The Seattle Seahawks are about offensive line, running the ball and defense before anything else, but the rise of Russell Wilson changes the balance of power for the current Super Bowl champions as he might become greater than the team soon enough, always a double-edged sword situation.
After the first week of the season, as the Seahawks dominated against the Green Bay Packers, we put Russell Wilson together with the group of elite quarterbacks in the league: Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. His performance in the 26-20 win over the Denver Broncos, despite the interception and especially due to the drive in overtime, taking the team forward 80 yards on 13 plays before Marshawn Lynch scored a touchdown, just made the statement above seem more true.
There were no huge plays on that drive. Just short passes and smart runs. Typical West Coast offense. He began with a first down pass to Percy Harvin, and after an incomplete pass he made two consecutive runs that got the Seahawks another first down, constantly running to the right and finding plenty of open space to work with.
Then it was a short pass to Jermaine Kearse, another five yard run to the right, another shot gain through Percy Harvin and a Marshawn Lynch rush through the middle, getting the Seahawks to the Denver 29. Wilson threw an incompletion, making it a second third down for him on that drive, but he overcame it with another five-yard rush to the right that gave his team a first down with a bonus penalty advancement.
The big finish? A six-yard rush to the right, a short pass to Percy Harvin and a touchdown by Marshawn Lynch with a leap forward into the air that no one could stop. It never felt like the Broncos were going to stop this from getting into their endzone, even when it came to a third down situation. The Seahawks might have struggled through the game in getting their offense to work consistently and especially during the fourth quarter, but Wilson had that untouchable aura to him during that overtime drive.
He didn’t need that during the playoff run last season. The Seahawks beat the Saints at home with building enough of a lead early on and hanging on defensively. They beat the 49ers with Colin Kaepernick making big mistakes. Wilson wasn’t great in both those games. In the Super Bowl? The defense ran all over the Broncos, making it quite the easy day on the job for Wilson. This season it feels like it’s a lot more about him than before.
That’s usually the tipping point for a lot of great teams. The moment the quarterback becomes greater than the system. Usually, a solid offensive line and an excellent defense make up the foundations for the quarterback to shine on. At home, the Seahawks look solid, complete, but there are cracks in the glass. On the road, it’s a very different story, for both Wilson and the Seahawks. Luck of the draw has been part of their success in the regular season against the ‘elite’ quarterback group, playing all of those games, in which they’re 7-0 (except for the Super Bowl), on their home field.
There are a lot of cliches about great teams – Offense wins games, defense wins championships; a historically great defense never lasts more than one season at the top. Maybe there’s a point to these claims. Wilson is getting better, while teams are learning, bit by bit, that throwing against the Legion of Boom isn’t a lost cause. It might still be extremely difficult, but manageable with a good offensive line and a defense that doesn’t crumble under the pressure.
Wilson’s greatness will be revealed once he signs his next contract, guaranteed to be a big one. The Seahawks made their way to the top of the NFL through great draft signings, steals, meaning they had a quality team on a relatively low wage bill. It allowed them to improve their pass rush with Avril and Bennett last season. But there comes a point when having a great, or at least an expensive quarterback, starts costing you on the other end. If Wilson, this season and in the future, will be able to make up for the swing in where the money goes, he’ll truly deserve the description of ‘elite’.