As critics kept throwing logs on the fire burning up the Seahawks offense, QB Russell Wilson wagged his finger.
“I kept telling you guys we really weren’t far off,” he told reporters Sunday. Well, sure, after unloading the burden of the Beast, any team should be able to put up 500 yards. And complete 24 of 29 passes. And make no turnovers and lose just 51 yards in penalties.
Hey, who needs Marshawn Lynch? Who needs more than three healthy veteran receivers? Who needs experienced linemen? Hell, who needs Jimmy Graham?
Sunday afternoon, the Seahawks turned nearly all seasonal negatives into positives. In fact, it took Wilson a double negative to explain how the positive presented itself.
“You don’t want to not have Marshawn,” he said. “At the same time, you have a tremendous rookie.”
For once, Wilson wasn’t hyperbolic. The injured Lynch’s replacement, Thomas Rawls, was tremendous, cracking ribs and face masks for 209 rushing yards and another 46 receiving, one of the great individual performances in team history.
Yes, the 29-13 win came against the woebegone San Francisco 49ers, who these days are much more Bruce Banner than The Hulk. But they are licensed providers of tackles in the NFL, yet could not do many tackles in the Seahawks first three drives, all producing touchdowns.
That’s right — three trips, three TDs to start a game. It’s the first time that’s happened for Seattle since 2005, a 41-3 win over the 49ers in the days of road graders Walter Jones and Steve Hutchinson.
For a team this season that looked at the red zone as day hikers might see the Mojave Desert, the feat was a big deal. And as dazzling as were Rawls and his fellow rookie, WR Tyler Lockett (two touchdowns apiece), credit for the renaissance resides primarily with Wilson.
Since he was seen as the chief perpetrator of the malaise, it’s only fair.
Mildly criticized in public by Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, harpooned by talk show callers and local and national media for his celebrity life, Wilson responded with his best game of the season.
“Russell had a really good day today,” Carroll said. “Great decisions, taking care of the football, and hitting almost everything.
“Really good poise in the pocket, really good job of picking when he needed to get out of there.”
In other words, doing throughout the game what he did merely in bits and pieces in a ragged 4-5 start to the season. His 138.5 passer rating was the third-highest of his career, and the 82.8 completion percentage was the highest of his career. Lots of throws were in the flat or on quick slants, but that worked because other Seahawks receivers, including the reluctant Graham, blocked well downfield to extend the gains.
But it all started with the offensive line, which is true for all teams.
“I know we worked really well together today,” Carroll said of a manageable two-sack game. “We were able to get the ball out and not get nailed back there. We certainly have improved in the last three weeks.
“It’s about time.”
The nascent growth to which Carroll referred is four sacks total against Dallas, Arizona and San Francisco. Help sometimes came in the form of max protection calls, as well as shorter pass routes. But the consequences of the compromises started Sunday to morph into a steady drumbeat of third-down conversions (8-for-14).
The Seahawks didn’t try for many big plays — the longest passing gain of 31 yards to Rawls was a throw of 10 yards, and Rawls did the rest brilliantly. But the aspiration is to work the game plan to the talents available.
In game 10, they figured most of it out.
As for Wilson, he said predictably that the outside criticism was irrelevant.
“I ignore the noise and focus on what we can control,” he said. “I’m not distracted by anything else. We needed this week, but at the same time, we have another one next week.”
That one, at home against the 6-4 Pittsburgh Steelers coming off a bye week, will provide a more reputable test.
The 5-5 Seahawks until now have had an odd calendar that testifies to their mediocrity. The have beaten five teams with losing records, and lost to five teams with winning records. So it has been largely a three-month wash.
Which is fine with Carroll.
“We’re OK about starting right now, if that’s what it is,” he said. “We have a chance to be a good team. We’ve seen enough good play throughout the season to know that. It’s consistency that needs to come to the front, and the ability to close out.
“Today was exactly how wanted to do it.”
Remarkably, they did it without Lynch, who is flying to Philadelphia Monday to see a specialist in sports hernias. If his ailment proves serious enough to require surgery, such news would have been seen as a seasonal disaster.
Now, with Rawls in ascent and Wilson in gear, it is possible to suggest that Lynch take his time and get well.