RENTON — In less than two quarters, we saw the very best and very worst of Russell Wilson’s playmaking ability on display.
So often when a play seems dead, or when Wilson seems down, he can make magic happen. There can, however, be a downside, and in Arizona last week, a pair of plays provided perfect illustrations of the upside and downside of Wilson’s game.
Late in the second quarter, the Seahawks were facing second-and-10 from their own 13-yard line, and when Wilson felt pressure coming, he tried to get away from Arizona linebacker Matt Shaughnessy, but in doing so failed to secure the ball, leading to a fumble. The Cardinals turned that short field into a touchdown, and for a while at least, made things interesting in a game they should have been losing by double digits.
A quarter later, however, Wilson looked liked he had been sacked by a blitzing Daryl Washington. But somehow while falling to the ground with Washington wrapped around his legs, Wilson managed to fling a strike Zach Miller that allowed Seattle to convert on third down. Six plays later, the Seahawks were in the end zone on a drive that with just about any other quarterback in the game, would have ended in a punt after a Washington sack.
Wilson describes his style of play as having a “never say die attitude,” and it would be foolish to argue with the overall results, both in terms of his numbers and his team’s success. But Wilson also knows a team can only survive so many turnovers, no matter how good its defense is at mitigating the damage.
“I think the biggest thing for me is just hold onto the ball,” Wilson said. “Sometimes, you’ve got to sacrifice yourself and just get down, and other times you’ve just got to continue to step up. I’m always looking down field, I’m always trying to find guys down field. So it’s one of those things that it’s a happy medium you know?”
And for the most part Wilson is on the right side of the risk-taking line. His ability to extend plays and escape pressure was the only reason Seattle functioned even a little on offense in its win against Houston, and despite those fumbles last week, Wilson is generally careful with the ball, particularly if he takes off and runs. Yet he has still fumbled the ball eight times, losing five of them, and while some of those were of no fault of his own — there’s not much a quarterback can do if an unblocked defensive end blindsides him — plays like the Shaughnessy fumble are concerning, especially when you consider Wilson fumbled just six times all of last year.
“It’s an issue,” Carroll said. “Russell is … an escape artist. He can get out. So he has to declare when that’s not available, and right now we’re looking for him to kind of recognize, ‘OK, this isn’t that time,’ and that’s not easy to do because. How do you know he’s not going to make one of those miraculous escapes, which he’s done? He looks like he’s dead and gone and now he’s out.
“So I understand that this is a little bit of an issue that kind of comes with the territory of utilizing his great talent and also expecting that we’re going to make some plays there and protecting the football. So it’s a little bit of an issue right now. Hopefully, we’ll manage this well and it won’t keep us from winning a football game.”
But occasional miscues aside, you’d better believe the Seahawks are fine with Wilson taking a few chances if the end result is a big play.
“Absolutely, that comes with it,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “Absolutely, I understand that. If we were going to go conservative, he’d take a knee back there if he felt some pressure; he’s not doing that.”
The reason Carroll and the Seahawks are willing to take the very occasional bad with the good is because they trust that, far more often than not, Wilson’s knack for extending plays will help the team, not hurt it.
“He’s a great decision maker, he’s got a tremendous conscience, he knows what we’re trying to protect, and we just have to work together,” Carroll said. “There may be a time when he goes down and he thinks, ‘I need to get out of this situation and go down,’ and he may have had the opportunity to escape. We’re just going to take it, and really it’s because we trust him.
“He’s a fantastic competitor. … He knows what we’re after and what we want, so that means that there is some risk involved and I think that he’s as much of a risk taker out there (as) anybody playing the game, but I think that he can manage that risk really well.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.