With the Seahawks’ win safely in hand — a circumstance that took three minutes and 33 seconds into overtime, and an avalanche of angst, to secure — rookie wide receiver DK Metcalf found himself exchanging postgame greetings with a Tampa Bay defensive back.
“You’re lucky to have a guy like Russell running the show back there,’’ said the player, identified by Metcalf as No. 26 — cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting.
That sentiment grows stronger by the week. On a day when the Seahawks’ defense yielded an alarming amount of real estate, when the Buccaneers had an answer for every Seattle surge, when kicker Jason Myers missed a potential winning field goal at the end of regulation to open the door for Tampa Bay, Russell Wilson was the perpetual counterpoint.
For the Seahawks, he is the port in the storm, the rock of stability when chaos is swirling or adversity is mounting. As Seattle coach Pete Carroll said, there was an undeniable serenity that comes with heading into overtime with Wilson at the helm. Especially when the Seahawks won the coin toss to get first crack at victory.
“Russ has done this so many times,’’ Carroll said. “You can’t have a better guy, almost in the history of ball, doing it.”
Mind you, this 40-34 overtime victory was hardly Wilson’s single-handed trophy. Chris Carson rushed for 105 yards against the stingiest run defense in the NFL. Both Tyler Lockett (13 catches, 152 yards, two touchdowns) and Metcalf (six catches, 123 yards, one touchdown) did valiant work in conquering the Bucs’ man-to-man defense. And tight end Jacob Hollister made his most significant impact yet in Seattle with two touchdown catches, including the walk-off winner from 10 yards out in OT.
But it is the calming, and motivating, presence of Wilson that uniformly gives the Seahawks not just hope, but supreme confidence. That was true when the Bucs went up 21-7 in the first half, and when they kept matching every Seahawks score in the second half. That included a touchdown with 46 seconds left in regulation that tied the game at 34-all.
That’s when Wilson, invariably, is at his most clutch — especially in a season when virtually each week burnishes his MVP credentials.
“We don’t even think about it anymore,” Lockett said.
It almost gets monotonous, acknowledged offensive lineman Duane Brown. Sure enough, he marched them straight down the field to set up Myers’ field goal, which sailed wide right from 40 yards. It was just a precursor to more Wilson magic to come.
“You see this every week, so I talk about it the same way every week,’’ Brown said. “I’m just glad he’s under center for us, man. I’m glad I’m on the team with him. He’s a phenomenal talent, a great leader. He’s just consistent.”
So every week, Brown finds himself extolling the virtues of Wilson. All of those exploits by Seahawks offensive players I mentioned earlier — they all are inextricably linked to Wilson’s mastery of running the Seahawk offense.
And voilà, when you looked up, Wilson had filled his own stat line, too: five touchdown passes (tying a team and personal record), 378 yards on 29-of-43 passing (with nary an interception, of course; he’s had just one of those this year, to go with 22 TDs), and a 133.7 rating.
“Phenomenal” was Carroll’s word of choice.
“With Russell back there, it doesn’t matter,’’ he said of Seattle’s rough start. “You have a chance. You have a chance no matter what’s going on. The calls he had to make, the adjustments he made, the throws, just the variety of things that we threw today that were available to us and that we went after. It was an array of passes and concepts and principles.”
Wilson was sacked three times and took some vicious hits, but to a remarkable degree, he always gets up. His durability is a huge part of the Wilson canon. This was the eighth-year quarterback’s 121st consecutive start, tying Chris Gray’s Seahawks record. As a wise man once said, 90% of life is just showing up.
Wilson seemed to always have the answer, the antidote, the little extra oomph the Seahawks needed on a day far more fraught than expected. His rapport with Lockett continues to be otherworldly (“I can’t explain it or describe it other than to just kind of marvel,’’ Carroll said). If he can develop something similar with Metcalf, as appears to be happening before our eyes, the danger quotient of their offense will only rise.
But it was after Myers’ miss that Wilson’s presence seemed to loom largest. The coin toss itself seemed vital. When Wilson trotted out to start overtime, you could pretty much see where this was headed. On a crucial third-and-six, Wilson hit Metcalf for 29 yards, a brilliant catch by the rookie. Two plays later, he found Hollister for the touchdown.
“We have been unwavering in our belief,’’ Wilson said. “It’s real.”
Wilson’s impact is real, too. And against all odds, it continues to grow.