Russell Wilson may never be the National Football League’s MVP, but at least he has a shot at some Michelin stars.
That’s right. Bowing to overwhelming public demand that included an endorsement from Wilson himself, the Seattle Seahawks loosened the restraints on their quarterback – you know it on social media as #LetRussCook – and the result was a 38-25 grilling of the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday in a ghostly Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Backed by the debut of newly acquired All-Pro safety Jamal Adams and a dig-in-when-necessary defense that came up with four first-down stops, Wilson served up some mouth-watering possibilities for the 2020 season – at least based on Seattle’s usual opening-day offensive struggles.
It’s been 22 years since the Seahawks erupted for so many points in an opener, but in this case it wasn’t just so much the total but the way they got there.
Maybe it didn’t start so auspiciously – Wilson pivoting straight into Takkarist McKinley for a sack on Seattle’s first snap. But then came eight completions in eight throws on a 77-yard drive that gave the Seahawks a lead they never surrendered.
Nine of the 12 snaps on the drive were called pass plays, and that extended to 21 of Seattle’s first 35.
And if they stagnated a bit after taking a 14-3 lead late in the first quarter, the Seahawks picked themselves up dramatically after halftime with scores on three straight possessions – including a 38-yard Wilson touchdown pass to DK Metcalf on a fourth-down gamble.
It wasn’t just calling more passes. Wilson took off on a keeper for 28 yards on Seattle’s second drive, the kind of decision the last couple seasons that’s been saved for late-game, come-from-behind scenarios. And he mixed it up with screens to running back Chris Carson – he took one 19 yards for Seattle’s second touchdown – and short shots to his deep corps of tight ends, including newcomer Greg Olsen, who caught a 7-yard touchdown bullet.
Still, coach Pete Carroll insisted that, “It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for how we’ve been preparing to play.
“Russ was in total command of the game … It’s a statement of the off-season, this whole “Zoom” season,” Carroll said in a post-game conference call. “Our guys did a marvelous job and Russ was extremely involved. We were able to move the ball. Even when we were backup with some penalty situations or sacks, we came right back and converted. That’s confidence and belief. They’ve earned their way to play like that by the way they’ve practiced.”
Wilson’s final report card: completions on 31 of 35 attempts for 322 yards and four touchdowns and a passer rating of 143.1. The completion rate of 88.6 percent ties him for third in NFL history in games with at least 35 attempts.
The Falcons put up some numbers, too – quarterback Matt Ryan throwing for 450 yards and three receivers, including Julio Jones, amassing more than 100 apiece.
But they were undone by failure on four decisions to go for it on fourth down. Two of those were big plays by Benson Mayowa, a former Idaho Vandal who batted away one Ryan pass on fourth down and later took him down with a sack.
In between, after the Seahawks had taken a 21-12 lead, Atlanta surprised Seattle with a run out of punt formation. Sharrod Neasman actually got the necessary yardage, but Seattle’s Marquise Blair popped the ball lose with a helmet hit and rookie Freddie Swaim recovered – what Carroll called “the play of the game.”
“The difference was the defense winning on fourth down,” he said. “They had to win on third down, and then they made them go 0-for-4 on fourth down.”
The foiled fake punt came right after Seattle’s own success on fourth down, the scoring pass to Metcalf over Isaiah Oliver.
“To be honest, they made a good stop on third down and they were all celebrating,” Wilson said, “and I just kind of looked to the sideline and said let’s go after them. We wanted to be aggressive and Schotty (offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer) and I were on the same page, and sure enough DK slips by and makes a great touchdown catch.”
Metcalf was one of nine Seahawks to catch passes – six going to Carson, who had just that many carries on runs.
“We’re going to be a tough football team to beat,” said Wilson. “We can score a lot of points and we have a lot of great players.”
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