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Blanchette: Russell Wilson’s dud leaves struggling Seahawks in NFC West jam

UPDATED: Sun., Nov. 15, 2020

By John Blanchette For The Spokesman-Review

Hey, you have to figure he’s still the fans’ MVP.

Most Vexing Player, that is.

If only the Seattle Seahawks had Russell Wilson at quarterback on Sunday, they might still be alone in first place in the NFC West and not trying to tighten the lug nuts while the rig rolls downhill.

If only it had been Wilson back there slinging, another fourth-quarter comeback would have materialized like magic instead of two killing turnovers.

That just couldn’t have been Wilson missing on the long balls that are his métier, ignoring his best target, forcing passes when he needed to use his legs, taking too much time at the line, sliding instead of running out of bounds to save clock.

Who was that guy, anyway?

Didn’t he used to be Russell Wilson?

Here everyone was prepared – as usual – to leave the blame on Seattle’s doughy defense for Sunday’s loss to the Los Angeles Rams at their decadent new palace in Inglewood, only to check the scoreboard and see the final was 23-16.

Turns out this week it was the D that had to be perfect to overcome the quarterback – and maybe the head coach, too.

“I’m not going to make it complicated,” Wilson said in his debriefing. “It’s not on anybody but me.”

But what has the 12s at sixes and sevens this morning is that this was no one-off. For five weeks of the NFL season, Wilson was indeed in MVP form – spectacular, if not flawless. Since the open week, the Seahawks have lost three of four, and while Wilson may have done enough to pull out a couple of those, it’s the cumulative that’s a concern.

Seven interceptions in those three losses. Three other lost fumbles. And beyond the giveaways on Sunday, some curious decision-making that gives pause.

Last month, he was filing trademark papers on the slogan, “Let Russ Cook.” This month, he might want to copyright “My Bad.”

This was all distilled, of course, in the second quarter when the Seahawks were envisioning another wild shootout. They trailed 17-10 but had seen the defense unaccountably rise up with a big play – a blitzing (what else?) Jamal Adams stripping Rams quarterback Jared Goff and setting Seattle up on the L.A. 27.

Two plays later, with the pocket collapsing, Wilson stepped through the rush and into a sea of green – but instead of running for a certain first down and a likely spot inside the 10, he tried to sneak a pass to tight end Will Dissly in the left end zone. Rams cornerback Darious Williams gobbled it up instead.

“I should have just took off and ran it,” Wilson admitted. “I saw Dissly sneak out early and I thought I still had him. Just a bad decision is all that was.”

The Rams didn’t wind up with any points out of it, or either of the other two Wilson turnovers – in which a low snap and a stunning layout by Williams were equally contributing factors. But, as noted, the turnovers were merely part of the problem. Wilson’s sharpness and judgment were shaky all day, heightened by the Rams’ ferocious pass rush, some slippage from the offensive line and the injuries that have Seattle resorting to fourth and fifth-string running backs.

Notably, the league’s No. 2 receiver in yardage, DK Metcalf, did not see a ball thrown his way the entire first half, even when not shadowed by All-Pro Jalen Ramsey. Freddie Swain got more touches than Metcalf – and no, that’s not a misprint.

“We didn’t have a game plan that we were going to stay away from (Ramsey),” said coach Pete Carroll. “The ball just didn’t go there.”

Carroll was central in the game’s other tipping point, opting not to go for it on fourth-and-4-inches at his own 42 on the first possession of the third quarter – something he defended vigorously.

“That early in the game I don’t want to give them the ball at the 40-yard line – that’s a turnover,” he said. “That’s like handing them an interception if you don’t make it. That’s believing that we’re going to be all right. There’s times you go for it, when the logic doesn’t add up the same.”

Logic?

Carroll put his faith in realizing the best outcome from the worst defense in the NFL, and figuring the worse case from the most potent offense. As it was, the Rams ate up half the quarter and went 88 yards for a touchdown anyway.

“There’s no reason to feel desperate at that point,” Carroll said, pushing his point.

And maybe he’s sensing the easy armchair diagnosis of what’s ailing Wilson – that knowing how generally dreadful the Seahawks are on offense, he’s pressing to make more happen.

Wilson isn’t buying it, possibly because he’s sold himself on another vision.

“The reality is, I know who I am,” he said. “I know I’m a great football player. I know I’ve been great, I will be great, I know I’ll continue to be great. I know there are better days ahead. I have no doubt greatness is in store.”

But he wasn’t great Sunday.

He wasn’t even Russell Wilson.

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