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Analysis: Ranking Russell Wilson’s fourth-quarter comebacks with the Seahawks

UPDATED: Tue., Oct. 13, 2020

Russell Wilson celebrates the Seahawks’ comeback win over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game on Jan. 18, 2015, in Seattle.  (David J. Phillip)
Russell Wilson celebrates the Seahawks’ comeback win over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game on Jan. 18, 2015, in Seattle. (David J. Phillip)
By Bob Condotta Seattle Times

SEATTLE – After the latest of Russell Wilson’s grasping-victory-from-the-jaws-of-defeat high-wire acts, linebacker K.J. Wright – who has been there for every single one – was asked where he thought it ranked among the rest.

“I believe this is one of the three or more most impressive things I’ve seen this team do,” Wright said of the 27-26 win against the Vikings on Sunday, clinched on a 6-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to DK Metcalf with 15 seconds left.

That got us to thinking – where does this rank among Wilson’s many comebacks?

The victory Sunday night marked the 34th time in 148 regular-season or postseason games in which Wilson had led a game-winning drive in either the fourth quarter or overtime.

That ranks first in the NFL since he entered the league in 2012 – Detroit’s Matthew Stafford is next with 29.

But which one ranks as the best?

Let’s count down the top 12, with an emphasis on degree of difficulty but also meaning.

12. Seattle 40, Tampa Bay 34 (2019)

The comeback in this game was completed early – after trailing 21-7 early in the second quarter, Wilson led Seattle to a tie early in the third quarter and then the lead midway through the fourth. But the Bucs kept rallying and forced overtime. Seattle won the toss, and Wilson led a quick drive capped by his fifth TD pass of the game, this one to Jacob Hollister, to win it.

11. Seattle 10, Minnesota 9 (2016 wild-card playoff game)

In the third-coldest game in NFL history, the Seahawks trailed 9-0 entering the fourth quarter before Wilson led two drives early in the period to put Seattle ahead 10-9. You may remember what happened next.

10. Seattle 12, Miami 10 (2016)

The season opener looked disastrous for Seattle when Wilson suffered a high ankle sprain in the third quarter. But Wilson shrugged it off to stay in the game. Still, the Seahawks had managed only two field goals on the day when Seattle got the ball at its 25 with 4:04 left. Seattle had to convert two fourth downs to get close, including a fourth-and-1 at its 34, before Wilson hit Doug Baldwin with a 2-yard scoring pass with 31 seconds left.

9. Seattle 23, Houston 20 (OT, 2013)

This game ranks as the fifth-biggest comeback in team history as Seattle trailed 20-3 at halftime before rallying to win.

The only reason not to rank this one higher is that it was more of a team effort – Richard Sherman’s one-shoed interception return late in the game forced OT on a day Wilson threw for just 123 yards, the fifth fewest of his career. Still, Sherman’s pick never happens if Wilson hadn’t led a gutty 98-yard drive earlier in the fourth quarter, which included his 4-yard run on fourth-and-3 to keep it alive.

8. Seattle 27, Tampa Bay 24 (2013)

This game in the middle of the Super Bowl season ranks as the biggest comeback in team history, as Seattle trailed 21-0 in the second quarter before rallying. The Bucs still led 24-17 late in the game, before Wilson hit Baldwin with a 10-yard TD to tie it with 1:56 left. Seattle’s defense then had to hold the Bucs twice before Seattle got the ball on the second possession of OT. Marshawn Lynch did most of the damage in OT, setting up a field goal to win it.

7. Seattle 13, Carolina 9 (2014)

The Seahawks were perceived to be in post-Super Bowl chaos, having lost two in a row sandwiched around the shocking Percy Harvin trade. Their offense spent most of the day looking chaotic, with Seattle trailing 9-6 and taking over at its own 20 with 4:37 left. But this was quintessential Wilson finding a way late. He completed 4 of 4 passes for 53 yards – to the somewhat unlikely foursome of Cooper Helfet, Kevin Norwood, Paul Richardson and Luke Willson – while running twice for 21 yards to lead the Seahawks to the winning score (a 23-yard pass to Willson with 47 seconds left), and a victory that sparked a late-season surge that got Seattle back to another Super Bowl.

6. Seattle 41, Houston 38 (2017)

In maybe the greatest quarterback shootout in Century- Link Field history, Wilson threw for a career-high 452 yards to finally outlast Deshaun Watson (who threw for 402). Seattle trailed 38-34 when the Seahawks got the ball at their 20 with 1:39 left and no timeouts. Wilson needed just three plays to get Seattle into the end zone (covering 85 yards to make up for a penalty) the TD coming on an 18-yard pass to Jimmy Graham with 21 seconds left.

5. Seattle 23, Chicago 17 (OT, 2012)/Seattle 24, New England 23 (2012)

Two games commonly regarded as Wilson’s coming-out parties in his rookie year serve as a nice dual entry. The win in Chicago, in which Wilson led two late drives – in the fourth quarter and then OT – has always been regarded internally as the day Wilson won over his teammates.

The game against the Patriots, which came about a month earlier, was the first real glimpse that Seattle had something special as he led drives of 83 and 57 yards to bring Seattle back from a 23-10 fourth-quarter deficit, the TD coming on a 46-yard pass to Sidney Rice with 1:18 left.

4. Seattle 23, San Francisco 17 (2013 season NFC championship)

This was another game that was about a lot more than a Wilson-led comeback – there was a famous tip at the end you may remember. But Wilson’s 35-yard pass to Jermaine Kearse on a fourth-and-1 free play when Aldon Smith jumped offsides put Seattle ahead for good, 20-17, with 13:52 left.

3. Seattle 27, Minnesota 26 (2020)

Going 94 yards in 1:42, converting two fourth downs, including on the final play with 15 seconds left, was as dramatic and improbable as most of the others on this list. According to the Associated Press, it was just the third time since 2001 a team has driven 90-plus yards inside the final 2 minutes to win. According to Elias Sports Bureau, it was third-longest touchdown drive that began inside the final 2 minutes in the last 40 years. It marked the fifth time Wilson threw the game-winning touchdown pass with less than a minute remaining (he’s thrown three others in overtime).

2. Seattle 14, Green Bay 12 (2012)

Wilson’s first comeback in his third career game will forever remain as memorable as any other (you may recall there was a little bit of controversy about the final play).

Wilson threw for only 130 yards in the game – 65 coming on two TD passes to Golden Tate. And in the first real glimpse of the resilience the Wilson-era Seahawks will forever be defined by, he’d thrown an incompletion to Tate on a fourth down with 2 minutes left that seemed like it might seal Seattle’s fate, only for the defense to get the ball back and Wilson to make good on a second chance. A pass to Rice gave Seattle a first down at Green Bay’s 24 with 24 seconds left.

As Carroll said Sunday night, give Wilson four downs and he’ll figure out a way to get a first down.

1. Seattle 28, Green Bay 22 (OT, 2014 season NFC championship)

Given the stakes and all the impossible-to-foresee twists and turns, this will always be the mother of all Seattle comebacks, as the Seahawks were down 16-0 at half and 19-7 late in the fourth quarter. Wilson was just 14 of 29 for 209 yards overall, but he was 6 of 7 for 114 in the final 6 minutes, 41 seconds.

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