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Saturday, December 14, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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A Grip on Sports: Russell Wilson is the difference between winning and, well, anything else, for the Seahawks

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson drops to make a touchdown pass to Seahawks tight end Jacob Hollister (not shown) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019, in Seattle. (Scott Eklund / Associated Press)
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson drops to make a touchdown pass to Seahawks tight end Jacob Hollister (not shown) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019, in Seattle. (Scott Eklund / Associated Press)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • There are a whole bunch of reasons why it’s easy to dismiss the Seahawks as pretenders for the NFL title this season. And only one real reason to believe they can win it all. All were on display yesterday in their wild overtime win against woeful Tampa Bay.

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• So as not to be accused of being a Negative Nelbert, we’ll start with the reason the Hawks can win a Super Bowl.

Russell Wilson.

No quarterback, not Tom Brady, not Aaron Rodgers, not even the flavor of the year, Lamar Jackson, is playing better.

Wilson is the reason the Hawks have seven wins. He’s the reason they were in their two losses. He is the most important player on a team with as good a record as anyone other than San Francisco.

He’s not only the Seahawks’ most valuable player, he is the league’s.

Wilson has thrown 22 touchdown passes. He has thrown one interception. One. Yesterday, he threw for 378 yards and five touchdowns, including the 10-yarder to tight end Jacob Hollister for the 40-34 overtime victory.

OK, it came against Tampa Bay’s defense, which is one of the league’s worst against the pass. So what? The Hawks, thanks to a myriad of deficiencies on the other side of the ball, needed every yard, every score. The pressure was on from the get-go and Wilson didn’t flinch. He hasn’t all season.

It does help, believe it or not, that his offensive line is OK in pass protection and really good run blocking. It helps to have Tyler Lockett in the slot, on the outside, in motion, heck, anywhere. And it helps that rookie DK Metcalf is asserting himself more often than anyone could have hoped. But almost all of those folks wouldn’t be as good with another quarterback behind them.

With someone else, no matter which quarterback you name, running the show, the Hawks wouldn’t be within shouting distance of the undefeated 49ers. As it is, unless the defense begins to man up a bit more, they won’t be after next Monday night.

The defense, once the hook the 12s hung their collective hats on, is a faint echo of what it once was.

As great as Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright have been, they have aged. They have lost a step. It’s OK. It happens to everyone. But it becomes glaring when the rest of the defense is so porous.

The front struggles to put pressure on, even in obvious passing downs. The secondary, whether playing man or zone, can’t overcome the lack of pressure. Heck, after a couple time outs in a crucial situation yesterday, there was a disagreement in the back whether they were playing man or zone. And, predictably, a big play occurred.

We won’t even go into the kicking woes, because they trigger flashbacks to the recent past, a past that was supposed to be relegated there forever thanks to the millions given to Jason Myers.

Still, if the offensive line stays healthy, if Chris Carson remembers to hold on to the ball, and, most importantly, Wilson continues his MVP-type play, the Hawks have a chance in each game. They’ve had that nine times this season. And figured out how to win in seven of them.

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WSU: The Cougars finished up their bye week with a couple of announcements. Well, not theirs per se, but announcements from recruits. Theo Lawson has two stories on nearly back-to-back commitments yesterday. … The volleyball and soccer teams had good Sundays. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, we want to make sure we didn’t miss anything related to Saturday’s games and we did, so we pass it on today. … The new polls came out yesterday and we have an overview, sure, but also stories from Oregon and Utah as they wait, like the rest of us, for today’s release of the playoff committee’s rankings. … Washington is trying to figure out how to finish games and avoid late collapses. … Oregon hasn’t collapsed late since Auburn. That’s why the Ducks are in the national title picture. … Oregon State has begun to learn how to win. … Colorado hasn’t won in more than a month. The rest of the season is about next year. … Utah still has a lot of opportunity for this year. … So does, surprisingly, UCLA. The Bruins have another bye this week. … The same can’t be said for USC and Clay Helton. … The upcoming month is important for Arizona State. … Yes, Arizona gave up 56 points to Oregon State. … Finally, we have one little beef with Jon Wilner in this piece on California and staying on Daylight Savings Time year-round. The games may start an hour later but the temperature won’t be different. It won’t be any chillier than if the West Coast had dropped back to Standard time.

Gonzaga: Tonight at the Bing Crosby Theater, men’s assistant Tommy Lloyd will explain how the Zags tap into foreign markets to make a profit, so to speak. It’s all part of a fundraiser for Quentin Hall, who recently lost his home in a hurricane. But before you head to the event, take time to read Jim Meehan’s story this morning. He spoke with Lloyd about international recruiting.

Chiefs: An overtime penalty-shot goal lifted Everett past Spokane 4-3 last night in the Arena. Kevin Dudley has the game story.

Seahawks: There are a lot of sources for Hawk news, and we will tap some, but our first order of business is to point you toward John Blanchette’s game story and column in the S-R. … The win wasn't easy. Not at all. … Wilson’s magical run is, of course, the subject of many pixels this morning. As well it should be. … Josh Gordon is on deck. Is Antonio Brown in the hole? … Hollister is an unlikely hero. … Myers has Pete Carroll’s support. … We have grades.

Mariners: The M’s made a minor roster move recently.

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• I am now officially a fan of blackened fish, whether in a taco or a sandwich. The recipe I found uses a lot of cayenne pepper, which scared the heck out of my innards, but it was nearly perfect. As were the tacos. Next up: homemade clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. Seems sort of San Francisco, doesn’t it? Until later …

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