Rookie quarterback has his best performance yet, and at just the right time
CHICAGO — Russell Wilson was so dazzling he beat the Chicago Bears twice Sunday.
You can thank the Seahawks’ stupefying late-game defense for forcing their quarterback to clone magic. But, hey, it only adds to the legend of the undersized rookie who is having an oversized impact.
This is Wilson’s show now, and I’ll go ahead and say it: This is his team, too. After he made the Bears look like Northwestern in a 23-17 overtime victory at Soldier Field, after he drove the Seahawks 97 yards to take the lead with 24 seconds left in regulation and followed with an 80-yard drive in overtime to prove the first was no fluke, Wilson graduated from young marvel to the undisputed man.
How good was he? He almost made you wish NFL overtime rules stipulated that the Seahawks had to play defense again so that he could’ve had the chance to win the game a third time. And, oh, Wilson would’ve gotten the opportunity with the way this D closes games.
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The Seahawks now have blown four fourth-quarter leads in seven road games this season. But unlike the other three, they didn’t lose this one. The Seahawks didn’t fall apart despite watching the defense give up an inexplicable 56-yard reception to Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall with nine seconds left in regulation. It put the Bears in range for a tying field goal, and Robbie Gould made the 46-yard attempt to knot the score at 17 and force overtime.
Common reaction: Uh oh.
“I wasn’t worried,” Wilson said.
The Seahawks couldn’t lose this one because Wilson was too spectacular. He completed 23 of a season-high 37 passes for 293 yards and two touchdowns. He ran nine times for 71 yards. And he didn’t commit a turnover against the NFL’s greatest ballhawking defense.
At last, the Seahawks went deep into their offensive repertoire. Wilson handled a more pass-centric attack with his usual efficiency and a little extra flair, displaying an electricity in his performance that we had only seen on occasion since the preseason. He beat the Bears with his arm, his legs and his will.
And, at last, the Seahawks stopped their road woes. They entered the game with a 1-5 road record. Games away from CenturyLink Field have been full of frustration this season. Every one has come down to the final possession. The defense has saved its mistakes for the fourth quarter. And the offense has been a dropped pass or stumbling receiver away from winning.
Still, you figured the Seahawks would break through eventually if they kept playing close games. It’s fitting that, to end the disappointment, they had to triumph in the craziest ending of all.
“We’ve been there so many times,” coach Pete Carroll said. “This could have happened four times already. And, now everybody knows that it can.”
It can because Wilson is ready to win these kinds of games now.
“I think everybody realizes in our locker room, too, that the kid playing quarterback is an amazing kid,” Carroll said. “We’ve seen signs of it all along, but he needed this, in my mind. He would never say that, but he needed it.”
Carroll kept using the adjective “exquisite” to describe Wilson’s play. On the 97-yard drive that should’ve won the game, Wilson completed 6 of 9 passes for 77 yards, including the 14-yard touchdown in which Golden Tate refused to go down. Wilson also ran twice for 19 yards. On the 80-yard drive that finally won the game, Wilson completed all three of his passes for 38 yards and ran three times for 28 yards. The game-winning throw was a 13-yard pass that Sidney Rice caught near the goal line and fell into the end zone while getting clobbered.
Wilson has had two other late-game victories — the controversial Hail Mary that beat Green Bay and ended the referees’ lockout and the 46-yard touchdown pass to Rice to beat New England — but both of those victories were at home.
This was different. It wasn’t a single play of luck or excellence. It was a dissection of a great defense, on the road, at the most important time for a quarterback. It was Wilson’s greatest feat to date.
“A lot of the success that they had was kind of based on what he did,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said.
Said Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman: “You show me another rookie who can do that — what he just did today — and I’ll show you a great quarterback.”
Primo rookie quarterback Andrew Luck visited Soldier Field in his NFL debut and passed for 309 yards, but he was only 23 of 45 and threw three interceptions. By any measure, Wilson’s performance was incredible.
“What?” fullback Michael Robinson said, grinning, when asked about Wilson. “C’mon, man! The kid is amazing, man. The kid is amazing. I’m just glad he plays for us.”
He doesn’t just play for the Seahawks. He leads them now, unquestionably.
And on Sunday, he was their savior.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @JerryBrewer.