Russell Wilson takes with him to Denver a glittering array of numbers compiled during his 10 years in Seattle.
There are the 113 wins, including the playoffs, most for any quarterback in the first 10 year of his career. There are the 292 touchdowns, already 15th-most in NFL history. The 149 consecutive starts, the sixth-longest streak in NFL history. The 26 major franchise records held, also including career yards (37.059) and completions (3,079).
But more than numbers, what may be remembered most are the moments — all those thrilling comebacks (36 fourth-quarter or game-winning drives, tied for the most since 2012), all those Houdini-esque escapes from the pocket, all those laserlike deep balls to Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, Jermaine Kearse and DK Metcalf.
It’s impossible to distill 10 years of greatness into just 10 moments. But here’s an attempt at a list of the 10 best moments of Wilson’s career:
1. Pass to Jermaine Kearse in overtime to beat the Packers to win NFC title in 2014
The comeback from 16 points down to win the NFC title and advance to the Super Bowl for a second consecutive year was quintessential Wilson. Despite a start to the game that might have shattered the psyche of many QBs, Wilson and his famous “why not us?” attitude persevered and got Seattle back in the fray. And after getting the break of breaks on the onside kick, Wilson made sure not to waste it. The memorable pass to Kearse was both perfect presnap defense reading — Wilson saw the Packers were in Cover Zero, meaning no safety deep — and execution, as the throw itself could hardly have been better. And easy to overlook is Wilson’s unwavering faith to go back to Kearse — who had deflected two earlier passes into interceptions — at the game’s key moment.
2. Winning the Super Bowl
Sure, Wilson was far from the brightest star that glorious night in New Jersey. But matched up against one of the greatest QBs in NFL history in Peyton Manning, Wilson made all the necessary plays, and most important didn’t make a mistake, going 18 of 25 for 206 yards, two TDs and a 123.1 passer rating. Manning threw two picks and had a rating of 73.5. Wilson’s rating for his two Seattle Super Bowls of 117.4 is third-best in NFL history behind Joe Montana and Jim Plunkett. And the image of Wilson holding the Lombardi Trophy enveloped by confetti will remain indelible in franchise history for as long as the Seahawks play.
3. The Fail Mary Pass to Golden Tate against Green Bay in 2012
There were already glimpses that Seattle really had something in Wilson before this game against Green Bay, a Monday Night Football matchup that was the fourth of his career. But Wilson scrambling around on fourth down and buying time — the play snapped at the 24-yard line and he threw a pass from the 39 to about 8 yards deep in the end zone — was what made all of the rest of the happy chaos possible.
4. The TD pass to Jermaine Kearse against 49ers to win 2013 NFC title
The Seahawks might not have made the Super Bowl if Wilson and Kearse hadn’t hooked up on a 35-yard TD to put Seattle ahead for the first time with 13:52 left against the 49ers. The play came on fourth-and-seven after Seattle decided not to try a 54-yard field goal that would have cut the deficit to one at 17-16. Sure, the 49ers jumped offsides, creating a free-play opportunity. But Wilson was calm as ever to realize the situation and take advantage.
5. 54-yard pass to Doug Baldwin at Arizona in 2017
On what was a dark night in Seahawks history — injuries that ended the Seattle careers of Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman — Wilson turned in one of his most memorable plays to allow the Seahawks to leave victorious. On a fourth-quarter play that snapped from the Seattle 44-yard line on second-and-21, Wilson continued to roll, backpedal and evade a rush for roughly 9 seconds before lofting a pass from the 30 in the direction of Baldwin, who caught it near the sideline and raced downfield for a 54-yard gain that set up a TD that provided the winning points in a 22-16 victory. Asked later how many QBs could have made that play, Baldwin said, “One. Just one.”
6. Pass to Sidney Rice to beat the Patriots in 2012
If the Fail Mary hadn’t already shown that Wilson had a flair for the dramatic, his first matchup against Tom Brady made it crystal clear. Wilson threw two TDs in the final 7:21 to allow Seattle to rally from a 23-10 deficit to a 24-23 win, the winning score coming on a 46-yard dart to Rice with 1:18 left. Wilson was 5 of 9 for 116 yards in the fourth quarter of a game that left Sherman asking Brady if he was mad, bro, but had Seahawks fans asking themselves, “Is this Wilson guy really for real?” and happily concluding that he was.
7. Win over Houston and Deshaun Watson and his career-high passing yards in 2017
The 2017 season was a rough one for the Seahawks, one of just two in Wilson’s 10 years in which Seattle did not make the playoffs, finishing 9-7. But in the middle of it came Wilson’s piece de resistance performance, throwing for a career-high 452 yards and four TDs to win a 41-38 shootout against Houston and Deshaun Watson (Watson threw for 402 yards and four TDs). The winning score came on a 21-yard pass to Jimmy Graham with 21 seconds left.
8. Outdueling Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers in 2015
Wilson not only had a flair for the dramatic but also a knack for rising to the occasion against the best QBs in NFL history, as his 2-0 regular-season record against Brady illustrates. Wilson also went 2-0 against Ben Roethlisberger, including a 39-30 win over the visiting Steelers in 2015, when Seattle allowed 480 passing yards to Pittsburgh, second-most in team history (Roethlisberger, who left briefly because of an injury, had 456). Wilson countered with 345 and a career-high five touchdowns, a total he later matched four times. Three TDs came in the final 12:17 as the Seahawks twice overcame fourth-quarter deficits to win, including an 80-yarder to Baldwin, tied for the longest of his career.
9. Comeback win over Minnesota in 2020
The improbability meter was high for many of Seattle’s Wilson-led comebacks. But a 27-26 victory in front of a sadly empty Lumen Field in 2020 might have topped them all. Trailing 26-20, Seattle went 94 yards in 1:24, converting two fourth downs before Wilson tossed a 6-yard TD to Metcalf with 15 seconds left. According to The Associated Press, it was just the third time since 2001 a team has driven 90-plus yards inside the final two minutes to win. According to Elias Sports Bureau, it was the third-longest touchdown drive that began inside the final two minutes in the last 40 years. It marked the fifth time — and last as a Seahawk — that Wilson threw a game-winning touchdown pass with less than a minute remaining in regulation.
10. Improbable TD pass to Tyler Lockett at home against Rams in 2019
Also really high on the improbability meter was a 13-yard TD pass Wilson threw to Lockett to key a 30-29 Thursday night win over the Rams in 2019. Wilson scrambled away from pressure to his left and tossed a pass off his left foot to Lockett, who controlled the ball in the back of the end zone while dragging both feet inbounds. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Wilson scrambled 24.5 yards before he threw the ball. According to Next Gen Stats, the pass had just a 6.3% chance of being completed when he threw it, making it at the time the most improbable completion of the previous two seasons.