All this time, we’ve been misspelling his name.
Seahawks quarterback Russe!! Wi!son, we stand corrected.
Sunday in Chicago’s Soldier Field, against the gravel-tough Bears defense, Wilson (we now revert to journalistic decorum) had to win the game twice. So he did, taking the Seahawks 97 yards the first time and 80 yards the second time.
That, of course, is not possible for a rookie.
But while we wait for the football gods to deny the breathtaking 23-17 overtime triumph — they seemed to have had a considerable mad-on against the Seattles throughout the afternoon — we may use the time consider whether Wilson, who turned 24 Thursday, has shed the apprenticeship and put himself in the conversation about whether he is among the top five QBs in the game.
And whether the in-season introduction of the read-option play opened the door to his abrupt elevation, because he would seem to be the perfect QB to carry out the deception and the reality.
The final drive in regulation, which began at the Seattle 3-yard line with 3:40 left and ended with Golden Tate, post-catch, blowing past three tacklers for the go-ahead touchdown at 17-14, was the season’s breakthrough moment. It followed a disheartening loss a week ago in Miami and a distracting controversy over positive drug tests for two key players, and set up the Seahawks (7-5) well for the final quarter of the season that has three home games.
“Russell showed exquisite poise,” said a beaming Pete Carroll. “It was great execution by the quarterback. He used the play calls properly, and took advantage of the things we saw.
“I think we all realize the guy we have playing quarterback for us is amazing.”
Or as cornerback Richard Sherman put it. “He’s one of the best in the league, rookie or not. At the end of the game, he drove down the field against that defense like nothing was on him. Great quarterback.”
As evidenced by 23 completions in 37 attempts, two touchdown passes, no turnovers and an even more crucial 71 yards on nine carries, Wilson has advanced past the most optimistic preseason projections for him.
When the Seahawks defense let down in the final 15 seconds and allowed the Bears to tie the game at 17 on a Robbie Gould field goal on the final play of regulation, Wilson had to do a repeat the feat of a field-length drive against the defense that led the NFL in takeaways. Winning the coin toss, the Seahawks took the ball and re-won the game without the Bears getting to touch the ball.
It wasn’t easy, but it was nearly flawless, thanks in part to the read option that is made for Wilson’s running skills.
“As game went on, the coach saw it and I saw it too, that (it was) wide open, pretty much,” said Wilson. “I had to make sure I made right reads, and the line held the blocks. Whenever I took the ball, we were getting positive yards.”
On the first two plays of OT, Wilson read the defense, kept the ball and rushed for 17 yards. On the third play, Marshawn Lynch took the ball to give the Seahawks a first down at their own 45. The baffled Bears loaded up to stop the read option, so Wilson found fullback Michael Robinson on a dump-off for 12 yards.
Four more rushes from the read option put the Seahawks at the Chicago 25. The Bears stiffened, and at 3 third-and-11, it appeared as if the Seahawks would be settling for a field goal that would give the Bears’ offense a chance.
But Wilson converted the third down of the drive when he rolled out left and passed to Doug Baldwin for a first down at the 12. Then came the decider.
Wilson said he and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell saw the Bears overloading on the read-option again, and made a play-call adjustment at the line.
“The staff was doing a tremendous job with the calls when needed,” Wilson said. “Coach Bevell did great job recognizing what they were trying to do. I saw the same thing. So we faked the read option and Sidney Rice made a great move to come open in front of the defense.”
Rice, who fooled ace cornerback Charles Tillman into thinking he was blocking him, caught Wilson’s dart at the Chicago 4 and lunged low for the goal line. He took a massive hit to the head and shoulders, enough to knock the ball loose, but a moment after Rice crossed the plane that drew a signal of a touchdown.
TV review was mandatory. After a couple of minutes fraught with tension — including concern for Rice, who was ordered to lay still while trainers checked him out — head official Mike Carey’s hands went up, and a silent sellout crowd went away, bewildered as to how their 8-4 Bears could lose at home three years in a row to the Seahawks.
Robinson had a simple explanation.
“Our quarterback,” he said, “is a bad man.”
In the NFL right now, they don’t come much better.
Meanwhile, Rice claimed afterward he was fine.
“I got a little dinged,” he said, “but I knew I was in (the end zone). I’ve had a couple of concussions before, and they just wanted to make sure I was OK.”
As for Wilson, he was superb, sounding as if he had more fun playing than Seattle audience had watching.
“It was a blast out there,” he said. “I played at Soldier Field once before in college, but this is the NFL. It was a spectacular win for us . . . to come out with a win against a great, great defense, I’ve been watching some of those guys for 10 or 15 years.”
And if those guys are unlucky, they will return the favor by watching Wilson for 10 or 15 years.