HOUSTON – Russell Wilson is many things, but one label he has always warded off is that of “running quarterback.” As recently as Thursday, Wilson shrugged off the thought he might run more this year.
But in enemy territory, against a Houston defense that shredded Seattle’s duct-tape offensive line, Wilson’s running ability became the Seahawks’ biggest weapon in Sunday’s 23-20 overtime win. Part conscious decision, part necessity, many of the game’s biggest plays late came by way of Wilson taking off.
“In the fourth quarter, he just had that look in his eyes,” receiver Doug Baldwin said. “He said, ‘Screw it. If I can’t get time, I’ll find time.’ And he did that with his legs. He kept drives alive. It’s unreal.”
Wilson finished with 77 yards rushing, the second-highest total of his career. He’d only rushed for 54 yards in the first three games of the season.
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Wilson took the same judicious approach in the first three quarters against Houston. He carried the ball only three times for 3 yards, but he sensed that would have to change.
Led by Pro Bowler J.J. Watt, Houston’s defensive front harassed Seattle’s offensive line, which started three backups because of injuries, from the get-go. Wilson rarely had time to sit in the pocket, and on more than one occasion he was knocked to the ground by multiple defenders.
“I just decided, I’m going to step up,” Wilson said. “I’m going to slide a little bit more. If it’s not there, I’m going to take off and see what happens just to get positive gains rather than going backward and taking a sack because they were getting back there.”
Coach Pete Carroll put it another way: “He was running for his life.”
On Seattle’s 14-play, 98-yard drive to open the fourth quarter, Wilson ran four times for 53 yards, including converting a fourth-and-three on a 4-yard scramble.
As the game went on, Wilson had defenders hounding his every step, and if he focused his eyes downfield like he normally does, chances were good he was going to get sacked or hit. His 10 carries tied a career high.
(It should also be noted that Wilson’s running success came after Houston linebacker Brian Cushing left in the third quarter with a concussion.)
“He’s not a one-dimensional quarterback,” Richard Sherman said. “He tries to stay back there and throw it. Once they kind of forgot about his running ability, he took risks and put his body on the line for his team. He knew we needed him to run.”
“They were coming at us all day, and it’s a credit to him,” guard J.R. Sweezy said. “He had to change. He had to step up and make some plays.”