When Lano Hill and L.J. Collier shot into the backfield to stuff Cam Newton as time expired Sunday night, the Seahawks preserved a 35-30 victory and avoided a late collapse that would have spoiled Russell Wilson‘s latest gem.
Wilson tied a career high with five touchdown passes, continuing a hot start that has the Seahawks 2-0. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, he became only the fourth player in NFL history to throw at least four touchdown passes in each of his team’s first two games. The others are Patrick Mahomes (2018), Ryan Fitzpatrick (2018) and Drew Bledsoe (1997). Only Mahomes (10) had more than Wilson’s nine touchdown passes through two games.
“Definitely in the zone,” Wilson said. “Locked in. Focused. Dialed in. My teammates are too. It’s a great group of men, like I said. I’ve been ready to play since the last time we had our last game in Green Bay [where Seattle’s season ended in the divisional round]. Every day it’s my mindset, just my performance, team and everything else, just everything that we put into it is just getting ready and trying to be great.
“I think that I have an obsession with this thought process of always trying to find more.”
Sunday’s game was the fourth in the past decade between Seattle and New England. The previous three also came down to dramatic finishes. The Seahawks won in 2012, Wilson’s rookie season, when he hit wide receiver Sidney Rice for a late touchdown. Two seasons later, they were on the doorstep of a second straight Super Bowl title when Malcolm Butler made his famous interception. In 2016, Kam Chancellor successfully defended a goal-line fade from Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski to secure another Seattle win.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick said this week that the 2016 Seahawks win was as competitive a game as the Patriots had ever played at Gillette Stadium.
Sunday night’s was just as memorable. Wilson and the Seahawks overcame a disastrous start and losses to their secondary, then withstood a Patriots rally at the end.
Wilson’s second pass attempt on Seattle’s opening possession went through the hands of tight end Greg Olsen, right to safety Devin McCourty, who returned it 43 yards for a touchdown that gave New England a 7-0 lead.
The Seahawks lost starting free safety Quandre Diggs later in the first quarter, when he was ejected for a helmet-to-helmet hit on wide receiver N’Keal Harry. Marquise Blair replaced Diggs, then suffered a knee injury, forcing third-stringer Hill to finish the game.
Hill came up big when he shot off the right end, took on fullback Jakob Johnson and upended Newton. The Patriots quarterback had already scored two rushing touchdowns from the 1-yard line, the second of which pulled New England within five points with 2:19 remaining in the contest.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said his defense “took a shot” on the final play, with a good idea that another Newton run was coming.
“It had been real successful for them earlier,” Carroll said. “So we got after it, and the guys did a fantastic job of adjusting right there on the fly. We got it done. It was an amazing play, an amazing moment. I would love to go back there and do it all over again if we could.”
Wilson finished 21-of-28 for 288 yards. Through two games, he has completed 52 of 63 passes for 610 yards, nine touchdowns and one interception. In addition to the pick-six that went off Olsen’s hands, two of Wilson’s incompletions this season were drops by DK Metcalf. According to Elias, Wilson’s 82.5% completion rate is the highest through two games of a season in NFL history for a quarterback who has attempted at least 40 passes.
A former baseball player who was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in 2010, Wilson threw for the touchdown cycle Sunday night: deep balls to Metcalf and David Moore, a short laser back across his body to Tyler Lockett, an intermediate throw to Freddie Swain and a soft floater to Chris Carson.
“You can just see that he is really in command of what we’re doing, and his receivers came through beautifully,” Carroll said.
Seahawks fans who want the team to lean more on its $35 million-per-year quarterback came up with the phrase “Let Russ Cook.” This offseason, Wilson publicly endorsed the idea that the Seahawks should throw the ball more early in games and deviate from their usual tactic of establishing the run.
So far, they have. The Seahawks dropped back to pass on 18 of 25 first-half plays in their season opener at the Atlanta Falcons and on 21 of 34 first-half plays on Sunday.
Moore, who showed some fancy footwork while hauling in Wilson’s third touchdown pass, was asked what it’s like to watch his quarterback “cook.”
“Shoot, it’s like Thanksgiving,” Moore said. “You’re fitting to get that good meal. Watching your grandma or your auntie, anybody cook. It’s kind of like that. You know it’s going to be something good.”
The Seahawks played their home opener without fans at CenturyLink Field, which will remain empty for at least Seattle’s next two home games because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“For the fans out there, we missed you so much,” Carroll said. “I can’t tell you. We are so used to this extraordinary following and crowd and energy and juice and all that. I don’t know if you saw our guys, but our guys were trying to fill in for you. I just wish so much that you had been there for the last play of the game. I just think it would have been so crazy for all the fans.”