No doubt that the poise and cool of QB Russell Wilson has served him and the Seahawks well. But there’s times when his teammates want him to drop the script, stop the smile and go belligerent and bellicose. Even if they have to help him do it. As Doug Baldwin put it fancifully:
“I got to punch him in the mouth sometimes.”
As much legitimate concern as there is for player safety in the NFL, there’s nothing quite like hard, clean body slams to get a fella to percolate. That almost never happens to Wilson. He gets hit a lot — way too much, really — but he’s always running away or under and around large, sweaty, mean men who seek to do him harm.
He rarely delivers a blow.
Sunday night on national TV, he did. It was Angry Russell.
Breaking away on a remarkable 23-yard scramble on the opening drive of the second half, he eschewed the safety of the sidelines and went right up the middle of the Indianapolis defense. The bedraggled Colts, missing injured QB Andrew Luck, were up 15-10 and felt as if they had a decent chance for a major upset if they could survive what they figured would be an adrenalized second-half start by the embarrassed Seahawks.
As Wilson neared on the goal line, veteran safety Darius Butler lowered his shoulder, perhaps figuring Wilson would do the sissy slide taught to every quarterback, a maneuver Wilson has mastered.
Instead, Wilson went head first, giving to Butler more than he was delivering. The hard collision knocked Wilson airborne, but he stretched out his arm with the ball to break the plane of the goal and the hearts of the Colts.
Wilson jumped up screaming and gesticulating, something almost never seen from the ever-calculating field boss. When replay review confirmed the score, Wilson kept the party going along the sidelines.
“If you ask me what was the spark,” Baldwin said, “it was him taking off on that long run and him getting up and celebrating the way he did. That gave a lot of juice to the rest of the team.”
Appropriately intoxicated, the Seahawks swung from the figurative chandeliers in a 46-18 win that did much to suggest the hell boys were back.
Granted, the Colts were 13-point underdogs for a reason. As coach Chuck Pagano put it: “You’re up 15-10 at the half and you get outscored 36-3, that’s bad football.”
For a half, the Seahawks played very good football, especially after the 84-yard drive, festooned with penalties, was capped by Wilson in beast mode (lower case, for now).
“He doesn’t get many chances to do that,” coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s always running out of bounds and taking care of himself. That one, he went for it. At the right time, and he did it beautifully.”
The dramatic end — replay review dragged out the confirmation — to an 84-yard drive launched the 36-point onslaught, a club record for a second half. Reporters went looking in the locker room for descriptions of the fiery speech or the changed strategy that must have helped break so abruptly from a dreary first half of squandered opportunities.
There was none of that. Just a collective reminder to do one’s job. It was Wilson on the field who broke form emotionally.
“When you see the end zone sometimes you have to find a way to get in there,” he said. “It was kind of a one on one. I had to find away to get in there and be physical, and try to stretch for it. That energy is what we need.”
Actually, the Seahawks seem to have the energy to do what they have done regularly under Carroll. What they lack is efficiency. There is erratic function among the linemen, the backs are often impatient, Wilson sometimes has been off target, and receivers have struggled at times with drops and gaining separation.
But with second-half drives of 84, 75, 74 and 84 yards, broken up by a defensive touchdown of a fumble return by LB Bobby Wagner, efficiency was ruthlessly robot-like.
The Seahawks even produced a little innovation. With RB C.J. Prosise out with an ankle injury, Carroll activated for the first time second-year RB J.D. McKissic from Arkansas State. Teammates have raved about the athleticism of McKissic, a guy Wilson said if sides were being chosen for pick-up basketball, “he’s the guy you choose.”
On the possession after Wilson’s run, McKissic busted one of his own, a 30-yarder opened by blocks from RT Germain Ifedi and RG Oday Aboushi. McKissic displayed astonishing speed as he weaved through the Colts’ second-level defense to score a touchdown on his first rush as a Seahawk.
“It felt amazing,” he said. “It was crazy. At first, I lost it. I forgot to celebrate with the team. I wanted to run into the crowd and be with them . . . it’s something you dream of.”
Carroll said he had been hectored by players to find a way to play McKissic.
“Why did it have to take so long?” Carroll quoted his guys. “Whatever. When he got his shot, he did great.”
Baldwin owned up to leading the McKissic campaign.
“(Richard Sherman) and I have been preaching to Pete for weeks now to get J.D. in there,” he said. “He’s a football player. He’s phenomenal at it. We were excited for his success. Wasn’t surprised at all.”
His emergence adds further drama to the evolving running-back situation. In the fourth quarter, rookie star Chris Carson had what Carroll call a significant ankle injury, requiring an air cast and a cart to get him off the field.
Returning to the mix was Eddie Lacy, whose 52 yards led the team. And last year’s No. 1, Thomas Rawls, was a healthy scratch for the second week in a row.
However it shakes out, the Seahawks had 194 yards on the ground, the single most significant statistical achievement of the evening and of the season.
And now opposing defenses have to fear a new beast mode (lower case, for now).