GREEN BAY, Wis. — Russell Wilson’s rapid return from a gnarly finger injury was portrayed all week as nothing short of miraculous. But Sunday, the quarterback showed definitively that he doesn’t walk on water — with the result being that the Seahawks’ season is under water.
Or perhaps altogether drowned.
This was Wilson as we’ve rarely, if ever, seen him. Passes were sailing, floating or, at the most crucial juncture, going ill-advisedly into the midst of too many Packers defenders.
There was no late-game magic, no heart-stopping rally — none of the Wilson trademarks that the Seahawks had longed to have back during his three-game absence. And which they were counting on to reawaken their floundering playoff hopes.
The result, instead, was a 17-0 Seahawks loss that puts them at 3-6; instead of the season-turning victory that, despite all the offensive struggles, was theirs for the taking most of the frigid and then snowy night; and their already slight margin of error shrank even more.
The obvious question that hung in the air was whether Wilson rushed back too soon from his fractured finger, the severity of which had been emphasized to highlight the amazing nature of his four-week comeback. A mere mortal, it was intimated, might have needed twice that time.
And maybe Wilson could have used a little more time, too. It sure looked like he wasn’t back at full strength, or at least not in full command of his repertoire. It’s legitimate to wonder, in retrospect, if Geno Smith might have given them a better chance in this game — though I think any Seahawks fan wanted Wilson to take the shot.
The notion that Wilson was still compromised in any fashion by the injury was roundly and emphatically rejected by Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and especially by Wilson himself — their declarations belying what had been seen for 60 minutes as Wilson was saddled with the fourth-lowest quarterback rating (39.7) of his 10-year career. That’s deceptive, though — it was headed for the lowest ever until two completions in garbage time moved him off the schneid.
Carroll pre-emptively addressed the question during his opening remarks after the game.
“I know you’re wondering, was he ready and all that kind of stuff,” Carroll said. “He’s ready to play. And there’s nothing else, no other information leading into this that could tell us any different. He was pumped and got after it. We couldn’t get enough going on to make the points we needed. They couldn’t, either, you know — until they did.”
Indeed, Aaron Rodgers had nearly as much trouble as Wilson generating points as he came back from his one-game exile for COVID-19. The Packers clung to a 3-0 lead for much of the night until the Seahawks defense finally faltered and gave up two touchdowns in the final 10 minutes.
To Wilson, it wasn’t a matter of being rusty from his layoff, or hampered by his finger, which was taped but otherwise exposed to the elements. The Seahawks’ only concession to the injury was to altogether avoid having him take snaps under center — though they said he was fully capable of doing so.
Wilson, to his credit, was completely accountable for his poor game. He repeatedly took ownership of his mistakes — particularly the two crippling interceptions that thwarted Seattle’s best scoring opportunities — and accepted full blame for the defeat.
“Unfortunately, it comes on my shoulders because I didn’t fulfill those two big plays in those two moments,” he said. “I don’t ever shy away from it. When you play this position at the highest, highest level, there’s going to be some stuff you have weighing on your shoulders. And there’s going to be some awesome things also, great things that you get to weigh on your shoulders too. And more great than bad. That’s what I know.”
Those were decision-making blunders, Wilson insisted, not a guy who was physically limited. And he downplayed the fact that the Seahawks offense, which once again was nearly doubled-up in total yardage and time of possession, needs a major overhaul.
“It’s not some groundbreaking resolution,” he said. “It’s just me. It’s just me doing my part in those key moments. There will always be game-altering plays, and we had two of them, and they didn’t go our way. So I take 100% accountability for that.”
There is obviously truth to that, because if Wilson had hit the pass to DK Metcalf from the Green Bay 12, when he noticed that ex-Husky defensive back Kevin King had his back turned, or the desperation heave to Tyler Lockett in the end zone, the Seahawks would have been poised to take over the game. Instead, King turned around in time to snatch the ball, and the pass to Lockett — into double coverage — was picked off by Adrian Amos.
Maybe it was nothing more than a typical result for Wilson playing in the hallowed and haunted tundra of Green Bay, where he is now 0-5. It’s reasonable to expect that Wilson’s feel and touch will sharpen the farther he gets removed from surgery.
“Like I said, with my hand I feel 100% confident where I’m at,” Wilson said. “I wouldn’t be out here if I didn’t. It’s too important. I felt I could do everything tonight.”
But this loss hurt, deeply. The Seahawks got some bad breaks — such as a fumble they seemingly recovered, only to have the officials decide they hadn’t. And an apparent first-down pickup by Wilson that was originally awarded them but then taken away, forcing a punt. They also had some self-destructive moments, too, particularly an unsportsmanlike call against Carlos Dunlap when he chucked a shoe that had come off a Packers player. That helped set up Green Bay’s first touchdown and warranted a postgame apology to the Seahawks by Dunlap.
Amid all of his own mea culpas, Wilson said after the game he also felt a measure of joy “because I know I’m back, and I know I’m going to be better.”
But on this night, even the eagerly anticipated return of their fast healing quarterback wasn’t enough to steal a vitally needed victory for the Seahawks.