By Todd Fredrickson
SEATTLE — If the Seattle Seahawks are going to be championship contenders for a sustained run, it is going to hinge first and foremost on the play of quarterback Russell Wilson.
On Sunday, he showed that even after he starts to slow down, that is entirely possible.
Playing on an ankle that was sore enough that backup quarterback Trevone Boykin was warming up on the sideline, and on a day when the offense sputtered for 56 minutes, a gimpy Wilson guided the Seahawks the length of the field for a game-winning touchdown and a 12-10 victory over the Miami Dolphins at CenturyLink Field.
“I was pretty limited,” Wilson said after the game. “But I was telling Coach (Pete) Carroll and some of the trainers, when I’m 43, 44, 45 years old and still playing, that’s probably what I’ll look like out there.”
Seahawks fans will take that.
Wilson injured his ankle early in the third quarter when sacked by Miami’s Ndamukong Suh.
It wasn’t much of a hit. In fact, Wilson said he hurt himself while trying to avoid Suh, not on the hit itself.
In any event, Wilson clearly was not at full speed after that, and the Seahawks had Boykin set to go for the next series.
“We were ready to go with Boykin,” Carroll said, “but he (Wilson) jumped back out.”
And he got the job done when it was absolutely necessary.
Miami’s offense also was essentially dormant for most of the game, but the Dolphins stunned everybody by marching 86 yards in seven plays for a touchdown and a 10-6 lead with 4:08 left in the game.
After the kickoff, Wilson hobbled out onto the field knowing only a touchdown would do, and to that point the Seahawks hadn’t come particularly close to getting one.
“We were backed up so much, and we got ourselves in some penalty situations,” Carroll said of the inconsistency that plagued Seattle’s offense for most of the game. “We had a sack or two that messed us up. It just never got going.”
Until the final series.
Starting from their own 25, the Seahawks moved the ball out to their 41 on running plays before Wilson took to the air.
The biggest play in length and importance was a 22-yard pass to wide receiver Doug Baldwin on fourth-and-4 from the Seattle 47 with 2:08 left.
Wilson limped for 4 yards on the next play, then hit tight end Jimmy Graham for 11 yards, Graham’s first reception since missing much of last season with a knee injury.
After completions to Tyler Lockett and Baldwin and a run by Christine Michael, the Seahawks had second-and-goal from the Miami 2.
Wilson hit Baldwin in the back left corner of the end zone with 31 seconds left to send the sellout crowd into a frenzy and let the football world know that he can lead this team with something other than his feet.
“First of all, I have to give a lot of credit to Russell Wilson, because that was not the play call,” Baldwin said of the game-winning touchdown. “We had discussions before about what we were going to do if we had certain matchups that we liked, and it was actually not on that play.
“He saw a situation that there was a matchup that he liked,” Baldwin said. “He switched the play, and fortunately enough, Jermaine (Kearse) and myself were able to execute it at a high level.”
For the game, Wilson completed 27 of 43 passes for 258 yards, one interception and the game-winning touchdown. He was sacked three times for 18 yards, but not again after the injury.
The Seahawks probably don’t want Wilson throwing 43 passes every week, but if that’s what it takes to win on a given day, so be it.
And if he has to do it on one bad leg, well, that’s OK, too.
“He’s a tough dude,” Baldwin said of Wilson. “It’s not just his mental fortitude, but also his physical prowess and what he brings to the table in every facet.
“I told him, ‘You need to suck it up,’ and he said … well, I can’t repeat what he said,” Baldwin said. “But he let me know it wasn’t going to affect his play, and, obviously, he showed that.”
“Really courageous,” Carroll said of Wilson. “To play that well, to be able to finish the game in that kind of fashion and make all the calls and do it all and elude the rush like he needed to, that was just fantastic.”
If that’s a preview of Russell Wilson 10 years from now, a little slower but even wiser, it should be a fun ride.
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