BY Art Thiel 06:30AM 01/16/2014

Thiel: Wilson has simple answer for pass game

Seahawks fans lamenting Russell Wilson’s decline in productivity should know it’s not going to take a makeover to find success in the NFC championship Sunday against the 49ers.

Russell Wilson tries to think of everything ahead of time, then let his practice habits take over. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

At the apex moment of a sports season, it is the task of the fan to over-think, over-worry and over-react. It is the task of the participant athlete to do the opposite.

“For me, one of the big challenges is shutting my brain off,” Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka said Wednesday.  “There’s only so much control you have over the kicking motion. At some point, you want your training to come out, and not think about it. Trust your instincts, trust your practice.”

That’s what any successful pro athlete does, regardless of task. The same can’t work for most fans because the brain usually isn’t engaged.  The engagement is all hormonal, so the fan’s primary instinct is fear.

Certainly that is true in Seattle, where sports championships happen with the frequency of Mt. St. Helens eruptions. (The Sonics won in 1979, the eruption was 1980; at least half the mountain is still here). The Seahawks are again close, playing for the NFC Championship against the 49ers. Which only increases the neurosis for the experienced Seattle sports fan.

The sports-title threshold bears some notable Seattle carcasses: The Sonics in 1996, the Mariners in 2001, the Seahawks in 2006, and to a lesser extent the Sounders in each of their five years.

But history is the burden of the fan. The burden of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is, say, 49ers All-Pro linebacker Patrick Willis.  Wilson may have the tougher task, but at least he can do something about Willis. The sports scoreboard is forever.

Which brings us to something Wilson said Wednesday. He was asked to address the chief anxiety of fans who see the diminishing production in the passing game and have worked themselves into a state of doomsday anxiety about Sunday’s game.

Saturday against New Orleans, Wilson was 9 of 18 passing for a career-low 103 yards. Seattle won 23-15. The game wasn’t all that different from the Clink game the last time the Niners were here, a 29-3 Seattle win despite Wilson completing 8 of 19 passes for 142 yards. But fans forget that.

“I think,” said Wilson, “the biggest thing is to be more accurate on a couple throws I normally make.”

If a fan were seeking a revelation that merited trumpets and a commentary from the Pope, Wilson’s remark fell woefully short. But if you can stand a simple explanation, Wilson just offered it.

“That’s what it comes down to,” he said. “It’s nothing I need to search deep down for, or go study a whole bunch for. It’s just: Put the ball on the money, right where it needs to be.”

Obviously, that’s easier said than done, but he’s done it so many times that the odds would seem to be in his favor. Notably against the Saints, Wilson missed a couple of short slant routes that would have been easy first downs, errors that increased the whispers.

Wilson’s career from high school has been on an upward trajectory that has been unbroken, so he’s partly a victim of his own success. It’s also true that he’s in a temporary performance decline due to defenses catching up to his style of success, including limiting his chances to run from the pocket.

Even coach Pete Carroll was willing  to concede the latter point.

“Defenses have changed a little bit,” he said. “They have not wanted to deal with the (running) quarterback as much. It’s been pretty clear, which is no surprise.  The league always adapts. The coaches are too smart, players are too good.

“There was a little bit of a run of (quarterback domination in 2012) for a very short time. In the off‑season, everybody turned it around a little bit. So that definitely happened.”

It’s also fair to wonder whether the intensity Wilson has brought to his two-year run as NFL wunderkind has worn him down.

I asked him if he would even know if he was too intense.

“I guess I’m an intense guy,” he said. “I’m one of those guys that’s always in the moment and trying to be focused on what I need to do to be successful, and how can I help other people be successful.

“At the same time, I keep my poise. I’m always relaxed inside. My mind is not over-thinking.  It’s thinking about the right things.  Am I intense?  Over-intense? I think I’m just the right amount.”

An answer to that question has no measurables, has no validation except in hindsight after a loss.

So to Wilson, it seems that the angst over his decline in productivity can be dissolved with a couple of more completions. As with Hauschka, he can shut off his brain and let his training take over.  As for fans and their fears, the choice is clear: Trust in Russ, or maybe alcohol.


YourThoughts

  • jafabian

    With the exception of the Storm, sports championships are rare in Seattle. But even the Storm have stumbled lately. Part of that IMO is that those teams don’t think big. They don’t think in the long term, trying to sustain what the achieved. The Storm, Sonics, Mariners, Seahawks, all those teams got old and their respective leagues passed them by.

    I’d like to see Wilson get more people involved in the passing game. When the Hawks first played the Saints in December he had five players with multiple catches. Last week only two. Also in the first game he connected with Mike Robinson on a 21 yard reception but last week the Real Rob Report didn’t get a look. Not that he’s integral but my point is the more people involved in the passing game opens up more opportunities.

    • zigzags

      Seems like the only time I see Real Rob is on Seahawks All-Access.

      I’d love to see him involved but the Hawks have done a lot more read-option single-back formations this year. I think Bevell has opted to spread the D out a little more this way, rather than allowing them to stack the box as they would against an I-formation.

