In Greek mythology, Atlas was the Titan who was condemned by Zeus to hold the heavens aloft for eternity.
I suspect Russell Wilson gives a knowing nod when he glances at the images of Atlas holding up the celestial sphere. The weight of having to carry the Seattle Seahawks on his shoulders seems to be wearing Seattle’s star quarterback down.
For the second straight week Wilson was uncharacteristically careless with the football, as his three turnovers were a big part of the problem in the Seahawks’ 23-16 loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday at SoFi Stadium.
Wilson threw two interceptions and lost a fumble against the Rams, all three turnovers coming when Seattle had the ball in Los Angeles territory. That loose performance came seven days after Wilson turned the ball over four times in a 44-34 loss to the Buffalo Bills. It was the first time since Wilson’s rookie season in 2012 that he threw multiple picks in consecutive games.
This Wilson is unrecognizable compared to the one who through seven games was just about perfect as he led the Seahawks to a 6-1 record and the top seed in the NFC. Who was on pace to break the NFL’s single-season record for touchdown passes in a season. Who was just about everyone’s front-runner in the MVP race. And who historically has valued the football like Linus clutching his security blanket.
So what the heck happened? Why have Wilson’s performances nose-dived like a pack of lemmings jumping off a cliff?
It just may be that too much is being asked of Wilson. That the burden of having to be flawless for the Seahawks to have any chance of winning has started to take its toll.
Seattle has had to win games with its offense this season because the defense has been historically bad. After giving up another 389 yards to the Rams the Seahawks remain on pace to break the league record for yards allowed in a season, and the way the Rams sliced through the Seattle defense on their first three drives Sunday put the onus on the Seahawks’ offense to keep up.
And now the Seahawks are playing without their battering-ram running back Chris Carson, who’s dealing with a sprained foot. When just-signed-off-the-street Alex Collins is the best option at running back, there’s no semblance of a running threat to provide Wilson with a breather.
Put it all together and it’s meant, in the past two games in particular, that it’s all been up to Wilson, and it looks like he knows it. Wilson has made the type of poor decisions that he wouldn’t have made earlier in the season, such as forcing an on-the-throw pass that was intercepted by the Rams in the end zone. He’s showing happy feet in the pocket when earlier in the year he had the confidence to stand in. This doesn’t absolve Wilson of blame, but it does help explain it.
After the game, even the eternal optimist Wilson was making allusions to Atlas.
“I’m not going to make it overly complicated, it’s not on anybody but me. I put it all on my shoulders to get it fixed.”
Granted, when Wilson was asked straight up if he was pressing because of the circumstances, he denied it by answering, “Not really.
“The reality is I know who I am,” Wilson added. “I know I’m a great football player, I know I’ve been great, I know I will be great, I’ll continue to be great. I know there are better days ahead. … I look forward to getting back after it, getting back to work and just finding my best again. I have no doubt greatness is in store.”
Wilson’s faith is admirable, but it would be impossible for anyone not to feel burdened by his situation.
When Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was asked during his Monday morning radio show on 710 ESPN whether Wilson was trying too hard, he paused before giving his answer:
“Russ would tell you he always tries hard, he tries as hard as he can,” Carroll said. “But there is a point in there where you can feel like, ‘If I don’t do something here, maybe it won’t happen.’ That’s when over-trying does take place. You don’t see the situation like you normally would see it, you see it with other circumstances and other criteria that can change the way you perform.
“So we have to really work hard at that,” Carroll continued. “A big, big deal about consistent high performance is staying within yourself. That’s part of the game I have to continue to help Russ with. Russ is busting his (tail) to play for this football team, and he’s doing everything he can and we never think twice about anything but that. But that doesn’t mean he can’t fall prey to it too, he wants to win too. So we just have to keep him within himself and he’ll come back and he’ll be great.”
Indeed, I have no doubt Wilson will make adjustments and get some things fixed. We have too much evidence about Wilson’s attributes and quality to think anything different.
But it sure would be helpful if someone lent a hand in lifting the burden before the weight becomes too much for one man to bear.
Follow Nick Patterson on Twitter at @NickHPatterson.