BY Art Thiel 06:40PM 01/05/2015

Thiel: Durability of Wilson big Seahawks asset

Russell Wilson will start his 54th game in a row Saturday, remarkable for a little guy who runs a lot, and better than Carolina studhoss QB Cam Newton, who is playing with injuries.

Russell Wilson is always on the run but never on a gurney. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

It’s doubtful that many 12s take QB Russell Wilson for granted, but upon his 54th consecutive start Saturday, it’s worth considering that the signal virtue of his three-year stewardship of the game’s most vulnerable position is the often-overlooked ability to show up for work every day.

A starter for each game since his 2012 debut over veteran free-agent hire Matt Flynn, Wilson, a little guy compared to Carolina’s hulking Cam Newton (6-5, 245 pounds), not only has survived the pounding but flourished. In two ways.

Besides passing, his 849 yards rushing were were tied for 16th in the NFL regular season among all backs, not just QBs — and 30 yards ahead of Jonathan Stewart, leading rusher for the Carolina Panthers (8-8-1), who show up to the Clink Saturday for a little playoff game.

Wilson’s 118 carries created the top yards per carry average in the league — 7.2. No. 2 was 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick at 6.1 (639 on 104 carries). After former Seahawks RB Justin Forsett, now with the Baltimore Ravens, at No. 3 with 5.2, comes Newton at 5.1 (539 over 103).

When Newton came into the league four years ago, the expectation was that he would be the top QB runner in a game increasingly given over to mobile throwers. He has been good, but Wilson has been more of a weapon because of his efficiency.

Take one small observation: Newton has had nine fumbles, losing five. Wilson has fumbled 11 times, losing none. Then take another: Wilson has 20 TDs to seven interceptions this season. Newton is 18 to 12.

And Newton finally missed games with injury. He cracked ribs in the preseason, and missed the first two regular-season games. Then in a freaky-scary, non-football episode, Newton Dec. 9 was involved in a two-car accident about a mile from the stadium. He was not at fault and escaped serious injury, but did sustain cracks in vertebra.

Amazingly, he didn’t miss a game, including Saturday’s 27-16 triumph over Arizona that was his first postseason win and first for the franchise in nine years.

A key difference in health maintenance is that Newton tends to run like a running back — head and shoulders first. That is how many bigger QBs do it, such as Tennessee’s Jake Locker and Washington’s Robert Griffin III, both of whom are at risk of shortening their careers through repeated injuries.

As the rest of the NFL landscape is surveyed, QB health has been a difference-maker in numerous teams’ seasons, including two Seattle division rivals, St. Louis and Arizona, both of which never recovered from the midseason injury losses to QB starters.

From the beginning, Wilson has accepted and understood the requirement that he slide, run out of bounds or go fetal whenever possible to avoid some brutalities.

Wilson is far from the NFL record for consecutive starts, held by Brett Favre. Including playoffs, he has a Ripken-caliber mark of 321 games. Yet, only eight QBs in NFL history have managed 100 in a row. Favre was the first to reach that plateau in 1999. Since then, player safety rules have increased, especially for QBs, helping lengthen careers.

But much of survival is about decision-making.

“There are a lot of variables to being a successful quarterback and I definitely believe just simply being on the field all the time is right up there,” Wilson said in October before a game with the Panthers. “I would say, ‘Knock on wood.’ But I’m not superstitious.

“Something we always talk about in the quarterback room is, ‘Always protect the quarterback.’ Meaning, just get out of bounds, get down, make the smart decision.”

His immediate boss, Darrell Bevell, the Seahawks’ offensive coordinator, held the same position in Minnesota when Favre was playing for the Vikings.

“I was real fortunate to be able to work with Brett, and the proudest record that he had was his streak of being on the field,” Bevell said. “It tells you a couple of things: No. 1, it tells you that you’re good enough to be out there; and No. 2, it tells you that you’re durable.”

Wilson has operated behind an oft-injured offensive line, which makes his streak all the more remarkable.

Fire forces Carolina coach, family from home

Already busy with the playoffs, Carolina coach Ron Rivera had a more serious concern Monday morning when his 7,000-square foot family home in south Charlotte was struck by fire. No one was injured and the brick house is salvageable, with most personal possessions saved. The cause was accidental, involving a gas fireplace in a TV room. Damage was estimated at $500,000.

More than 50 firefighters responded to the blaze, which rendered the home unlivable for awhile. Here is Rivera discussing it with reporters yesterday at team headquarters:

Notes

The Seahawks have been installed as 11-point favorites by most Nevada bookmakers . . . the Seahawks added DT Landon Cohen, 29, to the 53-man active roster Monday. Cohen, 6-3 and 274 pounds, was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the seventh-round (216th overall) in the 2008 NFL draft. He played in 20 games with four starts with Detroit, but was released after training camp in 2010. He then spent time with Jacksonville, New England, Dallas and Chicago from 2010-13, but was out of football in 2012.


YourThoughts

  • ll9956

    Thanks for another fine article, Art.

    I presume your statement that the Carolina Panthers are coming “to the Clink Saturday for a little playoff game” is intended to be sarcastic and/or humorous. Even though, as you report, the Hawks are 11-point favorites, one hopes that they will not suffer from over-confidence and let this one slip away. If they do, there will be a lot of long faces hereabouts. I can’t help but wonder if this was at least part of the problem in a recent bowl game, involving a certain institution of higher learning located in the Montlake area.

    • art thiel

      Humor, yes. The Seahawks know their jobs, and they know they’ve had three hard games vs. Carolina. If the Seahawks had won 58-0, yes, some reason for concern.

  • Effzee

    Oh man. In a way, I wish this piece had never been written. Sports jinxes and all…

    O_O

    • art thiel

      C’mon now. Wilson says he’s not stupidstitious. Why not you?

  • jafabian

    It’s interesting that the Hawks O-Line can give up a large number of sacks but clear the way for the best rushing offense in the league. A Tom Cable trademark as that his Raiders teams had the same distinction. The Hawks have been fortunate that over the years their QBs have been fairly durable.

    • John M

      Wilson has shown exceptional judgement in when and how he runs, but the protection is alarmingly inconsistent . . .

      • art thiel

        That’s the the team’s weakest link.

    • art thiel

      Wilson is a one-off because of his height. They design more plays as rollouts and read-options so he can see better downfield. That poses protection problems, and more sacks, but it’s a net benefit because his speed and quickness get hm out of trouble.

  • 3 Lions

    Interesting how most teams don’t invest in a quality back up who can carry the load when the starter goes down.

  • poulsbogary

    Aw jeez, there it goes. Give Tavaris some reps.

  • http://rip-ragged.com/dross Raymond Meyers

    Wilson’s durability comes a lot from his moxie. He, for the most part, doesn’t take big hits. He slides, he goes out of bounds, he ducks and covers for mostly benign sacks. When he takes off on a scramble his pump fakes and looks down the field hold the DBs and LBs in check because he chucks it on a fair percentage of his trips outside the pocket.

    Cam Newton is a prototypical running quarterback. The kind that have short careers. The Cunninghams, Vicks, Griffins, and Kaepernicks who start as running QBs and either learn to be pocket passers or backups or short-career has-beens.

    Superstition be darned: The Seahawks should do to the Panthers what a new framing hammer does to a thumb.

  • Jeffrey Bower

    One comp to Wilson that I think is quite accurate, but have yet to hear is Doug Flutie. The difference, of course, is that Carroll was smart enough to see past the tale of the tape and look at results. Flutie also was a scrambling, running QB and was very durable.