f you didn’t know better, you might think Russell Wilson was a bright, new sensation able to air the ball out with precision and ease throughout a game, not just the fourth quarter. You’d marvel at his gorgeous deep throws. You’d take comfort that he plays under a head coach and coordinator savvy enough to let him cook. After all, why wouldn’t they? Except the Seahawks were a run-first team for the first eight years of Wilson’s NFL career.
Wilson again showcased Sunday what the Seahawks may have been missing all along in a dramatic 38-31 win over the Cowboys. The clear frontrunner for MVP threw for 315 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions.
Wilson is a juggernaut this season. He’s now thrown 14 touchdowns to one interception and is averaging 308 passing yards per game. If Wilson has any faults, he sometimes struggles with the short passing game as he did for a sliver of the third quarter Sunday. But mostly he’s been a machine whose rainbow, needle-threading deep passes can compete with anyone’s in NFL history.
Yet, up until this year, the Seahawks under Pete Carroll have emphasized the run whether their running back was Marshawn Lynch, Chris Carson or a committee. It’s as if Wilson’s mastery has been a secret – except we know it’s not. We’ve seen his heroics on a consistent basis over his career because the team so often had to come from behind to mitigate the first-half conservatism. Padlocking Wilson for so long is even more baffling given that since 2012 the Seahawks are 57-0 when holding a four-point lead at halftime.
Playing it safe on offense made sense in the early years when the team fielded the Legion of Boom. Like most dominant defenses, the Seahawks were focused on a strong run game and controlling time of possession. Who’s to argue with their success winning Super Bowl XLVIII and almost winning Super Bowl XLIX (ironically by not handling the ball to Lynch). But as members of the Boom parted ways, Carroll’s coordinators never fully adjusted their offenses in dramatic enough fashion. The Seahawks have remained a perennial playoff contender, largely based on “Russell Wilson doing Russell Wilson things” late in regular-season games. But they haven’t advanced past the divisional round since the 2014 season.
Even with Wilson’s talents right under their noses, the Seahawks still emphasized the run the past couple of seasons. Wilson, who has never received an MVP vote, came out rolling last season with seven passing touchdowns and no interceptions in the team’s first three games. He threw for over 300 yards in two of those contests. Then the Seahawks reverted back to their conservative ways and Wilson only had one 300+ yard game in Weeks 4-17.
Something shifted this offseason. Maybe the Let Russ Cook movement finally made an impact. Perhaps it was DK Metcalf’s maturation (despite one crucial lapse on Sunday). Or as admitted by offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer this summer, it was throwing away stereotypes, opening his eyes, and finally coordinating an offense around the team’s best player.
“When I first got out here, I thought Russ was a good player. I had never obviously done anything with him in terms of really watching him work. And I thought he was a good player, I thought he was a guy who was going to scramble around and make plays, improvise and all those things that he does,” Schottenheimer told the Pick Six Podcast back in May. “But when I got here and I saw his ability to throw the football not just down the field, but accurately – we call it ball placement – he’s able to put the ball exactly where you want it.”
“And I was quite honestly blown away, I was surprised. I think unless you really love the Seahawks and you watch the Seahawks, what he does just come so naturally and easy that people underestimate him.”
Wilson’s command of the passing game this season has been masterful but it’s also been there all along, Seeing Russ finally cook, it’s hard not to wonder how deep in the playoffs the Seahawks could have gone these past five years had his coaches emphasized his incredible arm all along.
Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills. It wasn’t all pretty for Allen in the Bills’ dramatic win over the Rams. After taking a 28-3 lead (ahem) in the second half, Allen lost his cool, racking up a second 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty after an Aaron Donald sack forced a fumble. The Rams would eventually take the lead in the final minutes. But leaders are built on adversity and Allen drove the Bills to a game-winning touchdown after a pass interference call on fourth down. Aside from the late heroics, Allen finished with 311 yards and four touchdowns. Even his first interception of the year was a beautiful pass and unfortunate call.
Stat of the week
15 and 16. That’s the number of points the Falcons led by in the fourth quarter last week and this week respectively.
Losing massive leads is hardly new for the Falcons, but this trend has defined their 0-3 season to date. After succumbing to the Cowboys in the fourth quarter last week, thanks in part to the most embarrassing of special teams plays, the Falcons got steamrolled late again. St Nick Foles, brought in for an ineffective Mitch Trubisky, torched the Falcons with three fourth-quarter touchdowns including a 28-yard beauty to Anthony Miller for the go-ahead score. It’s hard to see where Atlanta or Dan Quinn go from here. Losing in less humiliating fashion would be a good start.
Video of the week
This is how not to showboat. A bone-headed play by DK Metcalf and heads-up work by Trevon Diggs turned an easy Seattle touchdown into a Cowboys touchback. Oof.
Quote of the week
“Thank you to everyone who has reached out. Scary situation, but thankful that everybody is doing well” – What did hall of famer Joe Montana do this weekend? He saved his grandchild from a kidnapping.
— How is the Houston Texans’ decision to trade away All-Pro DeAndre Hopkins looking now? Well, the Texans are 0-3 and Hopkins had 137 yards for the Arizona Cardinals in their loss to the Detroit Lions to go with the 219 yards he notched up in his first two games of the season.
Green Bay Packers
— If there’s one man who can rival Russell Wilson for beautiful deep throws, it’s Aaron Rodgers. He showed off at least two classics during the Green Bay Packers-New Orleans Saints on Sunday Night Football as his team won 37-30.
— Perhaps the NFL should place a temporary on ban on the New York teams that play in New Jersey. The Giants and Jets are now a collective 0-6, with the Giants getting blown out by a 49ers squad that was largely manned by injury replacements. The Jets were in Indianapolis later in the day and were duly blown out by the Colts.
— If we had a category for eye sores, the Cincinnati Bengals-Philadelphia Eagles affair would have won in a landslide. The game ended in a tie which is more than either team deserved, especially the Eagles. Both teams committed a collection of mistakes in overtime but none as perplexing as the Eagles’ final seconds. As Philly lined up for a 59-yard field goal with, they were called for a false start. Instead of letting Jake Elliott attempt a 64-yarder – he’s made a 61-yarder in the past – Doug Pederson chose to punt it away and accept the tie. A regressing Carson Wentz threw two more interceptions making his grand total this season six, a league high.
History made. Pinch us. 🙌 pic.twitter.com/qNygNRFkSI
— Washington-Cleveland was a herstoric affair. Each team had a female coach on the sideline, coupled with a female official for a trifecta the NFL had never before seen in its 100-year history.