MINNEAPOLIS – Russell Wilson has accomplished so many things in his four-year NFL career, from individual honors and achievements to playoff wins and a Super Bowl victory.
But what might be the best part of Wilson's career, at least from an entertainment standpoint, is his ability to regularly turn disaster into something so spectacular. And on Sunday when Wilson and Seattle's offense struggled to get much done while competing against both a stingy Vikings defense and some extreme cold, Wilson's helped save Seattle's season with one of his best Houdini acts yet.
"That was not a designed play," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll deadpanned not long after his team had held on to beat the Vikings 10-9.
No, Wilson's 35-yard pass to Tyler Lockett in the fourth quarter most definitely was not designed, but it was spectacular, as well as game changing.
The Seahawks were trailing 9-0 early in the fourth quarter when Wilson set up in the shotgun on first-and-10 from the Minnesota 39-yard line. Trying to call an audible in the noise of TCF Bank Stadium, Wilson wasn't ready when Patrick Lewis' snap came his way, which meant that snap, though accurate, ended up 15 yards behind him.
And this is where magician Russell Wilson kicks in. For as much as Wilson has proven himself as not just capable, but deadly in the pocket, there is still this element of his game that few, if any, other quarterbacks possess.
Rather than simply fall on the ball, which is what almost any other player in his situation would have done, Wilson slid to make sure he had control of it, but then rather than cover up, he looked up to assess the situation. That situation was five Vikings defenders running at him unblocked.
"As soon as I got the ball, I looked up and said, 'uh-oh,'" Wilson said. "It was like a whole bunch of bears chasing me. I was just trying to get away."
Wilson got up, somehow escaped to his right, then rolled towards the sideline. Now is when just about any quarterback who would have been crazy enough to get up and run in the first place probably would have just thrown the ball away to avoid a big sack. But Wilson kept looking down field—while also checking that his linemen hadn't gotten down field since he had audibled to a run play—and amidst the chaos, he spotted a wide-open Lockett. Lockett caught Wilson's pass, and with the help of a Jermaine Kearse block, got to the 4-yard line. Two plays later, Wilson hit Doug Baldwin for the game's only touchdown.
"Man, I just can't say enough about that play specifically," Baldwin said. "The awareness, not only to get on the ball as quickly as possible, but also to look up to see if he could make a play. He's on the ball to cover it up and protect it, but he's also looking to see if he can get up and make a play. He gets up, and has me to his immediate right, but in typical Russell Wilson fashion, he's looking down field to make a play, and makes a play to Tyler, and Tyler and Jermaine do the rest. Terrible start to the play, but it couldn't have ended more beautifully for us."
Wilson's ability to make beauty out of disaster is why, even on a day when he went 13-for-26 for 142 yards, one touchdownd and and one interception, he can still make the biggest play of the game.
"He just had to make something happen, and he finds Tyler and we make a big play and get a chance to get down there," Carroll said. "We've seen so often the magic that comes out of him sometimes… It's a rare play, but he does stuff like that, and we've kind of come to count on it, and it's been a factor when we need it."
Lockett, who's one catch Sunday was that 35-yarder, downplayed his role, though critical, in what ended up being the play of the game.
"The credit goes to Russell for being able to keep it alive," Lockett said. "In that moment, the first thing you want to do is fall on it; he fell on it, nobody was around, so he got back and started running.
"Who would have ever though that one of the biggest plays in the game would come from a play that wasn't designed. I couldn't tell you what the play was because I forgot what it was. We have versatile quarterback who is able to make people miss, who is able to keep plays alive. It's our job as receivers to stay open. We talk about the scramble drill, and I just ran to an open spot, and luckily Russell had his eyes down field, and he was able to find me."
The Seahawks hit the road and traveled to Minnesota for the second time this season for the NFC Wild Card Playoff matchup at TCF Bank Stadium and escape with a 10-9 victory to advance to next Sunday's NFC Divisional round.