The Seahawks have won five of six since a 2-4 start and maintained their hold on the sixth spot in the NFC playoffs.
MINNEAPOLIS — What had been questions about the play of Russell Wilson a month ago have now turned to statements. Loud ones. Unmistakable ones.
After Wilson turned in yet another virtually spotless performance in leading the Seahawks to a shockingly easy 38-7 victory here against the Vikings on Sunday, teammate Richard Sherman said he’s never seen the Seattle quarterback play better.
“I mean, this streak of games that he’s having is unbelievable,’’ Sherman said. “I think if he continues on this path he’s got to be getting MVP consideration, because that’s the way he’s playing. That’s the level he’s playing at.’’
Wilson certainly made a compelling argument Sunday by throwing for three touchdowns and running for another against a Minnesota defense that came in ranked second in the NFL in fewest points allowed at 17.6.
He has 11 touchdowns in the past three games with no interceptions, completing 66 of 86 passes for 879 yards. He also has 21 touchdown passes for the season, one more than his 2014 total. He has guided the offense to an average of 34.5 points the past four games.
“Russell is playing lights out right now,’’ said receiver Doug Baldwin, who caught two more touchdown passes as the Seahawks outclassed a Minnesota team that entered the game 8-3 and leading the NFC North. “I haven’t seen Russell Wilson play this great.’’
There was more to the win than just Wilson, of course.
The defense was almost as spotless, essentially pitching a shutout (Minnesota’s only touchdown came on a kickoff return when the score was 35-0) and holding the NFL’s leading rusher, Adrian Peterson, to 18 yards on eight carries, the third-lowest total of his storied career.
“I don’t know how we could expect to hold them down as well as we did,’’ Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “That’s a huge day.’’
The win was Seattle’s fifth in its past six games and solidified the team’s hold on the No. 6 spot in the NFC playoff picture at 7-5. It also enhanced the confidence that has been building in the team’s locker room the past few weeks.
“I just think the defense, the way we are playing the way we play, and the offense, the way they are playing right now, that there’s really not a team that can beat us,’’ middle linebacker Bobby Wagner said. “We have everything clicking. We feel like the sky’s the limit for us.’’
A few weeks ago, though, the offense and Wilson seemed on the verge of bottoming out, potentially carrying the rest of the team down with them. The Seahawks gave up sacks at a historic rate in the first half of the season, and they needed a late drive to beat a woebegone Dallas team 13-12.
When Wilson then completed just 14 of 32 passes in a home loss to Arizona, whispers became screams. Some wondered if Wilson was distracted by his new contract or his relationship with Ciara. Or maybe opponents finally had figured out how to defend him.
Seahawks coaches, though, insisted all along that the offense’s struggles were more than that, pointing specifically to a rebuilt offensive line that need to progress and learn how to best work with Wilson, and Wilson with it.
Asked if Wilson’s decision-making right now is as good as he’s seen it, Carroll countered, “The protection is as good as we’ve seen it in a while. … When you protect him, he’s tough to deal with.’’
The Seahawks also reconfigured some things to emphasize quick-hitting passes.
Wilson, though, said there was no “a-ha’’ moment, just improvement finally taking hold. Even without the injured Marshawn Lynch or Jimmy Graham.
“We have not been that far off,’’ he said. “Just a play here, a play there.’’
On Sunday they scored touchdowns on five of the first seven drives, with another promising possession stopped only by a fumble. One drive went 98 yards. When he wasn’t picking the Vikings apart with his arm, Wilson ran nine times for 51 yards, which didn’t include an apparent 53-yard TD run called back due to a holding penalty.
“It’s a slow death,’’ Sherman said of the challenge of defenses stopping Wilson’s ability to run and pass. “You pick your poison, but either way you’re dying.’’
If there’s been a specific area of improvement for Wilson in the past month it has been his throwing from the pocket, one aspect of his game many have questioned.
Baldwin, though, said Wilson is answering that criticism.
“And that makes our entire offense that much better because he has so much talent and he can do so many different things that when he’s playing at this level, it’s hard for any defense to stop us,’’ Baldwin said.
Baldwin, though, didn’t stop there. The Seahawks have gone to the past two Super Bowls, and averaged 50 points during a three-game span in 2012. But Baldwin isn’t sure if those offenses can touch what the Seahawks are doing now.
“This is by far the best I’ve ever seen this offense,’’ said Baldwin, who then recalled a talk he gave to the offense following the loss to Arizona. “I told the offense a couple weeks that we looked real unfamiliar in a bad way. And this right now looks very unfamiliar in a good way.”
|Wilson turns around season|
|A look at Russell Wilson’s numbers this season:|
|First 9 games||Past 3 games|
|Source: ESPN Stats & Info|