Suddenly, he was Russell Wilson again, and just in the nick of time.
Stymied throughout the first half, saddled with an unseemly quarterback rating of 7.5, looking alarmingly unlike the poised-in-the-midst-of-pandemonium wunderkind of his meteoric career, Wilson avoided a fierce 49ers rush. He scrambled up in the pocket and threw a bull’s-eye to Doug Baldwin for a 51-yard gain.
That play, on Seattle’s first possession of the second half, invigorated a Seahawks team that, offensively, had appeared keen on setting a Guinness World Record for shooting itself in the foot.
And it unlocked the Wilson magic that Seahawks fans had come to not only know and love, but to expect — purring with efficiency all the while. Its temporary absence had been far more unsettling than the electrical storm that delayed the game for an hour in the first half.
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The Seahawks scored later that drive on a mini-Beast Quake run by Marshawn Lynch, extending their odd, baseball-like 5-0 halftime lead.
And suddenly, Wilson was all the things he hadn’t been: Crisp and in command, as the Seahawks rolled to a 29-3 victory in the season’s first Game to End All Games.
“That’s the epitome of Russell,’’ Baldwin said. “It doesn’t matter what happens in the first or second quarter. That guy comes to play in the second half, and with him on our team we always have a chance to win.”
Certainly, Lynch was the compelling offensive force for the Seahawks in this game, as he rushed for two touchdowns, caught another and exerted his will in a fashion that guides the Seahawks to their most rugged wins.
And certainly Wilson will have to be better than this if the Seahawks are going to get to where they want to go.
But all they needed in this one was a dash of vintage Wilson, which they got in the second half. He improvised with a shovel pass to Golden Tate. He hit Lynch for a 7-yard touchdown. A bomb to Tate ate up 40 yards when the 49ers were whistled for pass interference.
Wilson’s quarterback rating elevated to a more respectable 63.9. This time, the separation was in the exasperation.
“I missed on a couple of throws I don’t normally miss on, early, for whatever reason,’’ Wilson said.
The Wilson of the first half was a version rarely, if ever, seen in the NFL — and certainly not at his personal playground, CenturyLink Field.
Off-kilter. Off target. On the run. Wilson takes exceptional pride in being the most composed player on the field, but it’s hard to remain unruffled with Aldon Smith in your face.
“They were throwing some things at us defensively that might have confused Russell a little bit,’’ Baldwin said. “But we got that adjusted at halftime, and he was able to make his corrections.”
All that ink spilled, all that analytical blather expended over the marquee quarterback matchup of Wilson and Colin Kaepernick, and they combined for 94 yards of passing in the first half. Wilson had 48 (on two completions in 10 attempts), with 46 for Kaepernick, whose quarterback rating of 21.7 did not warrant a GQ cover. Unless GQ stands for “Getting Quashed.”
The lightning break was a turning point for the Seahawks, but especially for Wilson, who figuratively cleansed himself of his woes by literally taking a shower.
“We kind of revamped,’’ he said. “I showered to kind of restart my mind, restart everything. Really get out and feel it’s a new game.”
In the locker room, Richard Sherman took note of the reinvigorated Wilson with glee.
“He came out during the break, he came out with a shower and he looked like a baaaad man,’’ Sherman said. “I knew he was on it.”
But whereas Wilson righted himself in the second half, the Kaepernick of growing myth never emerged. If CenturyLink is where Wilson shines brightest, it’s fast becoming a hellhole for Kaepernick.
In Seattle’s 42-13 romp over the 49ers here in December, Kaepernick had his lowest QB rating, 72.0, and seemed rattled by the 12th Man cacophony. With the decibels raised Sunday, Kaepernick didn’t rise. In fact, he appeared just as discombobulated as last time, throwing three interceptions, leading to a 20.1 rating.
“We’re not going to win if I play like that,’’ Kaepernick said afterward.
Asked how felt Kaepernick performed, San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh replied, “I don’t think any of us are proud of our performance tonight.’’
Asked the same question of Wilson, Pete Carroll glowed.
“He’s going to play a heck of a football game every time he goes out, and he did it again tonight.’’
The two quarterbacks had, in a video-game commercial, wagered an eyebrow on the outcome, though it appears they weren’t serious about paying off. Not in real life, anyway.
Now it’s Kaepernick’s problem. No matter what, Wilson will keep his facial hair intact, both in person and online.
Give an assist to Marshawn Lynch, and a huge nod to the Seattle defense. But the Seahawks also needed a revamped Wilson, and they got it.
Just in the nick of time.
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.