With the game on the line and the Seahawks needing a touchdown, Doug Baldwin was pleasantly surprised by what he heard from his quarterback.
Baldwin was lined up in the slot, covered by Dolphins cornerback Bobby McCain, while Jermaine Kearse was aligned out wide to the left of Baldwin. It's a look Wilson and Baldwin had talked about before, but to this point, Baldwin said, they had never changed the call to the play they ended up running with the game hanging in the balance.
After Wilson saw the matchup he liked and adjusted the call, Baldwin broke open while Kearse helped disrupt coverage—without making contact that could have drawn a flag—and Wilson lofted a perfect pass to Baldwin in the corner of the end zone to give Seattle the go-ahead score in a 12-10 victory over Miami.
"I have to give a lot of credit to Russell Wilson, because that was not the play call," said Baldwin, who finished with 92 yards on nine catches. "We had discussions before about what we were going to do if we got certain matchups that we liked, and it was actually not on that play, but he saw the situation there was a matchup that he liked, he switched the play, and fortunately enough, Jermaine and myself were able to execute at a high level, and Russ did an excellent job of reading the defense and putting us in the best situation, making the call, and then obviously delivering the ball so we could win the game.
"Honestly, he has never changed the play to that play before. In that moment, I'm thinking, 'What is he doing?' But he has shown the propensity to do miraculous things, and that play was no different."
That Wilson would lead a game-winning drive in the final minutes of the game is hardly surprising. The Seahawks have won 19 games when tied or trailing in the fourth quarter or overtime, postseason included, the most in the NFL since Wilson's rookie season. But this time things were slightly different, as the incredibly-durable Wilson was hobbled by an ankle injury sustained in the third quarter.
Wilson, his coaches and his teammates had no doubt Wilson would stay in the game—Wilson said there was "no shot" he was going to leave the game—but he was admittedly limited by the injury the rest of the way, joking that it was a preview of what he'll look like when he's playing quarterback in his 40s.
But hobbled or not, and on a day in which neither Wilson nor the offense as a whole was particularly sharp for three-plus quarters, Wilson, Baldwin and the rest of the offense marched 75 yards on 14 plays in the closing minutes of the game to score their only touchdown of the afternoon.
"We never thought for a second he wasn't going to play," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said "We just taped him up and sent him back on out, and (he played) in really courageous fashion. I thought it was great. Then to play that well, to be able to finish the game in that kind of fashion and make all the calls and do it all and elude the rush like he needed to, that was a fantastic job."
While the quarterback is always going to receive a lot of the attention for a game-winning drive, just about everyone on the offense contributed in those final moments. An offensive line that had at times struggled with Miami's talented D-line provided some of its best protection of the night, Christine Michael fought for 16 yards on four carries, and Jimmy Graham, making it back for the opener following last year's season-ending knee injury, caught his only pass of the game in a big moment, an 11-yard gain that got the Seahawks into the red zone. And then there was Baldwin, who came through with his biggest catches in the game's biggest moments, catching a pass for 22 yards on fourth-and-4 to keep the winning drive alive, catching a 9-yard pass to get Seattle to the 2-yard line, then hauling in the game-winner two plays later.
"It goes back to our formula, our mode of operation," Baldwin said. "It doesn't matter how you start; it's how you finish. So yeah, our offense looked ugly in the first half, we weren't consistent, and we weren't completing drives. However when the plays count, we know how to finish. We've shown that for the past five years now, so it shouldn't be a surprise. Obviously we want to start cleaner, we want to do things more consistently, but you can always count on us to execute at a high level when we need to finish things."
Added Wilson: "As long as there's some time on the clock, we believe we can make it happen, and we were able to do that today. We were clutch when we needed to be, we were precise when we needed to be, we were gutsy when we needed to be, and ultimately we made the plays when we needed to."
As Baldwin noted, the Seahawks have been winning games like this for a while, which is why the offense knew it could pull off the game-winning drive, and why the defense knew the offense would pick them up after Miami had scored on the previous possession, about the only flaw in an otherwise dominant defensive performance.
"There's a feeling of familiarity," Sherman said of watching the game-winning drive. "We've been there before. He has been there before and he has come through. He's been coming through in those situations since what, Chicago, overtime (in 2012)? So there is confidence, you believe in your guys."
To defensive end Michael Bennett, Wilson's play in those final few minutes is what elevates him to the status as one of the game's best quarterbacks.
"When it came to the defining moment of the game, he did what he did," Bennett said. "That's what you do under pressure, that's why I define him as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, because the great ones play good under pressure… He never got rattled."
Check out some action photos of Seahawks vs Dolphins Week 1 at CenturyLink Field.