Russell Wilson's maturity on full display in win over Vikings
The rookie quarterback kept the offense in a fluid rhythm in a performance that showed his improvement this year.
Seattle Times staff columnist
Remember this game. I know I will.
Remember this 30-20 Seahawk win Sunday over Minnesota for the remarkable running of the Vikings' Adrian Peterson. And for the beating the Seahawks' Marshawn Lynch took, as well as the pain he inflicted, gaining 124 yards on 26 carries.
Remember this game for the tough, brass-knuckled duel that it was. And remember the way the Seahawks' defense stiffened in the second half and played like, well, the Seahawks' defense.
But most of all, remember it for the grace with which rookie quarterback Russell Wilson played under pressure. After two straight losses, the Seahawks needed Wilson to be very good against a defense that was very good.
And he was.
He was patient in the pocket, moving around, his eyes always scanning the field. His patience and elusiveness allowed Golden Tate to get open in the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown that tied the score in the first quarter.
Wilson completed 16 of 24 passes for 173 yards and had a 127.3 quarterback rating. He kept drives and plays alive with his feet. And most important, he didn't make mistakes. He didn't look or play like, a rookie.
"He's a talented guy, man," center Max Unger said.
Nine games into the season, there is a rhythm to the Seahawks' offense. There is a quick, assured tempo. And there is balance. The Hawks finished with 195 rushing yards and 190 net passing yards.
"You know what's crazy, in the huddle, he's been pretty much been like this the whole time," Unger said of Wilson. "But he's become a lot more fluid with his play calls. He gets in and out real quick."
Wilson is doing the little things. His hard counts forced the Vikings' aggressive defense to jump offside three times, twice in the third-quarter march that gave the Hawks a 27-17 lead.
"He's getting better and better," receiver Sidney Rice said.
He carried out fakes that froze the defense. And because of his running ability, Wilson gave his receivers the time to find open spaces. He rarely audibled, but he made the right checks at the line of scrimmage.
"It's amazing. It really is," guard John Moffitt said. "He got me out of a sack today with his legs. He's playing great ball. He's not a regular rookie. He wants to learn. He wants to grow and we keep seeing it, week-in and week-out. I think especially today."
I thought Matt Flynn was the right choice to quarterback the Seahawks at the beginning of the season. I didn't understand the rush to go to Wilson. I still think Flynn is a quality quarterback and the Seahawks still would be at least 5-4 if he had been the starter.
But the growth potential for Wilson is enormous. He has an amazingly strong, accurate arm. And he has that "It factor" that general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll saw in him last January.
In his last four games, Wilson has thrown for eight touchdowns and has two interceptions. He still is only two games removed from a clunker in San Francisco, but there is no denying Wilson's rate of maturity.
"He's really settled in," Moffitt said. "He's got a real grip on things. I think a lot of this is just settling into yourself and playing the game. Coming in, right off the bat, those first few games you can get jumpy. I'm not saying that Russell did that. I'm just speaking from my own experiences. But I can definitely see a difference in him now."
Unlike a lot of rookie quarterbacks, Wilson doesn't pull the ball down at the first blast of pressure from a pass rush. He scrambles to give his receivers extra seconds to get open. When he tucks the ball and runs, it's because he believes he can make a play.
"He gets a lot of huge plays from his scrambling," Rice said.
There's never any sense of panic, and rarely does it seem he might try to squeeze an ill-fated pass into double coverage.
One example of Wilson's growth on Sunday was the Seahawks' efficiency in the red zone. Coming into this game, they had scored touchdowns on only eight of 21 red zone possessions, the third-worst record in the league. The NFL average for touchdowns in the red zone is 52.8 percent.
Against the Vikings, the Hawks scored touchdowns the first four times they got inside Minnesota's 20.
"He just continues to grow every single week," said Tate, who has five touchdown catches this season, including two Sunday. "It's interesting seeing the growing pains, seeing the highs and lows. I'm enjoying watching him. He's a guy who wants to be the best and he's developing into a leader on our team. I'm excited to be able to play with him."
Wilson still will make rookie mistakes. There still are reads he doesn't see, checks he doesn't make. But he is good and, week by week, he is getting better.
Starting the rookie Russell Wilson was the right call.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or firstname.lastname@example.org
About Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
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