BY Art Thiel 09:21PM 10/29/2017

Thiel: Again, astonishingly, Wilson wills a win

The defense made all kinds of mistakes and Seattle had no running game, but QB Russell Wilson willed one of the most amazing victories in team history Sunday.

Paul Richardson hauls in a 48-yard pass from QB Russell Wilson that helped set up the game-winning score. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Many are the ways to look at the menagerie that unveiled Sunday at the Clink, a spectacle of puppies, porcupines, kittens and skunks. Just when it seemed Seahawks fans were ready to embrace the warm and fuzzy, it was all needles and stink.

The whipsaw was most intense with two minutes remaining when, trailing 38-34, QB Russell Wilson came up ugly, an interception at the six-yard line with 2:49 left — his first in 103 pass attempts — killing a dramatic drive that seemed the last, best chance to beat the Houston Texans and their splendid young QB, Deshaun Watson.

Amid wailing and gnashing of teeth among the 12s, the freakishly imperturbable Wilson gathered his receivers on the sidelines and explained what was going to happen.

“Hey, we’re probably going to get the ball back with 1:30 left, something like that, maybe no timeouts,” he said he told them. “Be ready for these plays. Just have your head cleared and go win the game.'”

So it happened. After one first down, the Texans inexplicably ran the ball three times and stopped, punting the Seahawks to their own 20. Wilson threw 48 yards to WR Paul Richardson, 19 yards to WR Tyler Lockett and 18 yards to Jimmy Graham for the game-winner, 41-38.

All heads were cleared. A round for the house, bartender.

Eighty yards in a buck-oh-eight.

All the mistakes by the defense and the incompetence of the running game no longer mattered. All the astonishing feats by Watson and the Texans were negated. No one was thinking about the pre-game protests by Texans players that drew national attention.

For the 23rd time in his career, and rarely more spectacularly, Wilson willed a win from a fourth-quarter deficit. Even Graham had a hard time grasping.

“At those moments, 3 has the most confidence you’ve ever seen,” he said. “His actions and demeanor in the huddle were unbelievable.”

Wilson’s play stood further in relief because of how it compared to Watson, the rookie who helped shred a prideful defense for 509 yards much in the way Wilson has done it to the NFL for six years — throwing deep well, extending plays with rollouts and gaining first downs with aggravating scrambles at the most critical times.

Seven games into his pro career, he’s already Wilson — minus just a handful of mistakes likely to be cured with experience.

“I know how other teams feel now,” said CB Richard Sherman of the comparison. “We definitely know how other teams feel. He was poised. He’s back there like (Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers), ducked from one, stepped back from another, spins off another one, and hits the open guy.

“Has there ever been a rookie who’s done that? It would be hard to find.”

Yet Wilson and the Seahawks beat him. It took every bit of his A-game deep ball — his career-best 452 yards came on just 26 completions — as well as his four scrambles for 30 yards. which made him the team’s leading rusher. And Watson out-gained him on the ground, 67 yards on eight carries.

“They were swashbuckling out there, man,” said coach Pete Carroll, beaming. “It was something.”

Wilson’s ability to hit consecutive strikes quickly under pressure left the Texans defense discombobulated. It was never more apparent than on the final play when they had no idea what to do. Graham was so alone he could have waited for a bus to take him to the end zone.

“For some reason, no one guarded me, which is awesome,” he said. “So, I scored.”

In fact, he scored twice in the game. As did Richardson, who had 105 yards on six catches. Lockett had 121 yards on six catches.

Much significance rests in these game feats by Graham, Richardson, Lockett and Wilson — all four were lessened in some degree by injuries in 2016. Sunday represented a breakthrough for all individually and for the offense collectively — it was able to win a game to save the defense, not the other way around.

They did it without any pretense of a running game. Running backs Thomas Rawls, Eddie Lacy and J.D. McKissic collectively carried 16 times for five yards. A drunk falling down a flight of stairs figures to gain that much.

“It was so obvious we weren’t able to run the football,” Carroll said. “We didn’t think that was going to happen at all.  But I think it’s worth noting that when we realized we were struggling (assistant coaches Darrell Bevell and Tom Cable) did a great job to go ahead and go where we could go, and fight it.

“So many great calls, so many great plays, and so aggressive in his mentality, even though we weren’t feeling aggressive at the line of scrimmage.”

It must be said that the Texans defense was missing three premier starters: DE J.J. Watt, DT Whitney Mercilus (both injured) and LB Brian Cushing (suspended). It is no stretch to imagine they could have been worth four points of difference Sunday.

But that is the old if/then game that can go on to infinity. The remaining Texans had the game in hand, and could not hold it. The Seahawks, despite all manner of vulnerabilities, mistakes (how about those 10 penalties for a 120 yards?) and confusion, still had the wherewithal to prevail.

“You put in the work,” Wilson said, “and you have no fear.”

