Seeing Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson throwing a block has been a common sight the past few games on read-option plays in the running attack.
RENTON — Russell Wilson, the last rookie quarterback active in the NFL playoffs, is dangerous enough in his primary position for the Seahawks. In recent weeks, however, he’s assumed a new role on occasion: lead blocker.
It was Wilson, in fact, who helped lead the way for running back Marshawn Lynch’s go-ahead touchdown in Sunday’s wild-card playoff victory at Washington. And it has been a common sight the past few games on read-option plays in the running attack.
So is there any concern of injury heading into Sunday’s divisional playoff game at Atlanta? A few Falcons defenders told USA Today this week that they wouldn’t hesitate to hit the rookie if he’s blocking ahead of the play.
“No, I know that’s part of the game,” Wilson said Thursday. “When you’re downfield, they’re going to try to possibly block you. But I don’t try to take on linebackers or defensive linemen or anything crazy like that. Hopefully it’s somebody my size; otherwise, I’ll be pretty smart about it.”
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Coach Pete Carroll isn’t too bothered, either.
“I don’t worry about Russell,” he said earlier this week. “What do you want me to do? Tell him to get out of the way? He’s OK. It’s not like he’s laying bone-crushing blocks, you know? He’s just screening, a little shove here and there. He picked out a good guy, a guy that’s his own size in (Washington’s 5-foot-9 cornerback Josh Wilson) and they went at it a little bit downfield. I thought it was a good choice by him.”
Sometimes Wilson blocking for the Seahawks has made good sense tactically, Carroll added. Coming off a read option, the quarterback is often in a “crucial spot” during the play to make a difference.
Part of it, also, is Wilson’s competitiveness.
“Every play for him, he plays it to the end,” said offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.
The key? Just use your head.
“Which I don’t have to remind him,” Carroll said. “He knows. He really does have a sense for it and he’s not going to bloody his nose laying somebody out. He’s going to try and make a block though and make a difference.”
The Seahawks have justifiable faith in the disruptive power of their crowd at CenturyLink Field. The Falcons hope they’ll have a home-field advantage of their own Sunday at the Georgia Dome.
Asked what kind of atmosphere he expected, veteran cornerback Asante Samuel, in his first season with the Falcons, addressed television cameras in making his appeal: “Super crazy. Super crazy. We need everyone in the ATL, Falcons fans, to rise up. We need that 12th man in the building, making as much noise as possible. So you all be there. We’re going to make y’all proud.”
Samuel said he hopes for an effect much like the Seahawks have enjoyed in Seattle: “Just make a lot of noise, cause confusion, so the offense can’t communicate as well as they’re supposed to. That’s the objective of the noise, to get motivation, excitement; you don’t want them to be able to hear as good. We need you out there.”
Is bye a disadvantage?
Veteran Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez pointed out one of the possible downsides of having a first-round bye.
“They do have the advantage of playing the week before,” he said. “They’ve already been through it. They’ve gotten over that jitter of a playoff game. I think after the first two or three plays, we’ll be over that as well. We’ll go out and start just playing some ball. I anticipate we’ll be nice and relaxed.”
Gonzalez still prefers the Falcons’ position.
“I’m just talking about the jitters of playing playoff football,” he said. “Everyone knows the intensity goes up, the energy goes up, everything goes up because the stakes are so high. As far as that, just because they played the week before.
“I still like our advantage, too. Getting healthy. Ask a guy like Abraham (defensive end John Abraham, who has been bothered by an ankle injury). A week off really, really helped him, and he’s a huge part of our defense. It’s nice to have a lot of guys who were nicked up come back, and they’re going to be strong and ready to go in this game.”
• Success begets attention, and the Seahawks have seen that in recent weeks. NFL teams amid head coaching changes have looked to Seattle, particularly defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and Bevell, to possibly fill those positions.
“Well, it’s flattering,” Bradley said Thursday, “and I know people talk about our entire focus is on Atlanta, and it really is. It’s so important to us. We’ve worked so hard to get to this point, and our whole message to the team is, ‘Keep raising the bar. Keep getting better and better every week.’ They’re talking that, and we’re talking that, so it’s easy to stay focused on it.”
• Running back Lynch (foot), cornerback Byron Maxwell (hamstring) and safety Jeron Johnson (hamstring) all missed practice for a second straight day Thursday.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @joshuamayers
Times staff reporter Larry Stone contributed to this article.