SEATTLE That formulaic, programmed, steady--OK, boring--Russell Wilson?
This was no week for that.
It started the previous Sunday. The Seahawks’ usually reserved, almost senatorial franchise quarterback opened up to wowed teammates by standing up and speaking out with genuine emotion and vulnerability in a team meeting in Nashville. Wilson was passionate talking on why they needed to make a statement of protest during the national anthem the next day at Tennessee against mistreatment of minorities and the need for police reform.
“I was incredibly proud of him,” teammate Richard Sherman said this past week.
Sunday night in Seattle’s rally past Indianapolis in the second half, Wilson impressed them by going unplugged again. He delived another uncharacteristic outburst--when the Seahawks absolutely needed one.
Seattle was down 15-10 at home in the third quarter to the Indianapolis Colts, a two-touchdown underdog. The fans had booed their home team off CenturyLink Field at the end of first half that was ugly as people should ever have to pay to witness.
Then Wilson ducked inside blitzing Colts linebacker John Simon to his right, at the Indianapolis 30-yard line. He took off running to avoid defensive tackle Henry Anderson and the rest of a pass rush that would sack him three times and hit him five other times. He sprinted up the middle and angled left at the 10 past receiver Tyler Lockett’s block.
Now he faced Colts safety Darius Butler. Usually, Seattle’s $86.7 million franchise quarterback slides down to avoid a hit, to preserve his play, day, perhaps season.
Not this time. Not this week.
Butler lowered his right shoulder and barrel-rolled into Wilson’s waist and thighs at the 3, expecting to keep the QB out of the end zone. But Wilson kept plowing forward, though Butler and across the goal line while propping himself off the turf with his left hand pushing off it, refusing to go down.
“He doesn’t get many chances to do that,” coach Pete Carroll said after the Seahawks’ 46-18 victory that wasn’t at all that much of a rout until the absolute end. “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.”
After he landed with the ball in the end zone for the starting, 23-yard touchdown run that finally put the Seahawks ahead and away from their latest slog, Wilson leaped to his feet. He made a get-off-me move against Indianapolis cornerback Nate Hairston, who in the first quarter had earlier sacked him for a safety. He slammed the ball into the end-zone turf, bulled through teammate Paul Richardson, who was trying to celebrate with him and threw a haymaker, an overhand-right punch into the air to punctuate his score and mood.
“That’s the Russell we like,” said wide receiver Doug Baldwin, who himself has been known as “angry.”
“Don’t get me wrong: He’s always calm, cool and collected. But guys want to see that passion from him.
“If you ask me what was the spark (Sunday night), him taking off on that long run and then getting up and celebrating the way he did, that gave a lot of juice to the rest of the team.”
“I think as a competitor there’s moments where certain things get you going and also get the team going, as well,” Wilson said, sounding more senatorial again.
“When you see the end zone sometimes you have to find a way to get in there. ... . Then it was kind of one on one and I had to find a way to get in there and be physical and try to stretch out for it...
“That energy is what we need. It’s not just from me. It’s from the other guys. It’s what we give to our offense from the defensive side and to the defense from the offensive side, and everyone else.
“That’s what makes it so special, is we are passionate about the game.”
Baldwin said the last time he saw that kind of fire from Wilson was in a 2014 game at St. Louis, when the Seahawks lost 28-26 to the Rams.
“It was another long run, on the sidelines,” Baldwin said. “He got up and was energetic and excited about it.
“That was the last time I’ve seen him like that.”
I asked Baldwin what it takes to get Wilson the way he was in the second half Sunday night, after the worst half Seattle has played in a very uneven first half to this 2-2 season.
“I have to punch him in the mouth sometimes,” Baldwin joked.
“I don’t know. Sometimes the guys around him want to talk trash to him to see how he responds, but he’s just Mr. Cool.
“It’s hard to get him there.”