BY Art Thiel 12:29AM 10/02/2017

Thiel: Angry Russell? Well, whatever it takes

Russell’s Wilson’s 23-yard scramble for a touchdown was the spark to light a 36-point half for a Seahawks offense that languished, then exploded.

Russell Wilson stretched the ball over the goal line for a touchdown on the Seahawks’ first drive of the second half. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwes

No doubt that the poise and cool of QB Russell Wilson has served him and the Seahawks well. But there’s times when his teammates want him to drop the script, stop the smile and go belligerent and bellicose. Even if they have to help him do it. As Doug Baldwin put it fancifully:

“I got to punch him in the mouth sometimes.”

As much legitimate concern as there is for player safety in the NFL, there’s nothing quite like hard, clean body slams to get a fella to percolate. That almost never happens to Wilson. He gets hit a lot — way too much, really — but he’s always running away or under and around large, sweaty, mean men who seek to do him harm.

He rarely delivers a blow.

Sunday night on national TV, he did. It was Angry Russell.

Breaking away on a remarkable 23-yard scramble on the opening drive of the second half, he eschewed the safety of the sidelines and went right up the middle of the Indianapolis defense. The bedraggled Colts, missing injured QB Andrew Luck, were up 15-10 and felt as if they had a decent chance for a major upset if they could survive what they figured would be an adrenalized second-half start by the embarrassed Seahawks.

As Wilson neared on the goal line, veteran safety Darius Butler lowered his shoulder, perhaps figuring Wilson would do the sissy slide taught to every quarterback, a maneuver Wilson has mastered.

Instead, Wilson went head first, giving to Butler more than he was delivering. The hard collision knocked Wilson airborne, but he stretched out his arm with the ball to break the plane of the goal and the hearts of the Colts.

Wilson jumped up screaming and gesticulating, something almost never seen from the ever-calculating field boss. When replay review confirmed the score, Wilson kept the party going along the sidelines.

“If you ask me what was the spark,” Baldwin said, “it was him taking off on that long run and him getting up and celebrating the way he did. That gave a lot of juice to the rest of the team.”

Appropriately intoxicated, the Seahawks swung from the figurative chandeliers in a 46-18 win that did much to suggest the hell boys were back.

Granted, the Colts were 13-point underdogs for a reason. As coach Chuck Pagano put it: “You’re up 15-10 at the half and you get outscored 36-3, that’s bad football.”

For a half, the Seahawks played very good football, especially after the 84-yard drive, festooned with penalties, was capped by Wilson in beast mode (lower case, for now).

“He doesn’t get many chances to do that,” coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s always running out of bounds and taking care of himself. That one, he went for it. At the right time, and he did it beautifully.”

The dramatic end — replay review dragged out the confirmation — to an 84-yard drive launched the 36-point onslaught, a club record for a second half. Reporters went looking in the locker room for descriptions of the fiery speech or the changed strategy that must have helped break so abruptly from a dreary first half of squandered opportunities.

There was none of that. Just a collective reminder to do one’s job. It was Wilson on the field who broke form emotionally.

“When you see the end zone sometimes you have to find a way to get in there,” he said. “It was kind of a one on one. I had to find away to get in there and be physical, and try to stretch for it. That energy is what we need.”

Actually, the Seahawks seem to have the energy to do what they have done regularly under Carroll. What they lack is efficiency. There is erratic function among the linemen, the backs are often impatient, Wilson sometimes has been off target, and receivers have struggled at times with drops and gaining separation.

But with second-half drives of 84, 75, 74 and 84 yards, broken up by a defensive touchdown of a fumble return by LB Bobby Wagner, efficiency was ruthlessly robot-like.

The Seahawks even produced a little innovation. With RB C.J. Prosise out with an ankle injury, Carroll activated for the first time second-year RB J.D. McKissic from Arkansas State. Teammates have raved about the athleticism of McKissic, a guy Wilson said if sides were being chosen for pick-up basketball, “he’s the guy you choose.”

On the possession after Wilson’s run, McKissic busted one of his own, a 30-yarder opened by blocks from RT Germain Ifedi and RG Oday Aboushi. McKissic displayed astonishing speed as he weaved through the Colts’ second-level defense to score a touchdown on his first rush as a Seahawk.

“It felt amazing,” he said. “It was crazy. At first, I lost it. I forgot to celebrate with the team. I wanted to run into the crowd and be with them . . . it’s something you dream of.”

Carroll said he had been hectored by players to find a way to play McKissic.

“Why did it have to take so long?” Carroll quoted his guys. “Whatever. When he got his shot, he did great.”

Baldwin owned up to leading the McKissic campaign.

“(Richard Sherman) and I have been preaching to Pete for weeks now to get J.D. in there,” he said. “He’s a football player. He’s phenomenal at it. We were excited for his success. Wasn’t surprised at all.”

His emergence adds further drama to the evolving running-back situation. In the fourth quarter, rookie star Chris Carson had what Carroll call a significant ankle injury, requiring an air cast and a cart to get him off the field.

Returning to the mix was Eddie Lacy, whose 52 yards led the team. And last year’s No. 1, Thomas Rawls, was a healthy scratch for the second week in a row.

However it shakes out, the Seahawks had 194 yards on the ground, the single most significant statistical achievement of the evening and of the season.

And now opposing defenses have to fear a new beast mode (lower case, for now).


  • Steed

    So now Carson is hurt? And Avril and Lane?

    McKissic looked good. He ran with urgency.

    Pagano wont have as job much longer. I’m surprised he has lasted this long.

    Colts QB gave it a brave effort. I noticed he had some motivational phrases written on his wrist thingy. It didn’t help him.

    • Diamond Mask

      Agree. Pagano is toast.

  • coug73

    Well, well, well, the Hawks should win when the D scores 14 points. Fun second half.

    Mass + velocity is racking havoc on the bodies of football players.

  • PokeyPuffy

    The timing was comical; the network was showing highlights of Chris Carson in the 4th and i was thinking damn that guy looks great, Seahawks have found their man! Then on the next play he goes down :(. I would initially wonder “why was he in there with the game out of reach”, but really i think our offense needs the reps.

  • 1coolguy

    McKissic is freakish – it is very rare when, at the professional level, an athlete stands out, as they are all excellent, yet this guy was like watching Jordan – you just say “how in the heck did he do that?” Granted, this is a one-off, yet to read that both Baldwin and Sherman have been lobbying for his getting playing time, speaks volumes. So I look forward to watching this guy and if he can supply a highlight each game anywhere near this run, I look forward with much anticipation.
    He made everyone else appear as though they were in slow motion – freaky.
    As to the overall game, of course it was the lowly Colts, BUT let’s hope this indicated a turnaround for the O-line, the unit whose improvement was noticeable and can keep improving.

    • Diamond Mask

      I thought the O-line looked better. There were times when Russell was moving around unnecessarily because they had him covered. Don’t blame him for having itchy feet though.

  • Diamond Mask

    During the second half my spouse and I were like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid because every time McKissic did something amazing we’d look at each and say “Who is this guy?”

  • ll9956

    Great piece, Art. Thanks.

  • John M

    The first half of this game looked very strange to me, can’t detail it. It was a day of injuries for many teams, and not even quite a full moon. The 2nd half was strange in a good way, so I guess there’s some kind of overall symmetry. But the team needs those guys that went down. The O-line improved as the game went on and hopefully it will give them the confidence they will surely need next week against the Rams.

    Not to be mean, but I did see the probability of about 22 mil. in cap space open up for next year . . .