Quarterback Russell Wilson was sick on Sunday, his 27th birthday, yet his near-perfect performance lifted the Seattle Seahawks over the Pittsburgh Steelers, 39-30.
November 29, 2015
Russell Wilson throws a pass for Doug Baldwin for an 80-yard touchdown with 2:01 to play that would win the game for the Seahawks over Pittsburgh. (Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times)
November 29, 1988, was the day Russell Wilson came into this world. November 29, 2015, was the day Russell Wilson was out of this world.
On his 27th birthday, the Seahawks’ quarterback decided that great wasn’t good enough — that only spectacular would do. Didn’t he hear? He was supposed to be receiving the gifts Sunday, not giving them.
Instead, Wilson handed out 345 yards on 21-of-30 passing. He added a career-high five touchdown throws and late-game heroics, too. In a 39-30 win over Pittsburgh, Wilson bestowed 12s with what was likely his best regular-season game.
“Unbelievable,” Seattle tight end Luke Willson said of his QB. “It was just fun to be a part of.”
“Fun” probably wouldn’t have been the word to describe how Russell felt midgame, though. Experiencing flu-like systems, Wilson was up at 5:30 a.m. and required three IVs to get him through the day.
He dragged through his postgame news conference until someone asked if he ever considered sitting. Wilson beamed: “I’m always going to play.”
It’s true. Wilson has never missed a start in his 59-game career. And you could argue that the Hawks — playoffs aside — never needed him more than they did Sunday.
Entering the game at 5-5, Seattle’s postseason hopes would have been in hospice with a loss. Its quarterback, however, was not going to let that happen.
Wilson’s first major contribution came on third-and-goal from the 16 in the opening quarter. One play earlier, offensive lineman J.R. Sweezy cost the Seahawks 15 yards when he jumped onto the pile after the play was dead.
Six points had gone from probable to doubtful — then Wilson hit Doug Baldwin on a seam route for a Seattle touchdown.
Baldwin said that Wilson’s focus was sharper than usual before Sunday’s game. He saw something in his eyes — an aura that had gone from dogged to downright ruthless.
Maybe Wilson was seeking vindication from a dismal performance vs. the Cardinals two weeks earlier, or maybe he just knew his team’s season depended on him. Whatever it was, the big plays just kept coming.
Third-and-10 from Seattle’s 15? Wilson to Jimmy Graham for 18 yards. Third-and-10 from Seattle’s 33? Wilson to Graham for another 18. Third-and-16 from Seattle’s 45? Wilson with a 22-yard pass to Jermaine Kearse, who caught a 12-yard touchdown toss two plays later.
Before Sunday, the Seahawks’ offense was a ground-first attack meant to post just enough points for the defense to protect. But against the Steelers, it was a high-flyin’, gunslingin’ summer-blockbuster-like display.
Look at this way: Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger threw for 456 yards — the most an individual has ever amassed against Seattle. And you know what? He was by far the second-best quarterback of the day.
Unlike Big Ben, Wilson didn’t throw any interceptions. He also had 11.5 yards per attempt compared to Roethlisberger’s 8.3. But the real distinction came in that fourth quarter Sunday.
You want to know what clutch looks like? It’s 5 feet 11 and wears No. 3.
In the final 15 minutes, Wilson was 8 for 10 with 179 yards and two touchdown passes. He completed his final eight throws, including an 80-yard TD to Baldwin on third-and-10 to make it 39-30.
CenturyLink Field went bonkers, and the signal caller was the main reason why.
Said left tackle Russell Okung: “Today the magic number was 3.”
As usual, Wilson downplayed his performance after the game. He gave all the credit to his teammates, treated the victory like any other win and rattled off several of the stock answers we’ve come to expect from him.
But you have to think this one meant a little more. You have to think, whether it was Sunday or any previous birthday, he pictured something like this when blowing out the candles.
“I love the game,” Wilson said. “When you love the game, you do anything to find a way.”
Wilson found a way Sunday, and the Seahawks might have found their way, too. This was their first win over a team with a winning record, and at 6-5, they would make the playoffs if the postseason started today.
Gotta give Wilson a large share of the credit.
He had IV’s in his veins Sunday — and has winning in his blood.
Matt Calkins: 206-464-3185 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter@Matt_Calkins