Rookie Russell Wilson's performance in the Seahawks' victory over New England should close the argument about whether he should be the team's starting quarterback.
Russell Wilson certainly dressed for the moment. He wore a tuxedo jacket and black tie to his postgame media session Sunday. If he weren’t already married, you would’ve thought he was about to wed his spectacular performance, the first of his fledgling NFL career.
Instead, the rookie quarterback acted as if nothing special had happened. In his presidential manner, Wilson understated the thrills and overstated the simple acts. He’s the anti-Richard Sherman. But he’s the talk of the town nonetheless.
What did 293 passing yards, three touchdowns and a 13-point comeback in the last seven minutes and 21 seconds do for Wilson? It should close the door on the weekly conversation about whether he’s the right starting quarterback for the Seahawks.
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Don’t lock the door and throw the keys into the Puget Sound just yet. Just close it. Get rid of the draft. When you examine Wilson’s performance over the past two weeks, his remarkable progress shows he is rewarding the Seahawks for their patience. He’s no longer the befuddled young quarterback that he was in the first four games. He’s graduating from game manager to game influencer. He has thrown for 514 yards the past two games. He threw for only 594 in his first four.
No, two good games doesn’t make him above criticism. It doesn’t even make him the quarterback that the Seahawks are certain to build around for the next decade. Wilson has to prove a lot more before he’s bulletproof. But his improvement should end the ridiculous overreaction to every bad play he makes, and it should turn down the volume on cries for Matt Flynn to replace him.
For now, at least.
If Wilson stays on the ascent, it will be safe to say “I do” to him as the Seahawks’ undisputed leader. He’ll be dressed for the occasion.
He has the talent to match, too. He just beat Tom Brady in a game that came down to two quarterbacks slinging. His game-winning, 46-yard touchdown pass to Sidney Rice felt like a seminal play in the Pete Carroll era.
After Rice caught the pass to cap an improbable 24-23 comeback victory over New England, Wilson had tall men everywhere wishing they had stopped growing at 5 feet 11.
“I was in awe, man,” said Sherman, the Seahawks’ loquacious cornerback. “I was in awe. He was a magician. He was magnificent.”
It seems that Wilson would rather you describe him using three less romantic adjectives: determined, focused and prepared.
“I always trust in myself,” Wilson said. “My fear is not being prepared enough, and that’s what I’ve always been like.”
That’s why he impresses the coaches with his willingness to put in long hours and study his craft. No one will outwork Wilson. He is too committed. He is too afraid to flirt with what might happen if he lets up.
His grinder approach is yielding results. Beyond the increased production is an encouraging sign: The Seahawks have emphasized specific areas of improvement each week, and Wilson has responded.
Before the Carolina game, the focus was on third-down conversions. Wilson went out and completed 9 of 10 passes for 75 yards on third down and converted five first downs through the air. The Seahawks were 7 of 14 on third down in that game, well above their 28-percent rate of success in the previous four games.
Before the New England game, the Seahawks emphasized red-zone efficiency and explosive plays. They wound up scoring touchdowns on two of three trips to the red zone, and Wilson completed passes of 46, 50 and 51 yards.
“Coach Carroll did a tremendous job of telling us during the week and talking to me and sitting me down and just saying, ‘Hey, maybe we can get a couple of shots here and there when you extend the play,’ ” Wilson said. “And so we definitely did that.”
Can you see why Carroll believes in Wilson so much? He doesn’t have an irrational love for the quarterback. He loves him because he’s a fast and unrelenting learner.
Wilson still faces an enormous challenge in proving he’s a long-term solution. And though he was mostly brilliant and made some electrifying plays Sunday, the Seahawks still had a troubling offensive lull, gaining only 35 yards in the first 21 minutes of the second half.
But then Wilson’s determination took over. His teammates noticed and followed his lead.
“The thing I like most about him is when something goes wrong out there, he’s not one of those guys that gets down, mopes around,” Rice said. “He’s always on the sidelines coming up to us, telling us to keep our heads up, stay in the game and be ready to go out and make plays.”
He is the ideal quarterback in every way except for height. But as his sartorial splendor indicates, he knows how to look good anyway.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @JerryBrewer.