Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, under duress throughout the game, had miracle escapes, and nearly disastrous fumbles against the Detroit Lions.
Russell Wilson displayed wizardry, resilience, grace, grit and improvisation.
And all that was on one play in the second quarter, with Detroit’s 6-foot-5, 275-pound defensive end Jason Jones bearing down on him like a runaway freight train, malice on his mind.
Somehow, Wilson sprinted out of Jones’ grasp, sprinted for daylight, eluded another phalanx of Lions’defenders and found Jermaine Kearse open downfield for a heroic 34-yard gain.
Russell Wilson by the numbers
125.0 Wilson’s quarterback rating on Monday, a season best for him.
287 Passing yards for Wilson, a season high
2 Lost fumbles by Wilson in the fourth quarter. Last season, Wilson did not lose any of his 11 fumbles.
It was a ballet move that would have made Baryshnikov proud, except he never had to pirouette while being pursued by grunting defenders. But that’s no way to run an offense, as the Seahawks eventually proved, nearly to disastrous proportions.
LIONS AT SEAHAWKS »
Though Wilson will have some new entries on his career highlight reel after this one — including the 24-yard touchdown pass to Doug Baldwin on the play immediately after the aforementioned one, on which the quarterback weathered a vicious hit just as he unloaded the ball — the Seahawks’ pass “protection” (quote marks mandatory) is an increasing dilemma.
Thanks to Kam Chancellor’s Strip Heard ’Round The World, in the same sainted end zone where current Lion Golden Tate made his Fail Mary on another Monday night, the Seahawks escaped with a 13-10 victory over Detroit. And thereby avoided mass panic in the streets of Seattle.
But Wilson was under far too much duress the entire game. His default mode on Monday night was running for his life. He was sacked six times for the second time this season, bringing his season total to 18, tied for most in the NFL.
“I can’t even think of all the crazy scrambles he made tonight, then found stuff,’’ Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “Receivers made the plays and just changed so drastically from what looked like it was going to happen to what eventually happened.”
It made for highly entertaining viewing and occasionally resulted in jaw-dropping results that favored the Seahawks. What it looked like was going to happen was a sack, but what really happened was a stunning pass completion after Wilson wriggled out of danger.
But two other times, both of them in the fourth quarter, what looked like a sack turned into a pair of fumbles by Wilson. They catapulted the Lions to “the precipice of winning,’’ in Carroll’s dramatic but accurate phrase.
Wilson has now turned the ball over nine times in his last six games, dating back to his four-interception NFC title game effort against the Packers (which had a very happy ending, with Wilson right in the middle of it).
But when you’re under constant harassment, as Wilson was, things like the two strips by Lions defenders can happen.
“Russell battled all night long,’’ Carroll said. “It went from thinking he was getting sacked, and then he was scrambling, then he’d complete the pass he needed. He made some phenomenal plays. The ball got away a couple of times, which is uncharacteristic. That just doesn’t happen to us.”
Living so dangerously is a tenuous way to do business. As dazzling as Wilson was at times, relying on his elusiveness isn’t a great game plan.
“You know we have the ability to make plays when we have to like that, but we would prefer not to,’’ Baldwin said. “We would prefer to do it in the framework of the offense, but fortunately enough we’ve got a quarterback who’s able to make those kind of plays, so we try to keep it alive.”
Blame it on an offensive line that is still finding its way, and needs to improve its communication. “A big-time work in progress,’’ Carroll said.
Blame it on Wilson’s tendency at times to hold the ball too long. Blame it on the absence of Marshawn Lynch, whose beastly presence has been a great boon to Wilson throughout his Seahawks tenure.
But the Seahawks need to keep Wilson cleaner. And Wilson acknowledged that he needs to find a way to get rid of the ball, or at least eat it, when he’s getting buried.
“I’ve got to do a better job,’’ he said. “Obviously having those two plays gave them a chance to come back.”
Wilson said the fumbles were “my fault. The first one, he got me pretty good. I wasn’t ready for it. I should have squeezed it better. I should have handed it off.
“Those are on me, but they’re something you can fix. It’s a happy medium. You try to extend plays, but other times, you have to understand the situation and go down. You grow from it. Plays like Kam made, at the very last second, the very last inch, are what team football is all about.”
But with the unbeaten Cincinnati Bengals looming on the road in less than a week, with the NFL’s best offense waiting to exploit Seattle’s mistakes in a way that the Bears and Lions were incapable, these fumbles and stumbles will not be as easily absorbed. You can’t count on a miracle every week.
Carroll said he has full faith in offensive-line coach Tom Cable’s ability to fix his unit. Perhaps Lynch will be back to force the Bengals’ defensive front to play them more honestly. Perhaps Wilson will do a better job of finding that balance between trying to make something out of nothing, and living to fight another day.
It’s a happy medium, all right. But unless the Seahawks can figure out how to keep Wilson from running for his life, the ending won’t always be so happy.