Russell Wilson was unbelievable on Sunday. Russell Wilson has been unbelievable before, but he was just so good on Sunday. Russell Wilson threw for 452 yards and four touchdowns on Sunday. Russell Wilson hit what felt like dozens of deep balls on Sunday. Russell Wilson dominated from the pocket on Sunday. He used play-action to destroy an opponent. He targeted everyone on the roster. He was a non-stop explosive play machine. I’m still vibrating from watching Russell Wilson operate on Sunday.
(And yes okay Russell Wilson made two mistakes on Sunday: one was a fumble that was recovered for a first down for the Seahawks, and the other was an interception he shook off en route to a game winning drive that a typical wizard would describe as “fucking impossible.” Russell Wilson is so good, I’d tell you to please stop nitpicking, but I imagine that your nitpicking only makes Russell Wilson stronger.)
Why dwell on this? Because Wilson’s excellence too often lost in the mire of following the Seahawks. The Seahawks offense is not what typically drives this team’s success. Their success typically hinges on the defense playing extraordinarily well and the offense doing just enough to win games. Wilson suffers because he’s consistent. Some days he misses some deep balls, some days he doesn’t but he’s always there, being good. And he’s a bit of a doof. It’s normie to like Russell Wilson. I don’t care. I love Russell Wilson. We take for granted just how important he is to this team given that he’s one of the league’s best quarterbacks.
But in Sunday’s 41-38 mindbendingly amazing win over the Houston Texans, the excellence of rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson meant Wilson had to loudly shoulder the burden. So he stepped up, dropping bombs all over the field, running when he had to late, eluding Houston’s pass rush despite being protected by 1.7ish NFL caliber offensive linemen. He was awesome. GUYS! Russell Wilson! Ahhh!
Rather than beat the drum you’d expect me to beat after this huge win (the insufferable buh-duh-buh-buh of the Seahawks march towards another Super Bowl) I’m going to go a different way. There is an MVP case brewing for Wilson. As the Seahawks have won 4 straight to run their record to 5-2 Wilson’s upped his TD/Interception ratio to 15/4 and he’s got his passer rating up over 100, while saddled with some noteworthy drops and a noteworthily poor offensive line. His numbers stack up. The team’s record stacks up. He’s overcoming the odds. In a year without an exceptional team, the Seahawks are establishing themselves as one of the best of the unexceptional, and Wilson is the best player on the Seahawks right now (with apologies to Bobby Wagner). So that gurgling you hear. It’s a throat clearing before a full blown belting out of, “RUSSELL WILSON IS MAYBE THE MVP OF THE NFL.”
(Russell Wilson is maybe the MVP of the NFL.)
Now that we’ve covered that, let’s break down what was maybe the best regular season game in terms of drama and quality play that the Seahawks have played under Pete Carroll:
• The only bad news from Sunday came from… Earl Thomas? Weird! But true! First he got beat for a touchdown on a post route from Will Fuller. Then, quarters later, he was unable to mop up Kam Chancellor and Justin Coleman’s mess on a huge DeAndre Hopkins touchdown, and managed to strain his hamstring in the process. Ick! But, because he’s Earl Thomas he made a ton of other great plays including this ludicrous pick-six.
Who returns picks in the middle of the field all the way to the house? Earl Thomas. Who will hopefully be better soon? Earl Thomas. Because even though the team has a “better than Steven Terrell” caliber backup at safety in Bradley McDougald, Earl is still irreplaceable. And if he’s out for a long time that’s the only really bad news that matters from this game.
• Well that and the constant source of bad news that is the Seahawks’ running game. The running game is awful. What do you do when the running game is this bad? And this bad in a multitude of ways? I have no idea! Eddie Lacy? Bad. Thomas Rawls? Somehow worse. Holes? Not opening. Offensive linemen? Not winning their battles. Playcalling? Infuriatingly insistent in running to the left, right into the gaping maw of Jadaveon Clowney. On a day that was historically good and fun for the Seahawks, the team’s total and complete failure to move the ball on the ground against a depleted Texans front missing J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus was troubling. Very troubling.
• Because Houston has one good cornerback in Jonathan Joseph, who was bound to draw Doug Baldwin as his primary assignment, and the aforementioned terrible Seahawks running game, Paul Richardson and Tyler Lockett needed to have great games for the Seahawks to beat the Texans. Thankfully they both had extradorinaiy games. Both receivers reeled in 6 catches, Lockett’s going for 121 yards, and Richardson’s going for 105 yards with two touchdowns.