Apparently so. No better proof is available than eighty in a buck-oh-eight. Even Wilson was able to take a half-step back and admire his work.

“Just to win in that fashion,” he said,  grinning. “How fun was that?”

More fun than roomful of kittens and puppies.

 


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YourThoughts

  • Husky73

    Art– can Eddie Lacy be any more sluggish?

    • Can Eddie Lacy get any worse play calls than being told to run into a brick wall multiple times?

      Not only was it embarrassing, it was a waste of downs.

      • John M

        Even sending Lacy around the wall didn’t work. I’m sure the coaches are trying to figure how to somehow fix it with the present personnel because there isn’t any choice this year . . .

        • Steed

          Carson somehow got yards behind the same bad line. He was special, too bad he got hurt.

          • art thiel

            Responding to all the O-line comments: Odhiambo and Glowinski were together on the left for the first time, and Pocic is a rookie. That has much to do with the lack of productivity with Rawls/Lacy.

      • WestCoastBias79

        Not sure it was a complete waste of downs, because play action worked. That huge play to the fullback was made possible by the linebackers biting on play action, and a few of the other passes in the middle as well.

        However, to your point, Eddie Lacy had zero shot on most of those plays. Peak Marshawn would have been getting stuffed. It was about as bad as a running performance you’ll ever see on Sunday. It was like watching a DIII team try to run against Alabama.

    • art thiel

      Christine Michael is available.

  • ll9956

    The afterglow of this miraculous victory still hasn’t worn off. This may be the crowning jewel of all Seahawks victories, despite the fact that no title was at stake. But it certainly should result in positive momentum going forward.

    After the dust settles, it seems that the coaches and general manager are going to have to admit, if only to themselves, that something needs to be done to improve the O-line. The lack of rushing yards is not the fault of the running backs. The O-line simply was unable to open any running lanes. It’s not for lack of effort on their part. They just don’t seem to have what it takes to provide space for the backs.

    Despite the above, the O-line does deserve credit for giving Russell adequate protection in the final minutes to perform his magic. However, at the end of the day, they can’t expect Russell to be an inexhaustible fountain of miracles.

    • art thiel

      The Seahawks bosses take a calculated risk every year that they have to pay the defense, pay the QB, and coach the hell out of the O-line to be close to average by November-December.

      Every successful team in the NFL has a similar point of position vulnerability under a hard salary cap. The O-line is Seattle’s perpetual weakness, by design.

  • Chris Alexander

    Minor point … the Texans didn’t go 3-and-out on their last series, they actually got a first down before we got a stop on 3rd down. I remember because I texted a friend after they got the first down and said, “That one hurt but we should be okay as long as they don’t get another one.” And they didn’t.

    Heckuva game. “Instant classic” is a bit overused (IMO) but it’s deadly accurate in this case. Best game I’ve seen in quite a while.

    And I have to admit that I was a little “scared” when we scored and there were still 21 seconds on the game clock. Rodgers and Brady always worry me if they have the ball and there is any time on the clock. Wilson would be on my “oh no” list as well if he weren’t on our team. Today the list got one more name cuz Watson is a certified nightmare. (A nightmare that I’d like to see us face again this season – in the Super Bowl.)

    • art thiel

      Fixed it this morning (upon further review).

      I recall the Seahawks’ 2012 playoff loss in ATL when Matt Ryan boomed down the field to set up the winning FG. Fans tend to overlook the fatigue factor in defensive flops in the 4Q because players and coaches never want to concede it.

      Wilson knows his receivers will out-jump and out-run tired defenders. All he needs is an extra second of pass-pro to go deep. He got it.

  • Diamond Mask

    Excruciating game! Texans are strange team Clearly the bye week cleared their heads.

    • art thiel

      They’re like Seahawks 2012. Moments of big flash, compromised by big screwups.

  • Talkjoc

    Worst job in Seattle…..A Seahawk running back.

    • art thiel

      No. Mariners pitching coach.

  • Talkjoc

    Hey Art, I tweeted while watching that long TD pass that gave the Texans their last lead, Earl Thomas appeared to grab his hamstring and didn’t return for final D series. Haven’t seen anything written, Any News? Thanks, you’re the best!

    • art thiel

      Earl strained a hamstring and came out. Carroll said today he isn’t sure yet, but I’d guess he’ll miss at least Washington. But McDougald is a big upgrade as a replacement.

      • A big upgrade?

        McDougald is good, but NO-ONE currently in the NFL is an Earl Thomas upgrade. ;-)

        • wabubba67

          Pretty sure that Art meant an upgrade as a backup safety…we no longer have to rely on inexperienced kids or ancient (ie. slow) veterans behind Earl and Kam.

          • art thiel

            Steve Terrell was the backup last year, and over-matched. That was my point.

