Thursday in Hawkville: Russell Wilson passes the Jim Harbaugh test

Posted Dec 5, 2013

Not known for his expansive assessments of opposing players, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh veered toward the excessive this week when asked about Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

A recap of the activities at Virginia Mason Athletic Center for Dec. 5, when the Seahawks continued to prepare for Sunday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park:


And that word is not usually connected to Jim Harbaugh, especially when the coach of the defending NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers is discussing an upcoming opponent.

But in a 60-second span, Harbaugh used “fantastic,” “wonderful” and “phenomenal” while discussing Russell Wilson, the Seahawks’ second-year quarterback who leads the Seahawks into a Sunday matchup with the 49ers at Candlestick Park.

“He’s a fantastic player,” Harbaugh said Wednesday when asked about Wilson during his Q&A session with reporters who cover the 49ers. “Wonderful, wonderful player, competitor. Skills of arm talent and mobility. Great field awareness. Understands the scrambling lanes, escape routes out of the pocket. And that feel that only so many quarterbacks have who have ever played the game to extend plays.”

Harbaugh should know, because he knows the position. He played quarterback in the NFL for 14 seasons, with five teams – the Bears (1987-93), Colts (1994-97), Ravens (1998), Chargers (1999-2000) and Panthers (2001). He’s also the coach who made the midseason switch from Alex Smith to Colin Kaepernick last year; a QB moved that helped propel the 49ers to the Super Bowl.

“A lot of great qualities,” Harbaugh said of Wilson. “A lot of wonderful qualities about him.”

In Wilson’s only visit to Candlestick Park, the 49ers’ defense was able to keep all those wonderful qualities in the bottle last season while handing the Seahawks a 13-6 loss. In his seventh NFL start, Wilson probably had his poorest outing, completing 9 of 23 passes for 122 yards, with no touchdowns and an interception, for a career-low passer rating of 38.7.

But Wilson has grown since that Thursday night game last October, and the Seahawks’ offense along with him.

In the Week 16 rematch at CenturyLink Field last December, Wilson threw a career-high four touchdown passes as the Seahawks rolled to a 42-13 victory. He also completed 15 of 21 passes for 171 yards and a 115.3 rating.

In this season’s home opener, when the Seahawks won 29-3 in Week 2, Wilson had a middle-ground performance: 8 of 19 for 142 yards, with one TD and one interception, for a 63.9 rating. As was the case last year, Wilson and the offense are better heading into the final month of the season than they were earlier in the season.

Wilson was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week after his three-TD pass effort in Monday night’s 34-7 victory over the New Orleans Saints and he has risen to third in the NFL in passer rating (108.5) after fashioning ratings of 134.6, 151.4 and 139.6 the past three games – three of top four marks in his 28-game career.

“He’s definitely established himself as one of the better quarterbacks in this league and it’s great competition to play against him two times a year,” Patrick Willis, the 49ers’ Pro Bowl linebacker, said this week during a conference-call interview. “And certainly this Sunday, we’ve got to make sure that we try to him contained and just get after him.”


The official report, as issued by the team:


The Seahawks have allowed 186 points, the second fewest in the NFL behind the Panthers (157). The Seahawks have scored 340 points, the second most in the league behind the Broncos (464). Put that together and it creates the obvious – the best point differential in the league:

Team (W-L) Points Pts. Allowed Diff.
Seahawks  (11-1) 340 186 154
Broncos (10-2) 464 317 147
Panthers (9-3) 285 157 128
49ers (8-4) 297 197 100
Chiefs (9-3)  298 214 84

Did not practice
CB Brandon Browner (groin)
WR Percy Harvin (hip)
LB Bruce Irvin (thigh)
QB Tarvaris Jackson (illness)

Limited in practice
TE Kellen Davis (neck)

Full participation
RB Marshawn Lynch (not injury related)
WR Golden Tate (hip)

With Irvin out for the second consecutive day, Malcolm Smith continued to work with the No. 1 defense. Smith started three of the first four games this season at strong-side linebacker while Irvin was serving a league-imposed four-game suspension. Lynch and Tate were back after sitting out Wednesday’s practice, while Browner did not practice after being limited Wednesday.

For the 49ers:

Did not practice
OG Mike Iupati (knee)


“It’s great. Today was definitely one of my dreams come true. I’m a newer Seahawks fan, but I’m definitely a Seahawks fan.”

Drake, who attended Thursday’s practice after 20 players went to his show at the Tacoma Dome on Wednesday night

Limited in practice
WR Josh Baldwin (calf)
CB Tarell Brown (ribs)
WR Mario Manningham (knee)
TE Vance McDonald (ankle)
LB Dan Skuta (foot)
OT Joe Staley (knee)

Full participation
LB NaVorro Bowman (wrist)
TE Garrett Celek (hamstring)
RB Frank Gore (ankle)
DT Ray McDonald (ankle)
LB Aldon Smith (shoulder)
DT Justin Smith (shoulder)


Devon Wylie, a 5-foot-9, 187-pound wide receiver, was signed to the practice squad. To clear a spot on the eight-man unit, defensive end Michael Brooks was released.

Wylie has spent time with the Chiefs, Cardinals, Steelers and Titans after being selected in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft by Kansas City.


The short week to prepare for the 49ers continues with the final full practice on “No Repeat Friday.” The players will have a walkthrough on Saturday morning before the team flies to San Francisco for what will be its final game at Candlestick Park.

Need a Richard Sherman fix? The All-Pro cornerback is featured in this week’s “Inside the NFL” on Showtime and Showtime Extreme. The episode aired Wednesday night, but you can catch the replay Friday at 1 and 10 p.m., Saturday at 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. and Sunday at 8 a.m.