SEATTLE – Trevone Boykin was a wonder at TCU, throwing for 10,000 yards and running for 2,000 more and being generally swell, until an arrest for a bar fight before last year’s Alamo Bowl – proving that police in locales other than Pullman run in football players, too.
And he seems to be fitting in just fine as one of those bargain-bin free agents that are the Seattle Seahawks’ special conceit.
But unless you count holding for kicks, there are only three times you’ll see a backup quarterback in the National Football League – and two of them are bad.
And what happened to Russell Wilson a few moments before Boykin hustled onto the field on Sunday afternoon against the San Francisco 49ers had receiver Doug Baldwin thinking very bad thoughts.
“My heart dropped,” admitted Baldwin. “It was weird, because I haven’t felt like that in a long time – my heart just dropping out of my chest like that.”
Welcome to Seahawks EKG 2016.
Oh, there will be weekly subtexts to distract the masses – and in the case of Sunday’s 37-18 Seattle romp, virtually all of them were good. The revived running game and Christine Michael’s starring role, Kam Chancellor’s mistreatment of the Niners’ tight ends, third-down dominance on both sides of the ball and another heaping, tantalizing helping of tight end Jimmy Graham – all of that made for a grand old day for 69,010 basking in the sun at CenturyLink Field.
Until Russell Wilson went limping off with a sprained left knee.
The good news: there was no limp when he strode into the post-game interview to assure everyone that “I’ll be good to go.”
Still, there was no comfort in that during the fourth quarter, when Wilson was seen with a brace and then with an ice wrap. Spirits went up when he was spotted on a stationary bike. With Wilson’s determination, you could imagine him probable for the Jets game next week and cleared in full for the next Tour de France.
“It’s a tribute to the person he is and the resolve that he has and his passion to be out there for his teammates,” Baldwin said. “It’s ridiculous and sometimes we have to hold him back from himself.”
This is the current which will run through the 2016 season, locked in place by the events of Seattle’s first two games, when Wilson injured his right ankle in a narrow win over Miami and then hobbled around ineffectively in last week’s weird loss to the Rams.
Got to have Russell. Is he OK? Got to have him at his best.
And he was for the better part of Sunday.
On the game’s second play, he changed the play call at the line of scrimmage and found Baldwin behind the Niners’ Antoine Bethea on a wheel route for 34 yards. On Seattle’s second possession, he kept alive two third-down plays and overcame three penalties to produce a touchdown. More home runs to Baldwin and Graham followed. Wilson’s foot plant was strong and his mobility vastly improved over a week.
Until Eli Harold horse-collared him on a third-quarter sack, Wilson’s left leg enduring all the force.
Boykin replaced him for a single snap, then Wilson quickly returned.
“He went out on the field on his own,” Baldwin tattled.
Protested Wilson, “I don’t know if I did it on my own. I told them – maybe they didn’t hear me. I said, ‘Guys, I’m going back out, see you there.’ ”
The Seahawks finished that drive with a field goal to make it 27-3, and coach Pete Carroll insisted Wilson stow his helmet.
“He’s half crazy about this stuff,” Carroll sighed.
Boykin, by the way, acquitted himself with some distinction – and a touchdown – before throwing a freshman interception.
It’s true that Wilson is much more effective when the Seahawks can run the football, an on-and-off proposition ever since Marshawn Lynch took the side door to retirement. This day, it was on. Michael popped a beautifully blocked stretch play 41 yards for Seattle’s first touchdown – his first in the NFL, and the launching pad for a 106-yard day.
“When our running game is so successful, it allows us to be able to throw big,” said receiver Tyler Lockett. “Being able to go big and go deep and make those catches lets us open up our offense more.”
Indeed, it was the Seahawks who went off like roman candles, while Niners coach Chip Kelly and his 22nd-century playbook apparently went into the witness protection program. Some of that was Seattle’s preparation, and some of it was that quarterback Blaine Gabbert’s head appeared to be spinning.
“There is no challenge (in containing Gabbert),” scoffed defensive end Michael Bennett. “He threw for 100 yards. I think (Colin) Kaepernick gives the team a better chance to win, but that’s just my opinion.”
As to what gives the Seahawks the better chance to win, however, there is no debate. It’s Russell Wilson – on two good legs.
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