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Sports >  Seattle Seahawks

Analysis: Game plan, return to health give Russell Wilson — and Seahawks — renewed life

UPDATED: Tue., Dec. 7, 2021

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson scrambles during the second half of an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, in Seattle. The Seahawks 30-23.  (Associated Press)
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson scrambles during the second half of an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, in Seattle. The Seahawks 30-23. (Associated Press)
By Bob Condotta Seattle Times

In the first happy postgame celebration the Seahawks in more than a month, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told his team, “We ain’t dead yet, boys!”

The exaltation concluded Carroll’s talk to the team following Sunday’s 30-23 win over the 49ers and was revealed in a clip released by the team via social media Monday. It figures to become something of a rallying cry for Seattle for the rest of the season.

It capped a game in which Carroll admitted later he was willing to throw caution to the wind more than ever, which led to calls such as the fake punt that resulted in a 73-yard touchdown, trying a 56-yard field goal instead of punting and going for it late in the game when a chip shot field goal would have meant a 10-point lead with six minutes to go.

“I was just looking for opportunities to be clear about our intention and make sure that we weren’t sitting back and kind of waiting for our chances at all,” Carroll said. “Sometimes you can play the game, hold onto to the rhythm of it, and wait it out, and I didn’t want to wait it out in this game. I had a lot of respect for this team, I thought they had a chance to be really explosive on both sides of the football, and we needed to be really going for it and not waiting to see how the game turned out.”

But what mattered most Sunday in giving Seattle’s season a pulse is that quarterback Russell Wilson came back to life.

Wilson hit on 30 of 37 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns, an 81.08 completion percentage that was sixth-highest of his career.

He would have been 31 for 37 had not Gerald Everett bobbled a pass in the end zone into the hands of San Francisco’s K’Waun Williams for an interception.

That would have given Wilson a completion percentage of 83.78 which would have been the second-highest of his career, topped only by a 31-for-35 day in the season opener at Atlanta in 2020 – 88.57%.

Sunday’s game came on the heels of Wilson completing only 54 of 97 passes, 55.6%, in his previous three outings since he returned from finger surgery.

One contributing factor in Wilson’s breakout game Sunday is that Seattle devised a game plan emphasizing quick passes.

According to NFL NextGen Stats, Wilson threw 20 of his 37 passes in 2.5 seconds or less. He was as accurate as could be on those throws, going 19 for 20 for 145 yards and a touchdown.

One reason for such a game plan might have been to get Wilson some easy completions, and give a struggling offense some early momentum.

Another obvious one, though, was to mitigate San Francisco’s vaunted pass rush, particularly Nick Bosa coming off the edge.

Wilson had an intended air yards per attempt average of just 7.0, according to Pro Football Reference, his second-lowest of the season.

But that was actually higher than in the first game this season against the 49ers this year – 5.4 – the last full game Wilson played before his injury.

In other words, the Seahawks like getting the ball out quickly against the 49ers.

Still, Wilson was uncommonly accurate Sunday even if he threw a bevy of short passes – he could hardly have been more on target than on a 33-yard completion to DK Metcalf that converted a third-and-14 and was his longest pass of the day.

According to Sportradar, Wilson did not have a single of what it defines as a bad pass, the first time since it began keeping track in 2018.

What’s a bad pass can be argued and some might note there was at least one incompletion that could have been better placed.

The larger point is that according to an objective measuring device, Wilson was as accurate as he has been in four years.

And another reason for that is that Wilson may finally be recovered from the finger surgery.

That may seem like an obvious point.

But for the first three weeks of Wilson’s return, both Carroll and Wilson consistently portrayed him as essentially back to normal, even if the team did make some concessions to his health, such as having him take no snaps under center in his first game back against Green Bay.

But now that the major recovery phase of Wilson’s injury seems in the rearview mirror with no setbacks, Carroll in particular seems willing to speak more frankly about how Wilson was impacted by his finger the last few weeks.

Monday, he mentioned the effort Wilson had to spend on rehab while also getting ready to play the previous few weeks, as well as the impact of not doing anything football related for a month.

“Watching kind of what he’s had to focus on to get ready to play each week, the time he’s had to spend on his rehab and his work,” Carroll said.

“… Plus, he sat out for a month and just in and of itself – you’re talking about a Maserati that’s finely tuned, ready to roll, and it has to be prepared. We weren’t able to do much with him when he was on IR (injured reserve). He’s going to be better this week, too, and I think he will continue to improve throughout the rest of the season. He will feel better about what we are asking him to do.”

That might lead some to ask why Seattle played Wilson five weeks after an injury that all along was estimated as a six- to eight-week recovery – as Carroll noted, last Friday marked eight weeks since Wilson’s surgery.

One answer is that Wilson said he was ready, and given what he’s pulled off before in his career – leading Seattle to a division title in 2016 despite dealing with ankle, knee and pec injuries, for instance – the team could be forgiven for thinking he could do it again.

But Carroll also insisted that all available evidence led them to think Wilson was recovered enough to play.

Wilson, Carroll said, “looked good in practice. He was able to show it, I’m talking a few weeks back. Had he not, then it would have been different, but he was able to do all the stuff in practice.”

But Sunday, Carroll thinks, should end all the questions about Wilson’s health.

“We’re beyond all of it now,” Carroll said. “Now he just needs to do his consistent rehab and the things that he’s doing. He’s more freed up to go now more than ever.”

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