The most significant thing about the Seahawks’ final drive on Sunday may have been the total absence of showy dramatic touches by quarterback Russell Wilson, on the way to one of his defining NFL moments.
The most significant thing about the Seahawks’ final drive Sunday might have been the total absence of showy dramatic touches by quarterback Russell Wilson, on the way to one of his defining NFL moments.
He didn’t go Knute Rockne with a teary-eyed plea to his teammates, asking them to win one for the limper.
“No movie-time speeches or anything,” said tackle Gary Gilliam.
But none was necessary. The Seahawks were well aware not only of the team’s predicament — an ugly season-opening defeat staring them in the face — but of Wilson’s. A twisted ankle during a sack by Miami’s Ndamukong Suh early in the third quarter had threatened to knock Wilson out of the game, something that had never once happened by virtue of injury in his previous four seasons.
“We were ready to go with (backup quarterback Trevone) Boykin, but Russell jumped back out,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said matter-of-factly afterward.
Wilson, however, was clearly hampered the rest of the game, stripped of his scrambling ability and turned by necessity into largely a pocket passer. The Seahawks continued to have Boykin at the ready, unsure if and when Wilson might have to exit.
But in the end — the very end, as in 31 seconds before the clock expired, when Wilson lofted a 2-yard touchdown pass to Doug Baldwin — it turned into one of Wilson’s finest moments, a new chapter in his growing legend.
He marched them 75 yards down the field on 14 plays to turn a 10-6 deficit into a 12-10 victory at CenturyLink Field. He executed two crucial fourth-down conversions, gritted his way to a 4-yard scramble (“All I could think was for him to get down,” Baldwin would say), and had the presence of mind to audible to a call he had never made before on the game-winning pass.
The upshot? A vital victory for the Seahawks, and incremental growth in teammates’ admiration for their field general.
“He’s a tough dude,” Baldwin said. “It’s not just his mental fortitude, but also his physical prowess and what he brings to the table in every facet. I told him, ‘You need to suck it up,’ and he said … well, I can’t repeat what he said. But he let me know it wasn’t going to affect his play. Obviously, he showed that.”
Added running back Thomas Rawls: “I was never really worried about it. Russell’s a fighter, and he’s going to fight to the end. He’s going to finish. He wants that feeling. He wants that pressure.”
Rawls said he never thought Wilson was going to come out.
“He was going to finish any type of way, even if it’s on one leg,” he said.
That was exactly Wilson’s mindset. At one point, he told Carroll that Ben Roethlisberger comes off the bench all the time after twisting his ankle, and if Big Ben could do it, so could he. Wilson also was able to joke about his old-man mobility, or lack of same.
“I was pretty limited, but I was telling Coach Carroll and some of the trainers, when I’m 43, 44, 45 years old and still playing, that’s probably what I’ll look like out there,” Wilson said.
That said, there was “no shot” he was coming out of the game.
“I was going out there, no matter what,” he said. “That’s just my mentality, whatever it takes. We have to find a way to win.”
On a day that was rife with Seahawk breakdowns that gave a cautionary glimpse into their areas of vulnerability, the worst nightmare was all too evident: A stint without Wilson for any length of time. Just the prospect of that outcome had to send shivers throughout the Seahawks fan base.
Wilson insisted he’ll be fine moving forward, but the importance of the Seahawks’ retooled (and depleted) offensive line, as well as the fluky nature of potential injuries, was forcefully driven home.
No quarterback in football has been better than Wilson at executing fourth-quarter comebacks — 19 in 75 games since he became a starter in 2012. The pure repetition of such events helped imbue the offense with confidence despite the struggles that had piled up heading into that final drive. It felt so routine, in fact, that Wilson didn’t need to resort to exhortations.
“It literally felt like we were just on autopilot out there,” said left tackle Bradley Sowell. “It felt really good. It felt quick.”
“It looked just like walk-through,” added receiver Tyler Lockett.
In the end, said center Justin Britt, it came down to “just doing right, and being us.”
On the final check down by Wilson that led to the winning touchdown pass, Baldwin said his initial reaction was one of incredulity.
“Honestly, he’s never changed to that play before,” he said. “In that moment, I’m thinking, ‘What is he doing?’ But he has shown the propensity to do miraculous things, and that play was no different.”
Add another miracle, and one more movie-time moment, to Wilson’s resume.