was the difference for a team that had converted 30 percent in its previous six games suddenly converting 58 percent in the biggest game?

“I think it was really Russell Wilson just being really smart with the football,” tight end Zach Miller said the other day in the locker room at Virginia Mason Athletic Center. “Russell was using his legs, finding the open guys, getting the ball out of his hand to the receivers quickly and letting them make plays.”

A closer look at how the Seahawks converted seven of 12 third-down situations against the Broncos supports that assessment.

Wilson completed seven of his eight third-down passes for 83 yards – to four receivers – and the only incompletion was the pass to Jermaine Kearse in the end zone that Broncos linebacker Nate Irving broke up in the second quarter. And before Wilson gave way to backup Tarvaris Jackson late in the fourth quarter of that game that was over before it was actually over, the Seahawks converted 64 percent on third downs (7 of 11).

And, six of Wilson’s third-down completions came in scoring drives.

On the Seahawks’ first possession, which ended with Steven Hauschka’s 31-yard field goal, Wilson hit a 12-yard pass to Kearse on third-and-9 – and his run and lunge on third-and-6 from the Denver 14-yard line was just short of picking up the first down.

On the Seahawks’ next possession, a 13-play drive to a 33-yard field goal by Hauschka, Wilson had his third-down mojo working. He went to Golden Tate for a 10-yard gain on third-and-8; to Doug Baldwin for a 6-yard gain on third-and-4; and to Baldwin for a 37-yard gain – the longest offensive play of the game – on third-and-5. The next third down ended with Irving’s play to break up the pass to Kearse in the end zone.

On the Seahawks’ second possession of the second half, which ended with Wilson’s 23-yard TD pass to Kearse, Wilson prolonged the drive by passing to rookie tight end Luke Willson for 12 yards on third-and-7.

On their next possession, Wilson went to Baldwin for 6 yards on third-and-2 during a five-play, 48-yard drive that ended with Wilson’s 10-yard TD pass to Baldwin.

Impressive stuff by the second-year QB, from start to almost finish. And, like so many other players on this team, Wilson will only get better.

“There was a lot of concern that you (reporters) had about our offense and about Russell’s performance and all that,” coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday after the team’s victory parade through downtown Seattle and the championship celebration at CenturyLink Field. “And I would continue to tell you that he was playing well within what we were expecting that we needed in games.

“I thought that there was always more production, there’s always more yardage out there for us. But I thought he demonstrated the finish in the playoffs. I thought it was just an exquisite effort by the quarterback. His play was perfectly fitted to our football team and the plans that we needed to win the games and it couldn’t have been more obvious than it was in the Super Bowl. That was a near-perfect game for him.”

Wilson did not throw an interception in the postseason, and the Seahawks turned the ball over only once (on a fumble) while forcing eight turnovers (four interceptions and four fumble recoveries).

“So hanging onto the football allows us to win and Russell was perfect at dealing with that and distributing the ball as well as he did,” Carroll said. “So as we go into this offseason, my hopes are that he’s really going to take another big step forward and he’ll continue to get better.”

Just like Wilson did in turning around the Seahawks’ production on third downs in the Super Bowl.