CLEVELAND — They say never begin a story with a dictionary definition. It is the emperor of all cliches.
Not sure the rule applies to Urban Dictionary definitions, though. So here goes.
“In my bag” — the act of being in your own world; focused; being in the zone; on your grind.
I had to look this up after talking to Seahawks cornerback Shaquill Griffin following his team’s 32-28 victory over Cleveland on Sunday. A conversation that began with a key pass defense he made shifted to the otherworldly season quarterback Russell Wilson is having.
Griffin gave a pithy synopsis.
“The best way to put it is this: Number 3 is in his bag right now.”
Hell, yeah, he is.
On Sunday Wilson completed 23 of 33 passes for 295 yards and two touchdowns. He added a rushing TD, had his sixth consecutive interception-free game and posted a passer rating of 117.6.
One benefit of covering an NFL team is that you have 53 players to write about so as to avoid repetition. But when one guy repeatedly astonishes the way Russell has, how are you supposed to write about anybody else?
Six games into the season, Wilson has an NFL-best passer rating of 124.7, which puts him on pace to surpass Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers’ season record of 122.5 set in 2011. He also is closing in on Rodgers’ all-time passer rating. Before the season began, Rodgers was at 103.1, compared with Wilson’s 100.3. Through Monday, it was 102.7 to 101.7.
Rough patches and injuries strike NFL players regularly, so you don’t know how long this will last. But halfway through October, Wilson isn’t just having the best season of his career, he’s having one of the best NFL seasons ever.
And if his own record is an indication — it will only get better.
“Usually Russ is dominant towards the end of the season, and now he’s dominant at the beginning of the season,” Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright said. “It’s just been fun to watch him. He’s put in so much work, just getting the chemistry with the guys. I’m just glad he’s our quarterback.”
Wright is correct about Wilson’s late-season surges. Russell’s historic five-game stretch in 2015 — when his average passer rating was 140 — started in Week 11. And in games nine through 16 last season, he posted a passer rating of at least 100 six times.
The six-game streak of 100-plus ratings he has put up to begin this season is the longest of his career. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have each had eight-game 100-plus streaks — and Rodgers had a ludicrous 12 in a row to start the 2011 season. But the way Wilson is going — who knows?
He is the only quarterback with at least 125 passes this season not to throw an interception. His completion percentage of 72.5 is second only to that of Raiders QB Derek Carr, who has a passer rating almost 30 points lower than Wilson’s. He also is averaging 9 yards per attempt (0.1 lower than Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes), is tied with Mahomes for second in the NFL with 14 touchdown passes (Atlanta’s Matt Ryan has 15), and has three rushing TDs.
The one knock might be the 16 sacks he has taken, tied for the sixth most in the league. But that’s also a byproduct of his out-of-pocket playing style that produces far more magic than it does messes. Put it this way — when Warriors guard Steph Curry became the first NBA player to be a unanimous MVP, he led the league in missed three-pointers.
But teammates’ favorite stat is probably the three fourth-quarter comebacks Wilson has engineered this year — one against the Bengals, one against the Rams and one Sunday versus the Browns. His 20 are the most since 2012, the year he entered the NFL.
We’re pretty much at the point where Wilson failing to bring the Seahawks back would be the big story. Honestly, did you expect anything different Sunday?
“He’s an exceptional player, an exceptional leader,” Seahawks center Justin Britt said. “I’ll go to battle with him every day.”
It’s been an insane year for No. 3. His worst game is probably the one in which he threw for 406 yards in a loss to the Saints. For a lot of quarterbacks, that’s the lead story for their grandkids when they’re sitting on their laps.
But Wilson isn’t like other quarterbacks. He’s in his bag right now. And if he keeps playing anywhere close to this level, NFL MVP will be in the bag, too.