By Dave Boling The News Tribune
ATLANTA — Is it against the rules to suggest that an athlete had a legendary performance in a loss?
What if he leads his team to 28 points in the second half of a game? Twenty-one in the frantic final 13 minutes of that game? On the road? In the divisional round of the playoffs?
Toss in the fact that he’s a rookie. No, wait, more than that … he’s a little-bitty rookie, one that every team in the league passed over until the third round of the NFL draft.
And what if his 385 passing yards are a postseason record for a rookie that goes back to 1937 when Sammy Baugh threw one of those fat, old footballs 335 yards?
Does it qualify then?
Maybe it has to be downgraded from legendary to merely memorable. But if Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson is to be denied that rare status, it is only because the Seahawks’ defense gave up 43 yards in 12 seconds to set up Atlanta’s game-winning field goal.
Wilson engineered what should have been the biggest comeback in playoff history in the Georgia Dome on Sunday, giving the Hawks a 28-27 lead with 31 seconds to play in the game.
As he has been in this record-setting season, Wilson again was a clear-eyed, cold-blooded quarterbacking machine, who passed for 385 yards, and ran for 60 more.
And if the guy is to be downgraded for anything it’s only that he’s a bit of a procrastinator. That, and the fact that he hasn’t figured out a way to get on the field with the defense on the final drive.
The Seahawks have seen the improbable out of Wilson for so long, they’ve exhausted their amazement, so the Falcons were kind enough to supply some.
“He’s got the ‘it’ factor, man,” said Atlanta safety William Moore. “You can’t control a guy like that. That dude is going to be a big problem for defenses in the league. He can do it all — he can run, he can throw, and he has the moxie you like to see in good quarterbacks. He was truly a game-changer.”
Such a game-changer, in fact, that Seattle head coach Pete Carroll refuses to call him a rookie.
“He ain’t a rookie … he just isn’t,” Carroll said. “And there’s no way I can describe it. I could talk for 20 minutes about all the stuff he does, and who he is and what he’s all about. He’s just an amazing kid. Look what he just did today. It’s just uncanny.”
Wilson had some rough patches, missed open receivers on occasion, and held the ball too long at times. But this guy is absolutely hard-wired to lead a team regardless of circumstances.
“He was very calm, talking to us, communicating, giving us reminders,” said Seattle fullback Mike Robinson. “He was in total control.”
“He doesn’t let anything bother him,” added Seahawks tight end Zach Miller. “He’s the same guy. He talks to the offense: Let’s get going, start with this first play and get it going. Then he backs it up with how he plays.”
The dramatic comeback, Wilson said, was “what we’re all about.”
“Coach Carroll does a tremendous job of making sure we never give up and we’re always competing and playing at a high level,” Wilson said. “So, the way we came back was really exciting.”
I’m not sure Wilson knows what being excited is, actually. He doesn’t show it.
Of the human emotions he will cop to, disappointment is one. For a short time, only.
“I’m just very disappointed,” he said afterward. “We had high, high hopes.”
He was downcast for a full few minutes. “Right before I got back to the tunnel, walking off the field, I got so excited for the opportunity next year, looking forward to what we have in the future.”
Really, the main thing the Seahawks have to look forward to in the future is a quarterback who earned this job and took over the confidence and support of the entire franchise in record time.
Everyone in that locker room is a Russell Wilson believer.
Before Wilson took the field for the go-ahead drive, I was watching him on the bench through binoculars. Backup quarterback Matt Flynn — the veteran who was brought in to lead this team and who had that position usurped by Wilson’s preseason brilliance — leaned in close to the rookie and shared a few quiet moments.
Flynn has been mostly invisible this season as Wilson emerged. But I asked Flynn if he could share anything that he said to him.
“It was mostly between us,” Flynn said. “I just told him I was proud of him, and that he deserved this. He did a great job.”
The exchange says a great deal about both those quarterbacks.
Wilson was asked if he was going to take some time off to relax now, after having played 18 grueling regular-season and postseason games — and carrying the team on his back through many of them.
He said that he’s committed to taking a honeymoon he never took after his marriage — one year ago today.
Although his wife was sitting in on the interview, Wilson quickly added that he doubted that he would take much time off, though.
That’s not his way. That’s not how you turn into a legend.