Sunday, November 19News That Matters

How Long Can Seahawks Offense Lean Solely on Russell Wilson's Brilliance?


SEATTLE, WA - OCTOBER 01: Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks looks to pass against the Indianapolis Colts in the third quarter of the game at CenturyLink Field on October 1, 2017 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

There’s a long list of plays that, in the moment, feel like the definitive Russell Wilson play.

Usually they involve the Seattle Seahawks quarterback spinning, scrambling and slipping free from pressure to unleash his wizardry on defenders who are helpless, sprawled or both.

Often, the subtle details of a play are what separate Wilson from other athletically gifted quarterbacks. And there was one such moment during Seattle’s 46-18 win over the Indianapolis Colts Sunday night.

It was a game-changing play, and also one that served as a reminder of just how much Wilson has to do nearly every week to keep his offense afloat.

It came in the third quarter, when the Seahawks were somehow trailing the Colts, a struggling team still playing without three-time Pro Bowl quarterback Andrew Luck. On 3rd-and-10, Wilson seemed trapped and at risk of taking another sack. But Wilson is part passer and part escape artist.

He blasted off, accelerating into the open field after reaching top speed with a few quick strides.

What happened next felt familiar from a quarterback who has now scored 14 career rushing touchdowns, and logged three seasons with 500-plus rushing yards.

His speed quickly eliminated every possible tackling angle. Wilson scored a 23-yard rushing touchdown that gave the Seahawks a lead, and more importantly, breathed life into a rudderless offense during the first half.

But there was one element that made it a signature Wilson special, complete with the standard disbelief that grows each time you watch the replay.

Note where Wilson first faced contact before he stretched for the end zone.

Source: NFL.com

He’s nearly three yards away, and was jarred sideways by the blow to his lower half. But he still had the core strength to maintain balance and keep his momentum moving forward while clawing for the end zone.

For many quarterbacks, the first 22 yards of that run would have been difficult enough. And for many more, the last yard would have been impossible.

The Russell Wilson Experience is usually an uplifting one in that sense for the Seahawks. He has a habit of igniting a stagnant offense, which is what the 28-year-old did Sunday by scoring Seattle’s first offensive touchdown of the evening.

During the first half, Seattle gained only 140 yards, and worse, recorded just five first downs. It was a half when they scored 10 points and didn’t control the ball at all, while the Colts held possession for a whopping 19:56.

Then in the second half, all that offensive sputtering became a memory. The Seahawks offense finished with 477 yards, and 337 yards came over the final two quarters. They recorded 17 first downs in the second half, too, and scored 22 points in the third quarter alone.

As ESPN Stats & Information noted, we witnessed more than just the average second-half walloping courtesy of the Wilson-powered Seahawks offense. This particular steamrolling came with a historic exclamation point:

Wilson went beyond showcasing his signature athletic ability. He threw for 295 yards, and did it while misfiring only five times on 26 pass attempts.

Yes, two of those incompletions did end up in enemy hands, but Wilson’s interceptions were mostly out of his control. One came on a well-placed throw, but Colts safety Matthias Farley made a great play by tipping the ball to himself, and then delicately tap-danced to stay in bounds. And on the other interception, Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham deflected what should have been a routine catch.

Those two picks were the first of Wilson’s season so far over 144 pass attempts. They came in a game when he averaged 11.3 yards per throw, a sky-high average boosted by constant chunk yardage.

Wilson has long been recognized as a precise deep passer, and that skill was in full effect Sunday. He piled up six 20-plus yard completions after entering Week 4 with eight connections of that distance or more over the previous three games. His night included a 41-yard throw to wide receiver Tyler Lockett and a 27-yard touchdown hookup with running back J.D. McKissic, one of Wilson’s two touchdown passes during the win.

J.D. McKissic was one of eight Seahawks players to record a reception.

J.D. McKissic was one of eight Seahawks players to record a reception.Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

He shined amid the chaos and scuffling around him. Which, again, is a common refrain in recent Seahawks seasons. Wilson rises above poor offensive-line play, and more recently, a rushing offense that produces only in bursts.

The Seahawks’ once dominant rushing attack was silent for much of the game until McKissic’s 30-yard touchdown run. Seattle finished the first half with only 36 rushing yards, and only 94 of the Seahawks’ 194 rushing yards overall came from running backs. Worse, Chris Carson, the undrafted running back responsible for 42 of those yards, was carted off with what looked to be a serious leg injury.

There still isn’t enough of a backfield threat to keep pass-rushers honest, which is part of why Wilson was sacked three times Sunday. It was the third three-sack game he’s endured this year behind a poor offensive line still searching for footing.

We’ve seen all of this before. Annually, Wilson has faced immense pressure in the pocket. And annually during the Pete Carroll era, the Seahawks find a way to make the playoffs as title contenders driven mostly by their quarterback’s Houdini act.

It’s a tenuous recipe for success with little margin for error. There will be a sinking feeling if Wilson’s performance goes from phenomenal to merely great.

Eventually, the Seahawks will need to somehow support Wilson with a better backfield and blocking. Failing to do so could lead to a wasted season for an otherwise talented roster.

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