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Tuesday, October 20, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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John Blanchette: Payback notwithstanding, Russell Wilson gives Seahawks even more reasons to ‘believe’

UPDATED: Mon., Sept. 21, 2020

By John Blanchette For The Spokesman-Review

All together now … throw the slant, Bill.

Heh, heh. Nothing goes down in this neck of the NFL woods quite so smoothly as a little payback schadenfreude, however long delayed.

Then again, New England precincts can console themselves that it wasn’t the Super Bowl their super coach lost with a debatable decision on the goal line Sunday evening.

This would be the water cooler repartee Monday morning — if people were allowed to gather at water coolers anymore. That how this time it was the conventional wisdom on the game’s final snap that backfired — or got blown up, rather — and how this not-quite-irony allowed the Seattle Seahawks to escape with a wild 35-30 victory over their most bitter non-NFC West rivals, the New England Hoodies.

“Amazing play,” gushed Seattle coach Pete Carroll. “Amazing moment. I’d love to out there and do it all over again if we could.”

With one alteration.

“Imagine if we had fans out there today,” said defensive end L.J. Collier, who came up biggest in that amazing moment. “Seattle would still be shaking.”

Echoed Carroll, “It would have been so crazy for everybody.”

It was crazy enough — the Pats lining up in their tight jumbo package that had worked impeccably for quarterback Cam Newton’s forays in close all game long, Lano Hill submarining both lead blocker Jakob Johnson and Newton and Collier finishing things off.

Lano Hill? L.J. Collier?

Crazy, for sure.

But maybe not the craziest of all. Because the talk shows Monday will all make the connection to the goal-line slant pass that kaboomed on the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX, or how Patriots coach Bill Belichick might have wanted to put at least one receiving threat on the field and not invite 11 bodies to flood in on his quarterback, and telegraph the destination.

In the meantime, the afterthought will be this:

Russell freaking Wilson.

Emphasis on freak.

Great quarterbacking is abundant in the NFL these days, from A-listers like 2019’s unanimous MVP Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson, from golden oldies like Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees, or from hungry off-Broadway types like Dak Prescott and Jimmy Garoppolo. Hell, yes, throw a wild card like Gardner Minshew into the pot, too.

But two games into this muffled NFL season, the Seahawks’ ninth-year quarterback is already trying to elbow his way into the MVP conversation — which is apparently the only way it can be done from here.

And only with otherworldly performances.

As efficient as he was in Seattle’s season-opening win at Atlanta, he was more spectacular Sunday — and, yes, even with that pick-6 he got dinged with not 90 seconds into the game. It was hardly his fault; his pass hit tight end Greg Olsen squarely in the hands, caromed over his head and into the hands of New England’s Devin McCourty.

Then came the five touchdowns.

That equaled Wilson’s personal best, but this was as much about the how as the how many. The splendid rainbow he put out there for DK Metcalf, just out of the reach of NFL Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore. The bullet to Tyler Lockett after eluding the New England rush. The bomb that required David Moore to finish with some unreal ballet. The crossing route to rookie Freddie Swain against a Patriots blitz. The lob to Chris Carson when the Pats brought even more bodies.

In 2019, the Patriots secondary allowed just four touchdown passes to opposing wide receivers; Wilson found that many in one game.

And if nothing else, it helped bolster what Wilson said this week when Dan Patrick asked if he thought of himself as the best quarterback in the NFL.

“I believe so,” Wilson said, “without a doubt.”

That was pretty cheeky of humble, God-fearing Russ, so he had to go into some detail after a performance that suggested it wasn’t so far-fetched.

“I don’t come to play this game to be second place,” he said Sunday. “If I’m not thinking that way, I’d be crazy. If you want to be great, you have to believe in who you are and what you have and all the things you do. I’ve put tons of work into this game. I want to be the best in the world, but I can’t do it alone. It’s all the guys we have around me.

“There’s so many great quarterbacks. I mentioned, obviously, guys like Patrick Mahomes, guys like Lamar and Drew and Tom (Brady) — guys I have a lot of respect for. But if I’m not believing in taking the shot, then you’re never going to hit. I think it’s always got to be your mindset.”

This was not necessarily on his mind with about 100 ticks to play Sunday, when the Seahawks needed a yard for a first down that would have all but ended the game and he wound up heaving it just past Lockett’s outstretched hands 30 yards downfield. Carroll explained the Patriots had covered two preferred options.

Except Wilson didn’t alibi out.

“We almost had it,” he smiled.

Belichick went long early in the week on Wilson’s greatness, a rare soliloquy from Coach We’re-on-to-Cincinnati. And his way with a deep ball figured prominently, and Sunday’s exhibition will not tarnish that. But as much as his receivers love looking up to see that kind of art headed their way, Moore insisted there was something else he appreciated more.

“His passion,” Moore said. “He tells everybody, ‘Believe, believe’ all the time. Maybe he makes a mistake or something, but he’s always going to believe. The fact that you have a quarterback like that will pick everybody up no matter what the situation is during the game, that makes him great. That’s why we love him.”

Afterthought or not.

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