  • John M

    Wilson’s interception was as inexplicable as his last drive, Sherman got mad at himself this time, Pete’s mouth hung open so long I thought he’d swallowed his gum, both
    QB’s and a number of receivers made terrific plays until those of the blue persuasion sat dazed and wondering if it all happened. Two of the top defenses allowed nearly 1,000 yds. of offense. This is why we watch – for those moments of madness . . .

    • art thiel

      Carroll said today that it was Richardson’s route error. He was supposed to cut in front of the defender to make himself available. Instead, he ran to the pylon.

      • John M

        Richardson made enough great (painful) catches to be a little punchy. But I thank you for correcting the presumption that Wilson might not have been perfect. He was, fortunately for the run game . . .

  • Kevin Lynch

    Wilson was amazing and his corps of receivers were superb. Good news going forward and a good note, Art, that this current arsenal was not really there last year. But however, and it’s a BIG but and a BIG however, the game was taken out of Watson’s hands on the next to last Houston possession by their coach. This was the same killing ‘conservative’ strategy that saw John Fox throw away a playoff game to the Ravens when he was coaching the Broncos. The coaches assume there isn’t going to be a Flacco Miracle or a Wilson Wonderment. But since you just watched your pass defense perform like a sieve all day along how can you assume anything but failure if you give up the aggression? It’s the same dynamic that allows ‘prevent’ defenses to be anything but preventive.

    As much fight as the Hawks have, and talent, it’s concerning that they line can’t run block and the defense is no longer dominate without a massive rush. There are going to be problems down the road. They have only beaten one team with a winning record and that game was gifted by the opposing QB and five team turnovers. There are some tough games going forward.

    • art thiel

      O’Brien said he blew the final possession playcalling by running with Miller instead of using Watson’s run-pass option skills

      The Seahawks, and all NFL teams, must devise workarounds when Plan A fails. They did so brilliantly Sunday.

      • Kevin Lynch

        I didn’t see the ESPN lead where the coach took responsibility. The Hawks have been brilliant at saving situations. They have the experience and expertise that helps them. However, they haven’t beaten a top team yet. The Rams may finish 8-8. We don’t know. Seattle faces another elite QB this week. We’ll see. This is a MUST WIN game for the Skins.

        • art thiel

          The schedule was forecast to be soft, and it’s become softer as the season plays out.

  • Paul Harmening

    Despite players and some owners non-play distractions going on in the NFL, its games like this that’ll keep this train on the tracks. Thank you Russell and company and Watson and company for giving us one of the greatest football offensive shows on earth.

    And thank you Art for once again giving us an afterthought read that all but equals the real-time event itself.

    • art thiel

      Thanks, Paul. Always fun to have compelling theater to write about.

  • Great write-up yet again, Art. Puppies and kittens, aye. I never cease to be amazed by Russell Wilson. The young man almost never displays any more emotion than someone pumping gas on the way to the grocery store during a game. Afterward, he might let an emotion slip, but during the game he seems to be on the sideline thinking, “we need to score some more points,” with all the angst and worry of a cashier ringing up a bag of chips. You never see him pouting, never yelling at anyone, never storming around on the sidelines chewing people out. You see him calmly considering what he needs to do to score some more points. Then, you get to watch him take that safe expression and mien to the huddle. It’s mystical.

    • art thiel

      In his early years, teammates called him “the robot” because he never varied his demeanor or actions despite changed circumstances. His consistency is the rarest of personality characteristics among pro athletes.

      • You don’t see that kind of calm consistency in most plumbers. In a job that’s driven by competition at the highest level and the adrenaline that goes with it, it’s almost incomprehensible. His self-discipline is extreme.

  • Steed

    Wilson is incredible. The rest of the country doesn’t realize it, but has done more for this team than he gets credit for over the last 5 years. Even in the Superbowl season, the defense failed to show up for entire halves in some games, that they would have lost if not for Wilson (the Houston and Tampa Bay games, for example).

    That was as close to flawless as a QB performance gets. He did have one dumb INT, but elite QBs always get a pass on the INTs as long as they throw for lots of yards and TDs, so one is nothing. I think the situation was too easy for him, and he wasn’t locked in like he is when the game is for sure on the line.

    What a great Great GREAT game! The kind that gives you the blues until Wednesday if they lose, and makes Monday feel fine when they win.

    • art thiel

      The breakthrough nature of the offensive production can’t be stressed enough. This will also change how opponent coordinators game-plan for SEA.

  • Bayview Herb

    Great writing, Art. I especially liked the analogy of a drunk falling down stairs gaining at least 5 yards.

    • art thiel

      Thanks, Herb.

  • coug73

    Splendid game to watch. Running game will improve when the OL improves. Pass protection average; Wilson reaction to the rush the big difference.

    Have we ever seen Thomas and Sherman give up a TD in the same game?

    Texans looked like contenders.

    Great win for the team and fans.

    • art thiel

      Sherman admitted afterward they could not handle Watson. He will be a load for a decade.

      • Absolutely true. Watson is a class act.

        Perhaps he can back up Russ? ;-)