If you can imagine the National Football League as a scene from a National Geographic documentary, then think of Russell Wilson as a cheetah, surrounded by lions. There is no way out. He is doomed.
The other cheetahs will be crying soon…
(Wait. That’s an animated Disney film.)
Except that the cheetah escapes. The cheetah wins. The cheetah runs free and the lions can’t catch him. The lions can’t do a damned thing about it.
It’s another daring, highly improbable escape.
And these fantastic getaways are on display multiple times, many times, during every game that Wilson plays this season.
I don’t know how Wilson does it, but if you’ve watched the Seattle Seahawks in 2017, you’ve probably seen Wilson spinning, twirling, pivoting. There may even be a pirouette or two on there. He’s ducking, making himself small as he hides behind a big wall of offensive linemen until it’s time to bolt … and by the time defensive players spot Russ out in the open, it’s too late. He’s gone. The human whirligig.
Russell Wilson could have escaped from Alcatraz.
He could have taught some tricks to Houdini.
David Blaine calls Wilson for advice.
Wilson could have made it out of Little Big Horn without a scratch.
A few weeks ago, I would have ridiculed the idea of the National Football League MVP award going to someone other than New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. No one is more vital to his team than Brady. No NFL player does his job better than Brady. No one wins more than Brady — even if the New England defense is giving up too many points early in the season, or the Patriots’ running game shuts down.
Brady is the MVP, period.
Note to self: shut up.
With all due respect to second-year Philadelphia quarterback Carson Wentz, the MVP race is shaping up as a Brady vs. Wilson competition.
Wilson — while respected — hasn’t been a serious MVP nominee to this stage of his career because of the venerated Seattle defense. The Seahawks are defined by “The Legion of Boom.” Wilson has played at a high level since taking over as the starting quarterback in the opening game of his rookie season (2012.) And on offense, Seattle relied on a bull-rush ground attack led by Marshawn Lynch.
Except Lynch retired and made a comeback and plays for Oakland now.
And the Seattle defense, while still imposing, is missing key personnel. Among the wounded — and lost for the season — are cornerback Richard Sherman, safety Kam Chancellor, and pass rusher Cliff Avril. In their present state the Seahawks are lining up with only one healthy member of the original Legion of Boom, safety Earl Thomas.
And the Seattle running game — such violent rolling thunder back in Lynch’s peak Beast Mode days — is now a low rumble, difficult to detect. The Seahawks have used or replaced or auditioned six running backs this season including Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls, and Mike Davis.
Needing to be resourceful behind a shaky offensive line, Wilson has been under pass-rush pressure on 40 percent of his drop backs this season according to Pro Football Focus. Only one starting quarterback, Jacoby Brissett, has faced more heat than Wilson when setting up to pass in 2017.
So what’s an offense supposed to do?
If the ground game is stalling or nonexistent … call Russ. Wilson leads the Seahawks with 432 yards rushing this season, averaging 6.1 yards per carry with three touchdowns.
If the offensive line breaks down … Wilson will turn elusive and slippery and wiggle his way out of a jam. He’ll make something out of nothing, throwing while on the move, and using these mad-dash scrambles to burn out-of-position defenses.
Wilson is on a pace to have his best NFL season for most passing yards. Through 12 games, he’s thrown for 3,256 yards, and has struck for 26 touchdowns with only 8 interceptions.
And if the Seahawks are trailing in a tight game and the drama spills over into the fourth quarter … Wilson will find a way.
Wilson owns the NFL’s No. 1 passer rating in the fourth quarter (134.1), in large part due to a 70 percent completion rate and a great touchdown-interception ratio of 15 TD passes and only one pickoff. The 15 fourth-quarter touchdown passes have Wilson tied with Eli Manning, who set the record with 15 in 2011. Wilson is a lock to break the record.
As mentioned Sunday night on NBC’s telecast of Seattle’s 24-10 victory over Wentz and Philly, Wilson has accounted for an overwhelming percentage of Seattle’s offense through 12 games.
Wilson has thrown or rushed for 29 of Seattle’s 30 touchdowns on offense this season.
Wilson’s combined 3,688 passing-rushing yards represent an astonishing 85.6 percent of Seattle’s 4,304 total yards. According to NFL stat keepers, no NFL quarterback during the Super Bowl era has come close to churning such a massive percentage of his team’s yards during the
Wilson doesn’t put up gaudy, loud numbers in individual games. In leading the Seahawks over the Eagles on Sunday night, Wilson completed 20 of 31 passes for 227 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 31 yards. A very good game, sure. But the Pro Football Hall of Fame didn’t call Seattle on Monday to request the cleats worn by Wilson Sunday night.
But Wilson sneaks up on everyone … especially the defense. According to ESPN, Sunday was Wilson’s 14th game with three or more touchdown passes since 2015; only Brady (18) can top that. Wilson just makes defenses dizzy with all of his scampering. Though he’s been sacked 26 times, that total would be substantially higher without Wilson’s ability to bounce and flee, bob and weave, or shake and bake. He keep busted plays alive. He keeps possessions alive. He keeps a deeply flawed offense moving forward instead.
Sunday night offered another showcase example. According to Pro Football Focus, the Eagles have the best defensive front in the NFL this season, and they figured to overrun the Seattle O-line. But the Pro Football Focus analysts report that Wilson had a passer rating of 96.9 when pressured, and when the Eagles blitzed Wilson scorched them for an almost-perfect passer rating of 156.3.
Wilson’s instincts for survival make him the No. 1 reason for Seattle’s survivor-like 8-4 record.
The Eagles definitely discovered what it’s like to be left gasping — dazed and confused — by The Russell Wilson Experience.
“He created, his execution was excellent, we didn’t turn the football over, working the clock, beautiful tempo, decisions, checks — the whole night,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said after the game. “And the big plays were just coming out everywhere. Just phenomenal big plays in the game. Some legs-oriented, him moving around, and some just by pure execution in the pocket. He did everything today. I really think that he had one of the best games that I’ve seen him play.”
Wilson is the league’s Most Versatile Performer. But we need to recognize what his Most Valuable Presence means to the Seattle Seahawks. It’s could be adding up to an MVP season.
Thanks for reading …