By Gregg Bell
McClatchy News Service
SEATTLE — Maybe Russell Wilson will finally get an NFL MVP vote this season, eh?
Bill Belichick, the preeminent defensive mind of his time and maybe NFL history, says trying to slow Wilson is an Olympic-like task.
“I’m glad that we only have to play him once every four years,” the six-time Super Bowl-champion coach of the AFC New England Patriots said of the quarterback for the NFC Seahawks.
That late Sunday night, after Wilson went Herculean again, this time on Belichick, reigning NFL defensive player of the year Stephon Gilmore and the Patriots.
Wilson tied his career high with five touchdown passes — to five different receivers. He completed 21 of 28 throws for 288 yards in Seattle’s zany, 35-30 victory in its season home opener at empty CenturyLink Field.
Wilson has nine touchdown passes through two games. That’s his most in any two-game period of his nine-year career.
“They want to let him cook,” said David Moore, one of the five receivers to catch one of Wilson’s TD throws Sunday, “and he’s doing what he’s doing. …
“It’s just a lovely thing to see.”
This is how lovely:
Wilson has completed 52 of 62 throws (83.9 percent) for 610 yards. His one interception wasn’t his fault; it went through tight end Greg Olsen’s hands into New England defensive back Devin McCourty’s for the game’s first score Sunday.
Yes, Wilson has nine touchdown passes and 11 incomplete throws this season.
Wilson’s passer rating for the year: 140.5. A perfect rating is 158.3.
“It’s just a start,” Wilson said. “I haven’t done anything yet.”
Wilson’s been exquisite for most of the last eight years. He was the winningest quarterback in NFL history over the first seven seasons of a career. He’s the highest-rated road passer in league history. He has the most comeback wins in the fourth quarter and overtime since he entered the NFL as Seattle’s third-round draft pick considered too short in 2012.
What’s different this season that’s made the excellent the sublime?
It’s undeniable offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and coach Pete Carroll have given Wilson more chances to take over games earlier so far in 2020. They are, to cite a phrase you may have heard, indeed letting Russ cook.
Schottenheimer said last week he, Carroll and Wilson talked this offseason about being more aggressive in their play calling earlier in games. For years they had run first, run most — and had been waiting until Wilson absolutely had to save the offense and games to call on him to do so.
“I would say, 100 percent, we’ve talked more about it,” Schottenheimer said Thursday. “We started talking about it in the offseason, in terms of: ‘OK, hey, we’ve got a great player in Russ. We’ve got great weapons around him. …’
“We’ve certainly had way more discussions this year about it.”
The result: Schottenheimer called passes on 28 of the first 38 snaps of the season. Wilson was 31 for 35 with four touchdowns in the opening race past Atlanta.
It wasn’t the same pass-a-rama Sunday night against the Patriots, whose defensive secondary is the league’s best. The Seahawks ran for 154 yards, 72 by lead back Chris Carson on 17 carries after he got just seven rushes in the first game.
But Wilson threw to eight different receivers, beyond Moore, Metcalf, Carson, Tyler Lockett, even rookie sixth-round pick Freddie Swain catching touchdowns throws. Wilson threw rainbows — the perfect pass to Carson on a wheel route for a score — and darts, to Lockett away from tight coverage for Seattle’s first score. He threw more screen passes and scramble throws.
“The fact that everybody touched the ball, we keep talking about that,” said Moore, a former seventh-round pick the team kept for this season by getting him to agree to get paid less money. “We talked about that in the third quarter. Everybody was super happy. I just sat there in shock that everybody got touchdowns, all the receivers.”
The epitome of this new aggressiveness with Wilson throwing came on two plays late in the first half. Wilson saw Metcalf running with Gilmore deep across the field from left to right. He audaciously sent a soaring ball that dared Metcalf to run under it, and Gilmore to cover it. The best cornerback in the NFL absorbed a beastly lean from Metcalf as the ball arrived. Gilmore fell off him like water off a fall. Metcalf just about walked in from there for a startling, 54-yard touchdown. That tied the game at 14.
“It was a good opportunity for me,” Metcalf said, very gentleman-like after sparring and almost brawling with Gilmore throughout the game, once into the Seahawks’ metal benches well beyond the sideline. “He made the match-up physical for me … he made us go into some play calls.”
To Moore, that play shows what makes Wilson a cut way above.
“His deep ball is great because he gives everybody a chance. He puts it to where usually you get it — and you can get it, only. All you have to really do is put your hands out,” Moore said.
The other big difference to the 2020 Wilson and Seahawks offense so far this season: Wilson has always been single-minded to be the best ever. But now, he’s saying it publicly — and with much more frequency and sharpness.
He said it Thursday, leading up to the Patriots challenge.
“I come to play this game to be the best in the world. That’s just the bottom line,” Wilson said. “I don’t wake up to try to be anything different.
“So, for me, I’ve always had those talks, ever since I got here, really, to be honest with you. And I think it’s just been a steady process.
“But I think right now going into year nine (of his career), I’m trying to break away, you know what I mean? I want to be the best in the world to ever do this. I’ve got a lot of great players ahead of me. I think about guys like Peyton Manning. I think about guys like Tom Brady and Drew Brees and all guys that I’ve gotten to be pretty close to, to be honest with you. And then you’ve got guys like Joe Montana.
“I want to be remembered. I want to be remembered. And I want to be able to leave a legacy that people can’t ever forget.”
Seattle 35, New England 30
New England 7 7 3 13 — 30
Seattle 7 7 14 7 — 35
NE — D.McCourty 43 interception return (Folk kick), 13:39.
Sea — Lockett 4 pass from Wilson (Myers kick), 5:27.
NE — Newton 1 run (Folk kick), 13:59.
Sea — Metcalf 54 pass from Wilson (Myers kick), 6:57.
NE — FG Folk 25, 10:12.
Sea — Dav.Moore 38 pass from Wilson (Myers kick), 7:04.
Sea — Swain 21 pass from Wilson (Myers kick), 2:00.
NE — Johnson 1 pass from Newton (run failed), 14:14.
Sea — Carson 18 pass from Wilson (Myers kick), 4:32.
NE — Newton 1 run (Folk kick), 2:16.
A — 0.
First downs 29 22
Total Net Yards 464 429
Rushes-yards 25-67 30-154
Passing 397 275
Punt Returns 1-0 1-20
Kickoff Returns 4-99 3-89
Interceptions Ret. 1-43 1-0
Comp-Att-Int 30-44-1 21-28-1
Sacked-Yards Lost 1-0 2-13
Punts 2-56.5 4-50.0
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 0-0
Penalties-Yards 2-12 9-68
Time of Possession 28:41 31:19
RUSHING—New England, Newton 11-47, Michel 7-19, Burkhead 6-2, Taylor 1-(minus 1). Seattle, Carson 17-72, Wilson 5-39, Hyde 5-22, Homer 3-21.
PASSING—New England, Newton 30-44-1-397. Seattle, Wilson 21-28-1-288.
RECEIVING—New England, Edelman 8-179, Harry 8-72, Byrd 6-72, Burkhead 4-47, Izzo 2-19, Meyers 1-7, Johnson 1-1. Seattle, Lockett 7-67, Metcalf 4-92, Dav.Moore 3-48, Carson 3-36, Hyde 2-15, Swain 1-21, Dissly 1-9.