Some of the most impressive numbers associated with Russell Wilson this season are ones that, quite frankly, the Seahawks would prefer weren’t so spectacular.
For as long as Pete Carroll has been Seattle’s head coach, he has preached the importance of having a balanced offensive attack. But for a number of reasons, ranging from injuries at running back to injuries affecting offensive line continuity, Seattle has, through 11 games, not been able to run the ball very effectively other than when Wilson himself is scrambling.
As a result, Wilson is not only the Seahawks’ leading rusher with 401 yards on 65 carries, he is also on pace to set career highs in passing yards, completions and attempts, and is at or near the pace of his career highs in both touchdowns and interceptions.
It would be unfair to the rest of Seattle’s offense to call Wilson a one-man show. His pass catchers like Doug Baldwin, Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson are all having great seasons, and Seattle’s pass protection is much improved, giving Wilson more time to operate. But because of the nature of the position, and because he runs the ball, a lot is on Wilson’s plate this season.
Wilson has either thrown or run for 3,430 of Seattle’s 3,994 yards this season, which means he has been directly involved in 85.9 percent of Seattle’s offense. If he keeps up that pace, it would be the highest such number for a quarterback in the Super Bowl era according to the NFL Media Research Group. Wilson has also run or passed for all but one of Seattle’s 27 offensive touchdowns this season—J.D. McKissic’s has Seattle’s only rushing touchdown other than Wilson’s three—meaning he has been involved in 96.3 percent of Seattle’s offensive touchdowns, again the highest percentage in the Super Bowl era.
“I don’t know how you could carry it much more, numbers-wise,” Carroll said. “He’s having a fantastic football season, and he’s doing marvelous stuff. It’s great to see him with good, fortunate health and all of that, we can see the difference in it and it’s so obvious between this year and last year, and he had a great offseason and it’s showing up in his conditioning throughout the year. I don’t know, we would be in a different mode without him for sure, and he’s a fantastic player.”
Of course, ideally Carroll would love to see those aforementioned percentages come down over the next five games, not because he wants Wilson’s production to decrease, but because he hopes the Seahawks can find more of a running game as the season winds down. In the meantime, however, Carroll isn’t of the belief that what Wilson is currently doing is impossible to sustain, because while Wilson is accounting for a lot of the rushing yardage, he very rarely allows himself to get hit hard when he runs.
“The thing that comes to mind is, ‘Oh, you can’t do that forever, or that you can’t do that all season long.’ Well yeah, you can if you stay healthy,” Carroll said. “Russell has great awareness about taking care of himself… We certainly don’t want him running the ball and getting hit—you’re not seeing him run a bunch of lead-plays and stuff—but really it goes back to Russell’s awareness. He knows how to do this, and I’m counting on it.”
As a defensive-minded coach, Carroll is well aware of how much Wilson can stress an opposing defense.
“Well, let me state it from the other side of it; when you have a quarterback that can do that, it changes everything,” Carroll said. “You guys on the broadcast talking about how you get the first play and then the second play, well sometimes, these guys give you third plays. Russell has been able to do that; it might look like it’s going to be a scramble or he’s going to throw it, and then he takes off and runs for 15 or 18 yards, or something like that. It’s just as hard as it can get because you can structure your defense to play normal stuff, and then the play breaks down and then you’re not quite sure if it’s going to be like a QB-draw or if it winds up being a sprint-out or winds up being like a naked or boot, and then the defenders have to start all over again. It’s just as hard as it can possibly be; I’ve always said that when we have our opponents that are like that.”
And Wilson’s play certainly has the attention of this week’s opponent, the Philadelphia Eagles.
“Everything runs through Russell right now,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said on a conference call. “This kid, he is unbelievable. I loved him when he came out of Wisconsin. I was actually a part of the Eagles staff when I had a chance to work him out and thought he was going to be a special player in this league and he has obviously turned out to be one. The team feeds off of that and they still do. We got our work cut out for us there. We got to make sure that we can try to somehow get some hands on him and not let him escape like he does because he is very dangerous outside the pocket.”
Because of how well Wilson is playing and because of how much of Seattle’s offense he has accounted for this year, his name is being mentioned along with the likes of Philadelphia’s Carson Wentz and New England’s Tom Brady as a legitimate MVP candidate.
Like anyone who strives to be great, Wilson would love to add an MVP award to his trophy case, but as of now, his main focus is on winning any way possible, which right now means making plays with his arm and his legs.
“You always set individual goals,” Wilson said. “If you don’t want to be the best in the world, then what are you out here for? I know for me, I try to play at the highest level every time I step on the field and try to find a way to win. I think the quarterback position is really about the others. I think it is really about trying to make the other 10 guys on the field look better and typically, the best quarterbacks in the National Football League find ways to make the other guys better. That is my main concern and my main focus at all times, is helping our football team win.”
Take a look back through history at the Seahawks' matchups against the 49ers as the two teams ready to face off for Sunday Night Football during Week 13 at CenturyLink Field.