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Matt Calkins: Seahawks’ Russell Wilson normalizes the spectacular in season-opening win over Falcons

UPDATED: Mon., Sept. 14, 2020

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was nearly perfect against Atlanta on Sunday.  (John Bazemore)
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was nearly perfect against Atlanta on Sunday. (John Bazemore)
By Matt Calkins Seattle Times

Imagine a man bench-pressing 1,000 pounds at an LA Fitness, but all the members care about is the dude running eight-minute miles on the treadmill. Picture Whitney Houston giving her iconic “Star Spangled Banner” performance at the Super Bowl, and in the immediate aftermath, all people want to know about is the violinists.

This is sort of what it felt like Sunday after Russell Wilson’s absurdly efficient game against the Falcons. We’re all so used to such displays at this point, hardly anyone even asks about it.

Following their 38-25 win over Atlanta, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll went to the podium for about 19 minutes. He praised his team’s effort, then mentioned that Wilson had “perhaps his best game throwing-wise” that he could have.

This wasn’t hyperbole. Wilson completed 31 of 35 passes for 322 yards and four touchdowns while throwing no interceptions and posting a quarterback rating of 143.1. And that stat line may not do his accuracy justice, as he had two balls dropped by DK Metcalf (one was slightly behind him), another one tipped and just one underthrown.

And yet, when the ball coach stood up there in front of the reporters, there wasn’t one question about the mind-blowing nature of Wilson’s performance. The reason? He has normalized the spectacular.

We scribes really don’t want to write about the same person all the time, which is making Wilson a bit annoying. You want to spread the ink around for the sake of variety, but when one guy takes what would otherwise be a career day and makes it routine, it’s hard to stay away.

Asked about Seattle’s offensive prowess after the game, first-year Seahawks safety Jamal Adams quipped, “I’m not used to it.” But when it comes to Wilson’s mammoth games, the rest of us are.

Sunday’s game got off to an inauspicious start for the Seahawks when, after Atlanta went up 3-0 on its opening drive, Wilson took a 9-yard sack on his first play from scrimmage. The next play? A 15-yard strike to Tyler Lockett. The play after that? A 9-yard first-down completion to Greg Olsen. What followed were five consecutive completions and a touchdown pass to Chris Carson.

It only got better from there.

Wilson’s finest play came in the third quarter, when he hit Metcalf in stride for a 38-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-5. This, more than any other moment Sunday, signified the danger opponents face whenever he is on the field.

He isn’t just going to get the first down – he’s going to hang six on you, too.

That TD pass also seemed to spawn a rare instance of postgame trash talk from the 31-year-old.

“They made a good stop on third down, and they were all celebrating, so I kind of just looked at the sideline and said, ‘Let’s go after them,’ ” Wilson said during a postgame Zoom video call.

Granted, that’s not quite Conor McGregor brashness, but it was Wilson’s way of saying “let’s shut these guys up.”

Carroll has said for a while that Wilson has been fantastic throughout training camp, which has become the expectation. But the emphasis he has put on that over the past few weeks makes you wonder if he had seen something even better from Wilson over these past few weeks than he had in years past.

If so, Sunday would have spoken to that. Wilson’s 88.57% completion percentage was the highest in his eight-plus-year career, and that was with two drops.

“He’s just so efficient and so good with his decision-making and accuracy and all those things. And then around him, we have a lot of different guys that can contribute,” said Olsen, who was one of nine Seahawks to catch a pass from Wilson on Sunday. “It was kind of cool to see the ball spread around to so many different guys. That puts a lot of pressure on defenses.”

“Puts pressure” on defenses is the diplomatic way to say it. Strikes terror is just as accurate.

On Sunday night the Seahawks will host the Patriots, who had NFL’s the top defense last year and held Miami to 11 points in their season opener.

How Wilson will perform is TBD, but he’s capable of posting another interception-free game in which he completes 80% of his passes and tosses three or four touchdowns.

The logical response to such a game would be “wow!” But those have become so commonplace that the more likely response is “meh.”

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