You asked for it, he asked for it, and on Sunday everyone got what they wanted.
Let the overcooked clichés commence: Russell Wilson has been let loose, and because of that the Seahawks’ offense is perhaps as good as it has ever been.
At least it was in the season opener Sunday in Atlanta, where a flawless start from Wilson set the tone in a 38-25 victory over the Falcons in an empty Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The 38 points are the most the Seahawks have scored in an opener since 1998 (a 38-0 victory over Philadelphia).
“We’re going to be a tough football team to beat, and I’m excited about it,” Wilson said in a postgame video call. “We can score a lot of points and we’ve got a lot of great players.”
This was the #LetRussCook revolution in full effect: Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer called a pass play on nine of the 12 plays on the Seahawks’ first drive, and on 21 of their first 35 plays, further adding credence to the social-media movement that pleaded with the Seahawks to unleash their star quarterback more, and more often early in games.
Wilson himself added weight to the debate this summer, saying he “definitely” agreed with the sentiment and asking for more urgency early in games. The oft-quoted stat Wilson referenced then — that the Seahawks are 57-0 during his career when they lead at halftime by four points or more — nearly held up Sunday in Atlanta.
Wilson was 8 for 8 passing to start the game, helping the Seahawks jump out to a 14-3 lead after two touchdown passes to running back Chris Carson. The Falcons cut their deficit to 14-12 on a field goal as time expired in the first half.
Wilson completed 31 of 35 passes for 322 yards with four touchdowns and a passer rating of 143.1. His 88.6% completion rate tied for the third-best of any quarterback in NFL history (in a game with at least 35 attempts).
The Seahawks had just 20 rushing attempts (tied for their lowest total in any game last season), with Wilson rushing for a team-high 29 yards on three carries.
“What we’ve been doing in practice showed up, and Russ has been extraordinary all camp,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “He had a great summer in throwing the ball to everybody. And he had perhaps his best throwing day, numbers-wise — just about (the best) you could have. He was in great command of the game.”
Wilson completed passes to nine different receivers. Tyler Lockett caught all eight of his targets for 92 yards; DK Metcalf caught four of eight targets for 95 yards, including a 38-yard score on fourth-and-five midway through the third quarter that seemed to catch Atlanta off guard.
Veteran tight end Greg Olsen, entering his 14th year in the NFL and first in Seattle, caught a 7-yard TD from Wilson late in the third to make it 28-12.
The Seahawks finished as the fifth-ranked offense in the NFL last year. Could they be even better this season?
“Obviously it starts with him,” Olsen said of Wilson. “He’s just so efficient and so good with his decision-making and accuracy and all those things. And then around him, we have a lot of different guys that can contribute … It was cool to kind of see the ball spread around to so many different guys. That puts a lot of pressure on defenses.”
There was so much uncertainty — as with everything in the middle of a pandemic — about how teams would perform in the first game, given there were no preseason games and one could expect players would have to iron out some early-season wrinkles.
Wilson hardly missed a step on Sunday, and Carroll credited the work he and the rest of the offense did this summer, even if much of it had to be done in socially distant video conference calls.
Sunday’s offensive showing, Carroll said, “is a statement, throughout the offseason, this whole ‘Zoom’ season, our guys did a marvelous job. Russ was extremely involved — intricately involved — with all of that and it just showed. It just showed we were together and tight and functioning well. We just were able to move the ball, even when we were backed up with some penalty situations or sacks, we came back and converted, and that’s confidence and belief.
“These guys … they’ve earned their way right here, they’ve earned their way to play like that by the way they practiced.”
Editor’s note: The Times declined to send reporter Adam Jude to Atlanta for this game because of COVID-19 safety concerns.