SEATTLE — Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin wasn’t sure the ball was going to get to him.
A ball thrown any farther would have taken him out of the back of the end zone, and one thrown even a couple inches shorter would have been broken up by Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes.
But on a day when Russell Wilson was at his best, mixing creative playmaking with accurate passes from the pocket, the Seahawks quarterback dropped a pass just past Rhodes’ outstretch hand, allowing Baldwin to make a spectacular catch for a 19-yard touchdown with 10 seconds to play in the first half.
“Russell threw one heck of a ball,” Baldwin said. “He threw it in the perfect spot. Actually I didn’t believe it was going to get there, I thought (Rhodes) was going to be able to tip it, but it hit right in my hands.”
While Percy Harvin’s return was the big story of the day, and the defense came up big again, forcing four turnovers, Wilson, rather quietly, put together yet another masterful performance. The raw numbers — yardage, completions, touchdowns — will rarely stand out for Wilson because the Seahawks just don’t throw that often. But the way Wilson played in Sunday’s 41-20 victory was another reminder that Seattle’s second-year quarterback is among the most valuable players in the game.
Wilson completed 13 of 18 attempts Sunday for 230 yards, two touchdowns and a career-high 151.4 passer rating (158.3 is the highest possible rating). Wilson’s average of 12.8 yards per attempt, an absurdly high number in the NFL, by the way, was perhaps the most telling stat, a reminder again of how explosive Seattle’s passing game can be, in part because of the threat their rushing attack provides.
“Russell played great today,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said. “Great numbers and all. We didn’t have the running game like we would like, but we had plenty of play-action passes and stuff that got us plenty of yards.”
In the past two weeks, Seattle’s pass protection has been much improved, and it has shown in Wilson’s ability to make big plays within the designed play calls. He is still deadly when things break down, however, as was evident in the fourth quarter when Wilson evaded pressure, scrambled to his left, the flipped a backhanded pass to Marshawn Lynch — “a little shortstop/second-baseman flip,” he said — for a six-yard score. Linebacker Erin Henderson appeared to be responsible for Lynch on the play, but left the back wide open when he saw Wilson running his direction.
“He’s right where we want him,” Carroll said of his quarterback’s play. “He scrambled at the right times, he ducked out of there when he had to, he made plays on scrambles throwing the ball around; he did everything we want. … He’s playing great football. He’s doing everything we want and gives us hope that we can have a truly great finish to the season.”
What should be most encouraging to the Seahawks is that Wilson appears to be getting hot late in the season once again. In November and December games last year, Wilson threw 16 touchdowns against just two interceptions, a big reason why Seattle went 7-1 in the second half of the season. In three November games this season, Wilson now has six touchdowns and no interceptions, and has posted two of the three highest passer ratings of his career, Sunday’s game and last week’s win in Atlanta that saw him finish with a rating of 134.6
“Every day my goal is, can I be better than I was yesterday?” Wilson said. “If I continue to have that mindset, to have a fresh mindset that today’s a new beginning, I think that really helps me. … I’m trying to improve my game on a daily basis, because I want to be great one day.”
The way Wilson is playing, “one day” looks like it has already arrived.
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.