Seattle Seahawks

How is this the first time Seahawks All-Pro Bobby Wagner has won NFC player of the week?

Bobby Wagner after one of the best games of his All-Pro career, doing everything in Seahawks’ win over SF

Linebacker Bobby Wagner after one of the best games of his All-Pro career, doing everything in Seahawks’ win over San Francisco.
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Linebacker Bobby Wagner after one of the best games of his All-Pro career, doing everything in Seahawks’ win over San Francisco.

How in the name of Dick Butkus is this possible?

This is the first time in Bobby Wagner’s All-Pro career he has been named the NFC’s defensive player of the week.

The league on Wednesday announced the first such honor of Wagner’s seven seasons playing middle linebacker for the Seahawks—playing it better than every other middle linebacker who has played in the NFC the last seven seasons.

It took Bobby Wagner Bingo on Sunday against San Francisco—him filling every column block possible on the defensive statistical sheet for that win—for the NFL to finally recognize the obvious.

With apologies to the great Luke Kuechly for Carolina, Wagner is the best, most dynamic middle linebacker, not just in the conference but the league.

And not only this week.

Wagner had 12 tackles Sunday against San Francisco, one off his season high he’s done twice in the last month. He had his first sack of the season. He had two other tackles for losses slicing into San Francisco’s backfield. He had two of Seattle’s 15 quarterback hits, plus two passes defensed over the middle, and a forced fumble and recovery by ripping the ball from Wilson in the second quarter with the 49ers at the Seattle 13 down 13-0.

Then, in the fourth quarter, Wagner had the first interception return for a touchdown of his seven seasons in the NFL. Wagner cut in front of 49ers running back Jeff Wilson at the goal line, picked off Mullens’ pass at the 2 and ran past Mullens and every other Niners player to the end zone. The 98-yard score, the final points of Seattle’s 43-16 victory, is now the longest interception return in Seahawks history.

“The way I saw it, he knocked the ball out on the extra point attempt, too,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of a failed two-point conversion run by San Francisco. “He was all over the place and had a great game.

“I really liked the way he was rushing the passer.”

Sunday’s was Wagner’s first sack of the season.

Why’d all this happen at once for him last weekend?

The Seahawks finally set Wagner free. Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.’s plan was to pressure 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens, who was a rookie on their practice squad last season, with more blitzing than normal by Wagner and linebacker partner Austin Calitro up the middle, through the guard-center “A” gap.

“It’s amazing,” Wagner said of finally being able to blitz more.

Then he shrugged.

“Wish they would do that more often,” he said, wryly.

Norton doesn’t send Wagner like that in every game because Wagner is just as valuable staying in the center of the defense during plays. He is literally its hub, Seattle’s central communicator and play maker from which all other defenders operate.

Wagner is so athletic he can cover tight ends and even wide receivers 20, 30 yards down the middle of the field—plus running backs in the short, outside flat. He is Seattle’s spy staying home waiting for elusive quarterbacks such as Carolina’s Cam Newton to run. And he is strong inside, combating and shedding blockers then tacking ball carriers on running plays.

I mean, his shoulders look like each slope of Mount Rainier.

“There’s not many more things the guy could do,” Carroll said.

Now that he’s finally won player of the week.

Gregg Bell is the Seahawks and NFL writer for The News Tribune. In January 2019 he was named the Washington state sportswriter of the year by the National Sports Media Association. He started covering the NFL in 2002 as the Oakland Raiders beat writer for The Sacramento Bee. The Ohio native began covering the Seahawks in their first Super Bowl season of 2005. In a prior life he graduated from West Point and served as a tactical intelligence officer in the U.S. Army, so he may ask you to drop and give him 10.

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