  • ll9956

    Thanks, Art. This “therapy” is what a lot of us fans, myself included, needed.

    GO HAWKS!!!

  • Matt712

    The way I see it, there are basically 3 options for an opposing team to use when trying to stop the Seahawks offense: 1.) Crash the box and stop Marshawn Lynch; 2.) contain the edge and stop Russell Wilson from scrambling; and 3.) drop and cover to stop Wilson from finding his receivers. Most teams are only capable of doing two out of those three things. Teams that have had the most success against Seattle chose the first two, forcing the Hawks to use the weakest part of their personnel: Passing (i.e. lack of all-pro caliber receivers; and oft-injured offensive line).

    Example: In the first Saints game, the Saints tried to use the first two options. They stopped Lynch. And that was about it. For the divisional round game they went with the other two options and #24 shredded ‘em (mostly between the tackles). So what’s the point?

    Because it illustrates two important things:
    1.) just how good (and ‘egoless’) Russel Wilson is at reading the game. people think he’s played poorly of late, but the truth is (aside from a few errant throws on a stormy day) he’s played exactly to the defensive schemes thrown at him – schemes designed specifically to stop him. Most QB’s – rookies & veterans alike – would probably try to force the issue. And usually cost their teams turnovers in the process. Pete Carroll is perfectly pleased with Wilson’s numbers: 16-1 at home.

    2.) just how important Percy Harvin is. He immediately makes forcing Seattle to throw the ball a much more dangerous scenario for a defense – one which must be accounted for, and by default, makes the other two defensive schemes that much weaker. So, with Percy on the field, all 3 Seahawks offensive schemes get better.

    On the other side of the ball….
    If Seattle’s defense plays good fundamentally (i.e. tackling, position discipline) there is no option to stop them. You’re screwed.

    • zigzags

      Well said. Completely agree.

  • Huskydwj

    Thanks Art. Really wasn’t worried about Russell. Everything he does is within the game plan + necessary adjustments, and I was surprised the attention he got. I blame the high intensity and deparation of the media magnifying glass in making this a wide spread subject. Without that, I don’t think most Hawks fans would have thought much of it.
    The biggest issue I had from last weekend was him wearing gloves with those big ol’ mitts he has for hands (almost too much grip), and that he was missing those slant patterns with them. I felt that the gloves were to blame and yelled more than once at the TV screen to get rid of the gloves. Just the same, I trust that Russell and the coaches are right on top of it all.
    I’ve been a fan of Mr Wilson since the ESPN piece on him during his senior year, thrilled to have him leading the Seahawks, expect nothing but greatness from the lad, and always his best – which is better than 90% of the rest of the starting QBs in the league..
    GO SEAHAWKS!!! BURY THE NINERS!!!!!!!!!!

  • poulsbogary

    If you are 6 feet tall and you are trying to throw over people who are 6.5 feet tall, that presents some problems,

    49ers, 24-6

    • Diamond Mask

      so far……not really.

    • whoKarez

      Jeez…why does everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, think that the quarterback needs to see over the top of the lineman’s head? You only need to be taller than his shoulder pads!!. The helmet only obscures a fraction of what the entire body shields. When the linemen are pushing the defenders, do you think everyone is on their tip toes? NO!!! They are usually bent over to a degree. Shorter QB’s don’t have it as rough as everyone thinks!

  • Diamond Mask

    In Wilson We Trust!

  • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

    Our QB has an intelliegence level that is off of the charts for his position. That is why playing the leader of the gang in the NFL is so difficult. You have to be gifted mentally as well as physically to achieve an inordinate amount of success at this level.
    He has the mental and physical aspects.He pondered the intensity Q because some people confuse passion level with intensity. They arent one in the same.He knows he is exuding passion as well as giving out just the right amount of intensity on game day.
    He is smart enough to know this is the most important game in his life to date.
    Look no further than his answer at the pro bowl last year when asked how proud he was for his team to have come within a field goal of playing in the Super Bowl and his answer was ” I dont know.I just wish we were in it trying to win it.”
    This weekend he can rectify the demons of defeat that sunday in Atlanta. Seattle has it figured out this time. There is a magic to RWs blue collar ethis of “lets roll up our sleeves and get to work” attitude. The fans beleive in him.The coaches have 100% trust. His teammates would go to war for him.

    Not bad for the first non 6 foot QB to win a Super Bowl. Whoops , just let you in on what my crystal ball said this morning.You can be sure he has an eye on giving this part of the United States something to talk about for the next 2 weeks~From Vancouver ,BC to Vancouver ,Washington and beyond. Lets do this thing.

    I know Wilson believes that analogy and thats good enough for me.
    Lets get to it Hawks and deny our hated rivals coaches the opportunity to run off of our field cursing the fans and gloating about their seizing/stealing our chance to realize our goal this weekend. ‘To be in it to win it”. Theyrubbed a loss into our faces that was 2 years ago after beating us (in a late season game)and they were complete jackasses in the mannerisms. Lets not let them repeat their donkey talk.

    In Russ we trust. Im in. Go Hawks!