Lockett and Richardson are both interesting cases. Richardson has been hurt on and off since coming to the Seahawks, his brief flirtations with transcendence denied by a frame that seems ill-fit for professional football. But now that he’s in the healthiest run of games of his career he is demonstrating the explosive playmaking ability that drew the team to him in the first place. Richardson’s ability to make difficult catches is magnified by his ludicrous athleticism; he’s a perfect complementary weapon to Baldwin, who wins with guile and shiftiness.
And then there’s Lockett whose spectacular rookie year earned him a Pro Bowl berth and comparisons (from me, premature) to Steelers All-Pro Antonio Brown. Then a series of increasingly brutal injuries robbed us of the bulk of his sophomore campaign. He’s seemed a little bit off this year but as C.J. Tumbarello pointed out on Twitter, he’s been the team’s leader in receiving yards in three games already this year. He’s still an explosive weapon for the offense, and if he can stay on the same page with Wilson (which he failed to do on a couple of occasions) Lockett still can be one of the league’s best all-around receivers.
• The majority of the Texans players along with a large chunk of the Seahawks took a knee during the national anthem in a continuation of the leaguewide protests of structural inequality and police brutality. This week it leaked that the owner of the Texans, Bob McNair, said that on this issue, “we can’t have the inmates running the prison.” Bob McNair sucks. Police brutality and structural inequality along racial lines are huge issues that our nation needs to address.
• Texans rookie Deshaun Watson was spectacular on Sunday. At different moments he flayed Richard Sherman on the sideline with back shoulder throws to DeAndre Hopkins, beat Earl Thomas on a post route to Will Fuller, eluded the Seahawks pass rush after they hit him twice in the pocket to throw a touchdown to Lamar Miller, and ran for some big first downs past the Seahawks’ linebackers. He made mistakes, most notably getting a little too cute delivering interceptable balls in the vicinity of Sherman and Thomas who made him pay, but on balance my review of Watson against a very good Seahawks defense is “wowee wow wow.” Then my eyeballs popping out of my skull as an old-timey car horn blares. Then my tongue unrolling onto the table. Deshaun Watson is legit.
The Seahawks pass rush was solid on Sunday, bolstered by the addition of elderly gentleman Dwight Freeney. The run defense was solid. Shaq Griffin gave up some plays in the passing game but was solid. That the Texans got to 38 is a testament to their quarterback’s brilliance.
• What a fucking game. This is a bullet point that is just here to reiterate just holy shit. Holy shit! How fun was that game? The Seahawks usually make us suffer when they make us sweat out razor thin margins, but this was different. This was a joyous sort of sweating. A battle where the game itself became more important than the stakes of the game. It was cool and nice and good, and I loved every second of it.
• Luke Willson had a really nasty throwback to his Dubstep days with a heartbreaking drop (that much of the fanbase instinctively blamed on Jimmy Graham because we live in wild times where Graham is less reliable than Willson), but he also made a heads up play in the first quarter that turned a potentially massive hole into an opportunity for the Seahawks first touchdown when he pounced on what was ruled initially to be a Russell Wilson incomplete pass. Pete Carroll then savvily challenged his own QB’s incompletion, at which point it was correctly ruled a fumble with a clear recovery. Then the Hawks scored a touchdown. Luke Willson was real weird on Sunday, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
• Sticking with the tight end situation, Graham shrugged off rumors he was about to be traded and a first half with zero targets to score two touchdowns including the game winner. Jimmy Graham is good. Jimmy Graham is disappointing. Jimmy Graham should not be traded. The Seahawks need a good left tackle more than they need Jimmy Graham. These are all true. But why focus on the negative when Graham is now up to 4 TDs on the year, and is reasserting himself as the top tier red zone target that Russell Wilson needs.
• Richard Sherman had his least Richard Sherman game in years. He got owned a bunch by both Will Fuller and Deandre Hopkins (who are both really good… Houston is really good on offense) but also got thrown at enough to make two huge picks. It was fun to see a bit of a throwback performance from Sherman even if it meant there were more lows than we’re used to.
• Goddamn we’re lucky to have gotten to watch this game. I mean, this was video game football brought to life, where everyone played out of their damn minds (except for our running backs) for four hours. I’m still buzzing hours later as I write this. I’ll be buzzing as you read this. I’m going to try to continue to buzz from this game straight through to next week when we play Washington.
Will I succeed?
We have a terrible president, and this nation’s increasingly awful politics have worn me and everyone I love down to the point that sustaining seven days of joy because of a football game would be equal parts stupid and impossible. But goddamn I still feel lucky to have buzzed from a football game for a little while.