A common phrase you'll hear out of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson when his team, the offense or his game is struggling is that "it starts with me." Some of that is just Wilson being a leader who understands that, as the quarterback and captain of Seattle's offense, he's going to receive both more blame and more credit than the usually deserves. But Wilson is also using the "is starts with me" line after Sunday's loss to Arizona because he knows it wasn't his best performance.
As is always the case, good or bad, the offense's performance wasn't all on Wilson last weekend, but he did have what was statistically one of his worst games of the season, completing just 14 of 32 passes on his way to a 67.2 passer rating, his lowest of the season. As he always does, Wilson came up with some big plays, both with his arm and his legs, but he also missed a few more throws than usual, including an interception on a deep ball to an open Doug Baldwin.
"I think he's playing like he plays," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "He's making his plays with his feet. He's made some great throws. He's been a consistent battler, he's been battling the whole time. He's worked with the rush as he's had to. I think that in this game, we talk about the ones that got away, the throws that got away from us, and the opportunities that got away, there were plenty of them in there. He's just working at being really consistent with his reads, and his footwork, so that he can make the plays that are there when they're available. And he's going to make a lot of stuff happen otherwise. So it's always to try to make sure we're maximizing every play that we get. And we have to look at every one of them individually and see what happened. Was there a breakdown, was there a guy that came loose, I'm only talking about the passing game. Could the throw have been this or that? The reads and all that stuff. He's just trying to get better, like all of us are. But he made some marvelous plays to give us a chance, and we missed a few opportunities that we needed to make a difference too."
What Wilson made clear on Thursday is that one subpar outing isn't going to get him or Seattle's offense down, not with seven games left to change the story of this season.
"We're not that far off," Wilson said. "I'm not going to mentally go there at all. I think the biggest thing is we have to make those plays. It's everyone across the board. It starts with me, and I have full confidence in that. The confidence never wavers, and that's the biggest thing. And our confidence can't. It's one of those things that we have to rely on one another and just trust that it's going to happen."
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell echoed Carroll's assessment of his quarterback this week, saying he "played how Russell plays," and he also twice talked about needing to give players a chance to make plays on balls, all of which added up to more criticism than coaches usually place on Wilson. That's a reflection both of an off day for Wilson, and likely also of his status on the team now as a fourth-year veteran leader and not a young up-and-comer who coaches feel the need to protect. But Wilson isn't letting any criticism of his game, or his play, change the belief he has in his game or the potential of this team.
"I think that you face some adversity, but I truly believe that adversity is temporary and you just have to continue to fight through it," Wilson said. "Continue to prepare, continue to have faith in what we're doing. There's no doubt in us. I think the biggest thing is continue to just trust the process, and enjoy the process while doing it. We get to play the greatest game in the world and we get to play for the greatest organization there is. So I think the biggest thing is just continue to stay the course, and find ways to make plays when it comes down to it come gameday, and just trust that that will happen."
But while Wilson will concede he could have been better in Sunday's loss and some other games, what he won't buy into is the notion that any "distractions" like a new contract or a famous girlfriend have changed his game. And through eight games, Wilson was having a season very similar, statistically, to his first four, and doing so under more pressure than he has ever faced and while throwing more often than he ever has.
"My private life is my private life," Wilson said. "But I think at the same time, there's no fear in (sharing things on social media) or anything like that. I'm grateful for the people that I have in my life. Just the surroundings, from the team, to everybody and my friends and all that too as well. I'm sure you're referring to Ciara too as well, she's an unbelievable person. So that's a part of it. But I think ultimately when it comes down to football, the focus is on football. That's just how it has to be and how it always is. I love playing this game. I'm passionate about it and I'm passionate about that, so that's where it's really at too… Ultimately right now, obviously the focus is on football and preparing, and getting ready to win."
Throughout his career Wilson has been good at fixing issues that have troubled him or the offense, whether it was third-down struggles early in his rookie season or red-zone issues or his inconsistent performances on the road vs. at home early on. So even if some of the results thus far have looked a bit off for Wilson and the Seahawks in general, there's a track record that suggests things are more likely to improve that stagnate.
"I think that we're so close," Wilson said. "The biggest thing is that's where I kind of look at it all and review everything, and not stretch for answers. A lot of people want to stretch for answers and try to figure out what's wrong or whatever. At the end of the day it comes down to us just scoring more touchdowns and finding a way to do that. We definitely have the capability of doing that we just need to put it together, and continue to play one game at a time and play one play at a time, and see where it takes us."
It was a crisp and clear fall day along the shores of Lake Washington as the Seahawks prepare to take the ball away against division rival San Francisco 49ers.