When a winning drive was needed, Russell Wilson came through again for Seahawks
By driving 80 yards in final 4:37, Seattle proves it still is a championship team despite a lot of inexperience. Russell Wilson has orchestrated 12 fourth-quarter or overtime comebacks, and consider the latest, The Drive That Saved The Seahawks’ Season.
Times staff columnist
The final scoring drive
1-10, SEA 20 Russell Wilson passes to Cooper Helfet for 11 yards
1-10, SEA 31 Wilson passes to Kevin Norwood for 10 yards
1-15, SEA 36 After false-start penalty moves ball back 5 yards, Wilson scrambles for 14 yards
2-1, 50 Marshawn Lynch rushes for 2 yards
1-10, CAR 48 Wilson passes to Paul Richardson for 9 yards
2-1, CAR 39 Lynch rushes for 4 yards
1-10, CAR 35 Lynch rushes for 5 yards
2-5, CAR 30 Wilson rushes for 7 yards
1-10, CAR 23 Wilson passes to Luke Willson for 23 yards, touchdown
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In the huddle, Cooper Helfet looked up and saw Russell Wilson laughing. That’s when Helfet knew he was about to partake in the legend.
Four minutes and 37 seconds remained, and the Seahawks trailed Carolina 9-6, and a rugged game full of red-zone mishaps hadn’t yielded a touchdown. With a 3-3 record, a two-game losing streak and controversy swirling, the Seahawks put their season and what’s left of their sanity in jeopardy Sunday. They had two choices: Find the end zone, or submit a first draft for their epitaph.
But there was Wilson, finding humor and familiarity in the situation.
“We’ve been here before,” the quarterback said. “Just like this.”
Well, not exactly like this. While the Seahawks have gotten used to Wilson’s late-game brilliance, they haven’t had this much on the line this early in the season, with detractors sniffing the opportunity to shovel dirt on their coffin. And they haven’t rallied before with so many new faces in the huddle.
The differences didn’t matter, though. Wilson looked at Helfet, a 25-year-old tight end getting his first significant playing time this month. He looked at rookie wide receivers Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood, who have 10 career catches. He looked at second-year tight end Luke Willson, who is used to deferring to injured starter Zach Miller. And despite their inexperience, Wilson saw only an inevitable triumph. Wilson knew victory was possible because he had orchestrated 11 fourth-quarter or overtime comebacks in 43 career NFL games.
Make that 12 comebacks now.
And consider the latest, The Drive That Saved The Seahawks’ Season.
It took the Seahawks nine plays to travel 80 yards in three minutes and 50 seconds. Wilson completed all four of his passes for 53 yards and gained 21 more yards running. He turned an uneven and inaccurate start into an assertive and decisive finish, coordinating a masterful drive that concluded with Willson’s 23-yard touchdown reception.
The Seahawks won 13-9 at Bank of America Stadium, snapped their losing streak and claimed the kind of game that, for all its ugliness, could expedite the team’s healing.
“We were up against it all day,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “We didn’t leave until we got it done at the end. It was great. If you think there are distractions, you’re wrong. You’re wrong.”
This wasn’t about trading Percy Harvin and answering questions about turmoil in the locker room. This was about finding a way to win, grinding through mistakes and finishing in a manner the Seahawks couldn’t in losing three close games already this season.
The Seahawks didn’t play well enough to exorcise all their problems. They could’ve played much better. But to win in this fashion — a tough game that made them face all the questions about their chemistry, their unity and their belief — was more beneficial to the team’s long-term health. The Seahawks needed to go through something together and triumph. This game should serve as a reminder of what made them special.
The Seahawks aren’t just built on elite talent and speed and an aggressive style. At their best, they’re the tougher, grittier, more resilient team.
They showed that quality on the final drive. And then a defense that had chased around Cam Newton all game slammed the door shut in the final 47 seconds, led by back-to-back Bruce Irvin sacks.
“The finish was a surge,” Carroll said.
Helfet started the offensive part of that surge. Wilson rolled out and hit the tight end for an 11-yard gain. It began a winning drive in which Wilson threw the ball to four of his greenest targets.
After Helfet, Norwood made a ridiculous snag on a ball Wilson threw behind him for a 10-yard gain. Later, Richardson caught a 9-yard pass. And finally, it was Wilson to Willson that won the game.
It would’ve been old hat if Marshawn Lynch, Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse had led the drive. But though Lynch contributed three carries for 11 yards in that series, the kids did the rest. With Wilson in control, the entire offense feels confident.
“We looked at him and thought, ‘Yeah, we’re going to score,’ ” Helfet said. “There’s no doubt about it. The confidence, it seeps into you. That kind of faith has been instilled in me the last few years just by being around the team.”
After a stressful week, Wilson didn’t jab at his critics. He didn’t revel in providing an answer to those who think the Seahawks are in crisis. He offered a simple explanation.
“That’s what championship teams do,” said Wilson, who completed 20 of 32 passes for 199 yards and rushed for 35 yards. “We believe we’re still a championship team.”
The rest of the NFL should take it as a warning: The Seahawks (4-3) aren’t done yet. They have plenty of issues to fix, but their championship resolve remains.
As close as they came to another devastating loss, the Seahawks didn’t let Carolina knock them off the road to recovery. They might have even found a piece of themselves in the struggle.
“I definitely think it will have some carry-over,” said Baldwin, who led the Seahawks with six receptions for 61 yards. “Any true competitor, when you’re up against a wall, you find a way to press and get yourself out. This relieves that stress. Now we can get our swagger back.”
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