By John Boyle Herald Columnist
SEATTLE — Even Russell Wilson had to allow himself a moment of anger on the sideline Sunday.
With his team trying to dig itself out of a three-touchdown hole, the usually unflappable Seattle Seahawks quarterback was visibly upset with himself after throwing an interception on a play that could have been the game-tying score.
Wilson had Doug Baldwin open in the back of the end zone, but didn’t account for safety Keith Tandy’s ability to make a spectacular, leaping play at the goal line.
“I was obviously mad at myself,” Wilson said. “It was just one of those things, I thought we had him, and the guy just made a great play on that one. He just made a play. … I never want to give the ball to them. That’s the thing I hate the most is just giving them the football.”
The interception was the first of Wilson’s career in the red zone, and gave him his first multi-interception game since he threw two in Carolina in the fifth game of his rookie season.
Yet while those two facts indicate a bad day for Wilson, just about everything else he did showed why he is one of the league’s best quarterbacks. No, Wilson wasn’t perfect, especially not on his first interception, a ball thrown behind Zach Miller — “Just a bad throw,” Wilson said. But you can also argue that he is one of the only quarterbacks in the NFL who possesses the combination of arm talent, athleticism, toughness and poise to have led the biggest comeback in franchise history, turning a 21-0 deficit into a 27-24 overtime victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“I don’t think (the interceptions) diminished the way he played at all,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said. “… I think he’s playing great football, and I think eventually they’re going to tip a ball and get something on him. He got pounded again today more than we would like. He’s a bit banged up from it, and I’m hoping that we can protect him better.”
If two interceptions, both with his team deep in Tampa Bay territory, was the worst of Wilson, then much of what he did the rest of the day, and in the second half in particular, was the best of him. Find me another quarterback who could make the play Wilson did in the third quarter when he spun away from pressure, ran away from Daniel Te’o-Nesheim and Mason Foster, then while rolling left, threw a 35-yard strike to Doug Baldwin. On the next play, Wilson called his own number and outran Tandy to the corner of the end zone for a touchdown.
Asked what changed from the first half to the second, Foster, a former Husky, answered simply, “It was Russell Wilson making a lot of plays. Making plays on third down, doing what he does. He’s a great player.”
Those plays also included the game-tying touchdown throw to Baldwin with pressure in his face, one of many Wilson made just before taking a pounding. Amazingly, Wilson wasn’t sacked a week after taking seven in St. Louis, but he was hit a ton. He appeared to injure his non-throwing hand or arm after a hard hit on the fourth-quarter drive that ended with an interception, then he was hit low five plays later and limped a bit momentarily.
“He got banged a couple times,” Carroll said. “He got hit enough today that a couple of things were bothering him.”
Despite being banged up, and despite taking much longer than usual to arrive at his postgame press conference — perhaps a sign he was getting treatment on an injury — Wilson declared himself “good to go” for next week and smiled when asked how he was feeling from a physical standpoint.
“I feel good,” he said. “I got hit a few times, obviously. I got hit pretty good a couple times here and there. You just keep getting back up and keep playing. I try to be as tough as I can be, just to help our football team win. We made some plays today, which was awesome.”
Wilson says the key to overcoming his mistakes is having amnesia — and if we weren’t in an era of increased sensitivity about head injuries, there’s be a good joke to be made about the beating he took leading to said amnesia — and he was again able to do just that after his second interception. Sure enough, Seattle’s very next possession after his end-zone interception ended with a touchdown pass to Baldwin to tie the game with 1 minute, 51 seconds left on the clock.
“Russ, I don’t even understand how he does it, but his mental state of mind is phenomenal,” said receiver Golden Tate. “Regardless if he throws an 80-yard touchdown or runs for a touchdown or fumbles or throws a pick, he’s going to come back excited for the next play. He never gets discouraged. He comes in as a leader like, ‘Hey, we’re good, we’re going to get the ball back.’ You’ll never see Russ out there (cursing) guys, or yelling at guys. He’s encouraging, he’s positive.”
Well, almost always positive. There was that one moment of anger for the always-composed Wilson, but on a day when Wilson made potentially costly mistake, he was also one of the biggest reasons Seattle escaped with a victory.
“That little quarterback is amazing back there,” Baldwin said. “He’s poised, takes the hits and he keeps getting back up. I know today he got hit a lot, you could see it in his eyes. He was hurting a little bit, but he found a way to pull it out, and that’s resilience.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.