Seattle's Russell Wilson, the quarterback the 49ers face tonight, has done enough in 19 games as a pro to serve notice that he's ready to inherit Harbaugh's lofty title.
Harbaugh led his teams to 15 fourth-quarter comebacks and 19 game-winning drives in 14 seasons as a signal caller in the NFL.
Through 19 games, Wilson has led Seattle to six, fourth-quarter comebacks.
"My dad used to always tell me that big-time players make big-time plays in big-time situations," Wilson said. "And I think that for me, I live up to that. I'm waiting for that moment. I'm relaxed in those moments. I try to be the calm in the storm for all of the other guys in the huddle."
Wilson's ability to stay focused in the frenetic final moments of games inspires his teammates to higher levels of performance.
"He gives everyone else confidence," Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said, noting that because of Wilson's success in crucial game situations his teammates "believe that he has the ability to lead us to where we want to go."
Wilson's stats in the critical moments of games validate Bevell's assessment of his quarterback. Wilson completed 64 of 105 passes (61 percent) for 796 yards, seven touchdowns and just one interception in fourth quarters last year. His 102.7, fourth-quarter passer rating was No. 5 in the NFL in 2012.
And Wilson picked up where he left off last season against Carolina, finishing 7-for-8 for 114 yards, including a 43-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse in his team's 12-7 win over the Panthers for a perfect, 158.3 passer rating in the final quarter.
"He's hard to beat and he's kind of showed the same thing for us," Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said. "He keeps us in every game. He gives us a chance. He was doing that well before we got him, and it was just whether we were going to pick him or not. He had shown everything that we see now. I don't think he's changed very much. I think he's doing what he's always done. That's why he's so good at it."
Wilson should get another chance to flash that big-time playmaking ability in another important moment when NFC West rival San Francisco travels to CenturyLink Field in a nationally televised game this evening.
Wilson threw for a career-high four TD passes against San Francisco last December, a 42-13 thumping administered by the Seahawks that helped propel them to a deep playoff run.
Seattle is looking for another jolt of momentum with a big, early season win over a division rival. If Wilson has a chance to lead the Seahawks back from the grave, teammate Richard Sherman expects more of the same.
"He hasn't proven us wrong yet," Sherman said. "For a young rookie last year I think he went out there and performed admirably. He went out there and won us the Chicago Bears game, and in games like Detroit he drove us all the way down and put us ahead. So I think we have the utmost confidence in him.
"Any time we're down in the fourth quarter, as a defense we don't ever think we're out of a game. We always believe that our offense is going to go down there and drive and get the game winning score, or tie us up, or bring us back, whichever one we need because that is what they've shown. They showed that in the Washington Redskins game, they showed that in the Atlanta game, and on many other countless occasions.
"When they prove it, you have to believe it."
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