Amid the huzzahs for the ground-pounding of Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch Sunday, the play will be little noted. But we call it forward here because, well, everyone knew going into the Seahawks-Vikings game that Peterson and Lynch were great rushers.
We didn’t know Russell Wilson could throw a fastball like Felix Hernandez. Now we do. It represented what can make the Seahawks a playoff team.
On Seattle’s third possession of the game, second down and five at the Seattle 27-yard line, the Seahawks quarterback play-faked from the shotgun formation and completed a screamer of a 23-yard pass that was caught by wide receiver Sidney Rice — and would have struck out Albert Pujols, looking.
It also shut up anyone who said Wilson lacked the arm strength for the NFL.
Just another question answered positively about Wilson, and the Seahawks. A week after scoring 24 points on the road, they scored a season-high at home in a 30-20 victory, over Minnesota, suggesting the corner has been turned halfway through the rookie-quarterback soap opera.
“It’s a maturation process,” Wilson said. “I respect it . . . Give the ball to the right guy at the right time.”
Seven plays later, Russell again found the right guy, Rice, this time in the end zone, from 11 yards, and the Seahawks were up 14-7. Wilson finished 16 of 24, and it should have been 20 of 24 but for four dropped passes. Marvelous as was Lynch as a counterweight to Peterson’s epic collection of 182 yards in 17 carries — No. 13 on the single-game list of Seahawks opponents — the passing game needs to be there or . . . you’re the Vikings.
Minnesota’s second-year quarterback, Christian Ponder, was little help to Peterson, adding just 63 passing yards to go with what should have been a game-winning effort by Peterson. In the second half, the NFL’s leading rusher had only five carries and 38 yards, and the Vikings just three points, because the Seahawks could afford to gang up on him.
“I thought it was hard on Christian,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “I think he had a hard day today.” No giggle was audible.
Ponder did not make a throw similar to Wilson’s first-quarter strike, and Wilson hadn’t made one like it until Sunday — a 20-yard-plus bullet crossing the field that had to be smoked through a narrow window. You know, what Peyton Manning has done for 15 years.
“Sidney did a great job of beating the guy who jammed him, got open and I tried to drive it in before defender got there,” Wilson said. “As a quarterback, you have to change the pace of the ball. Sometimes you have to zip it, sometimes you have to throw a forgiving ball.
“Sidney did a great job of allowing to be able to rip it in there.”
Ever deferential, Wilson declined to say that he now knows how to change speeds to beat an NFL defense. Score one for the maturation process.
“The more you play, you practice, you communicate . . . it’s all about getting with one another,” he said. “Especially with me being a rookie, it’s getting around those guys as much as possible and communicating: ‘This is what we did last week, this is what we can do this week.’ That’s the biggest thing.”
Anyone with a lick of knowledge about football knows that the game’s subtleties take time to master. But fans pay large coin for the right to be impatient. Lucky for them, Wilson seems to be faster than their hair-triggers.
“He fit us together nicely,” coach Pete Carroll said. “I loved the way we mixed it. Russell did a great job of handling all the situations, the different (Seahawks) players (who subbed in), and he ran well too.”
As an example of the little things, center Max Unger dislocated a finger that required some locker room time. Little-used backup Lemuel Jeanpierre stepped in, which would have made a fumbled exchange between center and QB understandable — and a likely drive-killer.
But nothing screwed up, Unger returned and the Seahawks marched on. The Seahawks have scored on their last six drives into the red zone, including five TDs, over the past two games.
Even though the Vikings dwindled into ineffectiveness — “frustrating is an understatement; it’s embarrassing, honestly,” said the Vikings all-pro defensive end, Jared Allen — this was an opponent that did three things the Seahawks didn’t do earlier in the season: Beat the 49ers, Cardinals and Lions.
The Vikings are a decent outfit, but they could not solve for the Wilson/Lynch combo.
“You know what’s crazy,” said Unger, “is, I mean, in the huddle, Russell has been pretty much like this the whole time. It’s just him kind of growing, when he drops back there and gets the ball in his hand.”
Wilson is beginning to see sharply where things were earlier a blur. He’s learning to adjust his speeds, to find edges, decide quicker. And whenever it gets temporarily confusing, he can take 10 yards off by handing the ball to Lynch.
Normally a “maturation process” is a little boring. But Wilson is a football man for the digital age, when faster, quicker and smarter are mandatory — and fun.