Oh wait, no one expected that.
Four games into the season, after Wilson threw three interceptions in a loss to St. Louis, the talk in town wasn't about how good the third-round pick out of Wisconsin was playing, but rather about if he deserved to keep his starting job.
Back then with Wilson and the offense struggling, it was reasonable to wonder if Matt Flynn should get at a shot. Seven games later, however, it's not unfair to say Wilson's quarterback play is the most reliable weapon in the Seahawks' arsenal.
Seattle's defense -- supposed to be one of the league's best -- has surrendered fourth-quarter leads three times this season on the road. The run D that had been so reliable for most of Pete Carroll's tenure in Seattle has allowed 175 or more rushing yards in three of the past five games. Even the tough-as-nails rushing game had a letdown in Miami when Marshawn Lynch was held to 46 yards on 19 carries.
Wilson, on the other hand, has been very good since talk of his job security eight weeks ago. He has been exceptional the past three games, becoming the first rookie in NFL history to register a passer rating of 125 or better in three straight games.
Since Seattle's Week 5 win in Carolina, Wilson has 13 touchdown passes and just four interceptions, good for a passer rating of 105.3. Only Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady and fellow rookie Robert Griffin III have had better ratings in that span. That's pretty heady company, particularly for somebody who a lot of Seahawks fans wanted to see sitting on the bench not too long ago.
Carroll obviously had high hopes for Wilson, otherwise he wouldn't have named him the starter ahead of Flynn. Yet as optimistic as he is, Carroll admits he didn't see Wilson doing quite this much so soon.
"The surprise is that it's so hard for a rookie to demonstrate that kind of consistency," Carroll said. "That's a great factor. We've seen him grow, we've seen him emerge, and now we're able to watch him show a consistency of performance where each game looks like an extension of the next one. That's really powerful, and surprisingly he's done something no one has done before in those three weeks. We wouldn't have anticipated that."
Golden Tate, one of Wilson's closest friends -- and favorite targets -- on the team, said Wilson's rise isn't surprising, given the rookie quarterback's work ethic.
"He's just a very, very hard worker," Tate said. "He's always looking to get better, always looking to help us get better. ... He's one of those guys who can handle all the pressure. He hasn't hit that rookie wall, and that's because he's mentally strong enough to avoid that."
Wilson will be the first to tell you that this success doesn't mean much if the team doesn't finish the season strong. Statistically, he had one of his best games last week, completing 16 consecutive passes at one point, but the Seahawks lost. And while the defense allowed 17 points in the fourth quarter, the offense saw a promising, late-game drive stall just shy of field goal range.
"The way I always think is, 'What can I do better to help our team win?'" Wilson said. "That's what it really comes down to just winning football games. We're so close in every game it comes down to one or two plays basically. We have to execute especially playing on the road, you really have to fine tune some things and guys have to be focused in, and we have to make some plays when it comes down to it."
The Seahawks, just 1-5 on the road this season, will have their hands full in Chicago on Sunday. The Bears lead the league with 33 takeaways and are equally adept at intercepting passes as they are at forcing fumbles.
"Everything that I do, I'm telling everybody, 'high and tight' and just making sure that we're putting the ball away," Wilson said. "I have to do a great job of it, too, same with the rest of the guys. At the same time you can't play scared."
If recent history is any indication, Wilson should be up to the challenge in Chicago.
"Russell gets better each and every time he goes out there because he grows from situations," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "Something only has to happen once to him and he learns from it, and the next time you see him make an improvement on it."
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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