This season has had some firsts for Russell Wilson that the Seahawks quarterback would have just as soon never experienced.
Most notably, the 2021 campaign saw Wilson experience his first losing season of his NFL career and just the second one that didn't end with a playoff berth, and it also brought the first missed games of Wilson's career, with the eight-time Pro-Bowler missing three games with a finger injury that required surgery.
But for all that didn't go well this season, Sunday's home finale represented the best of the Seahawks offense, and of Wilson both as a player and as a person who has contributed so much to the Seattle area since arriving as a rookie in 2012.
For four quarters, Wilson and his weapons picked apart the Lions while Rashaad Penny and the running game ran Detroit over. With Penny rushing for a career-high 170 yards and two scores, and with Wilson throwing four touchdown passes—three of them to DK Metcalf—on the way to a 133.0 passer rating that was his best since the season-opener, the Seahawks rolled to a 51-29 win in their first 50-point game since a win over the Bills late in Wilson's rookie season.
"I think we executed in every way," Wilson said. "I've been telling you guys for a little bit here, that's kind of the game we want to play, a complete game from first quarter, second quarter, third quarter to fourth. Everybody touched the ball. We were able to facilitate to different guys. Our playmakers like DK, Tyler (Lockett), they were exceptional today. Gerald (Everett) made exceptional catches. We converted on third down. Rashaad Penny ran the ball, lights out. Offensive line was tremendous all night… We're always searching for the next best step, and I think we definitely took that today. That was huge for us."
Yet for all Wilson accomplished over the course of four quarters, what he and his wife, Ciara, did before the game is just as significant when it comes to his impact on the region over the years. Following pregame warmups, Wilson and Ciara presented a $2.7 million check to Immuno Heroes, a campaign that raises money for Seattle Children's Therapeutics, a leading immunotherapy program. The money was raised by Wilson and Ciara's Why Not You Foundation and also through donations made at Safeway and Albertsons stores, and combined with donations made since the founding of the Why Not You Foundation in 2014, Wilson and Ciara have help raise more than $10 million to fund life-saving cancer treatment and research, part of the reason why Wilson won the prestigious Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award following the 2020 season.
After the game, Wilson got emotional talking about the lessons learned from his parents, and from seeing his dad, Harrison Wilson III, die from complications of diabetes when Wilson was in college.
"My dad always told me, it's the hashmark in between of significance that you can leave on a place," Wilson said. "You always want to leave a place better, you always want to go to a place and make it better. You want to always encourage people and make people believe. That's why I went to the hospitals. My mom was an ER nurse and did so many different things. I've seen my dad pass away in a hospital room when the line went flat, so for me I understand what it's like to lose family members, to lose loved ones and all that… To be able to live life with (Ciara) and to be able to give back and give a little glimpse of hope, it's what life's really all about. I believe that God's given me so much ability but also so much opportunity to serve, and I just thank God every day I get to serve and to give back and to help. And that's what's been probably the coolest part of the journey is just to be able to make a difference for people and to see kids walk in with cancer and then to be able to help raise funds or to be able to encourage them, give them a word of 'Why not you?' or whatever it may be, give them that glimpse of hope."
"For me and Ciara, we've seen that happen over and over and over again, the success rate of (immunotherapy). We've seen kids walk out of the hospital room with no more cancer and no more problems. And we've also lost some too. But the belief and the hope that someone else is going to be encouraged, that just maybe if there's a small chance maybe they get to walk out of that hospital room, it's worth every second, every minute and every hour, every day to wake up with that kind of encouragement and love."
Of course, Wilson is able to have such a huge impact on the community in large part because he has spent the past decade establishing himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, and after some up-and-down performances after coming back from the finger injury, Wilson again looked like he was that player again.
In throwing four touchdown passes on Sunday, Wilson tied Dan Marino and Peyton Manning for the most games with four or more touchdown passes in a player's first 10 season with 17. He also joined those two Hall of Famers as the only quarterbacks to throw 20 or more touchdown passes in each of their first 10 seasons, and with the win he tied Manning for the most wins (112), postseason included, in a quarterback's first 10 seasons.
It was all part of dominant day not just for Wilson, but for the entire offense, which had season highs for points, yards (497), rushing yards (265), third-down efficiency (7 for 12), total plays run (71) and time of possession (33:33).
"Everybody was touching the football," said Metcalf, whose three touchdowns gave him a career-high 12 for the season. "You have Freddie (Swain) and Tyler (Lockett) and Gerald (Everett). I saw a stat that said like nine different receivers caught the ball today. That's how the offense should look. Everybody positive, getting positive yards. The running backs are doing good, and the O-line are blocking their butt off. That's how it's supposed to look."
And when it was all over, Wilson slowly made his way off the field, the last player off the Lumen Field turf, and spent time interacting with fans in the southwest corner of the stadium before exiting through the tunnel and into the locker room.
"I was thinking about joy, I was thinking about our fans and what a special moment just to be able to win this game here at home for our fans and for them to feel that energy again," Wilson said of lingering on the field after the game. "I felt like throughout the whole game the crowd saw that energy and got to feel us and vice versa. And that was really special tonight. So anytime you see those kids, too, you always want to—they're screaming your name or whatever—to give them a towel or sign their jersey, those kind of special moments like that are always amazing. And obviously I love the city. It's been such a special journey. And obviously to be able to win tonight was a great game."
The 12s packed a chilly Lumen Field to cheer on the Seattle Seahawks as they took on the Detroit Lions on January 2, 2022.