SEATTLE — There was a go-route snag from an athletic freak who had Hall of Fame hype before he ever played a down. There was a QB sack from a three-time Pro Bowl selection who broke the internet the day he signed with Seattle.
I’ve heard speculation the Seahawks have one of the best offensive lines in football. I’ve heard aspirations about them repeating as the NFL rushing leaders, too. And like many others, I’ve said they have a Canton-bound linebacker who is the best in the league at his position.
But when it comes to the success of this team — when it comes to typing a new number into the win column each week, allow me to summon my inner James Carville.
It’s the quarterback, stupid.
Russell Wilson put on a master class Sunday with all the noise of a ninja. He gutted the Cincinnati Bengals so subtly they didn’t know it till they saw their bowels on the field.
He threw just 20 times in the Seahawks’ 21-20 victory, and compiled a modest 196 passing yards. But there was nary an opportunity he didn’t maximize.
Wilson had successive completions of 12 and 16 yards on Seattle’s first touchdown drive, which included a pass-interference call that gave the Seahawks first-and-goal from the Bengals’ 1-yard line. His first big strike came two possessions later, when he completed a 42-yard bomb to DK Metcalf on the aforementioned go route, setting up a 10-yard touchdown pass to running back Chris Carson three plays later.
Wilson’s fanciest play came on a third-quarter scramble that ended with a 25-yard lob right into Metcalf’s hands. And his highest-decibel-producing pass came two plays later, when he completed a 44-yard touchdown pass to the previously untargeted Tyler Lockett, which put the Seahawks ahead 21-20.
Russell’s final line was 14-of-20 passing for 196 yards with two TDs and no interceptions, good for a rating of 134.6 — which was the fourth best in the league through Sunday. Had Lockett caught an impeccable 35-yard throw midway through the fourth quarter, that rating would have been around 147, which would have been third.
The performance was reminiscent of many of Wilson’s games last year, when the Seahawks would run, run, then run some more before handing him the offensive scepter. The result was him finishing 18th in the NFL in passing yards (3,448), but third in rating (110.9) and second in touchdown percentage (8.2) for a 10-6 team that reached the playoffs.
Expect more of the same in 2019.
The Seahawks are a run-first team, and will be until coach Pete Carroll hangs ‘em up in the next 40 years or so. They were tops in the NFL in rushing yards last year and second in attempts, and even though they tallied just 72 yards on the ground Sunday, they still ran 25 times against the Bengals.
That philosophy isn’t going to change. Wilson knows it. The receivers know it. Any Rainier-chugging fan looking on knows it, too. But there’s a reason Seattle made Russell the highest-paid player in football in the offseason, and on Sunday he reminded folks why.
There’s a lot of talent on the Seahawks right now. Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney just boosted a line that compiled five sacks Sunday. Metcalf temporarily validated the offseason hype with an 89-yard day. Bobby Wagner was Bobby Wagner in tallying nine tackles, two of which were for a loss. And if last year was an indication, Carson will bounce back from his paltry 46-yard rushing game.
But this show still starts and stops with Russell Wilson. He is the team’s most potent weapon, even if he isn’t utilized nearly as much as the league’s other top signal callers.
Just think of him like that old Dos Equis spokesman. He doesn’t always throw, but when he does …
Yeah, good, if not great, things are usually going to happen.
Matt Calkins writes for The Seattle Times.