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Wilson shows 'exquisite poise' in win
Matt Flynn. Yes, I remember him. He’s the guy Seattle signed for $29.5 million to run the offense. We haven’t heard from him since, though he has apparently developed into a top-flight overtime coin-toss winner.
The Seahawks have a star rookie quarterback in Wilson, which we’ll just have to refer to as the Other Guy. He doesn’t have a cool nickname like RG3, and didn’t have a cool-sounding Suck-for-Luck type of campaign in college. In fact, he left college to become a pro baseball player, then quickly found out he had one tiny, little flaw:
He couldn’t hit.
That was the summer of 2011. Now, he has beaten Aaron Rodgers. He has beaten Tom Brady. And on Sunday, he beat Jay Cutler, and one of the NFL’s top (supposedly) defenses in the Chicago Bears. Seattle won 23-17 in overtime.
“Their defense is really spectacular,’’ Wilson said later. “Some of the guys they have, I’ve been watching for 10-15 years.’’
He meant that as a compliment. It is actually the problem. Let’s get back to that later.
Wilson led a 97-yard touchdown drive in the final four minutes of regulation, and then an 80-yarder in overtime. There was nothing fluky about it. I am not giving him too much credit. Wilson led the drives, led the team.
He had every reason to be flustered, confused. Playing on the road against a top (supposedly) defense, in a game the team had to have to become serious playoff contenders. And then after Wilson seemed to have won the game, Chicago’s Jay Cutler threw a 56-yard Hail Mary to his one and only target, Brandon Marshall, setting up a game-tying field goal.
How is a rookie supposed to deal with all of that?
“It was just extraordinary, exquisite poise,’’ Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “It really was. For a young kid like him, it was just exquisite poise. There were so many plays in there where he had to do something special on the play.
“We all know that with quarterbacks, that kind of stuff is really important as they grow. He didn’t need it, honestly, but we all wanted to see it for him, I guess.’’
Carroll cannot believe what he has. In a world where Johnny Football is likely to win the Heisman Trophy as a freshman, and Cam Newton was a star as a rookie, and now Luck and Robert Griffin III are already football’s Generation Next, it is no longer that thrilling, apparently, to see a guy take three-fourths of a season to develop.
No one is willing to wait five years to see a quarterback develop anymore, other than Rodgers. But Wilson already recognizes what’s happening on the field, stays calm and patient, makes things happen.
That is actually an amazing learning curve.
The problem is that Wilson is not a superhero like RG3 and Luck, but instead a third-round pick. That’s because he’s a leader and star quarterback trapped in a shoe salesman’s body. At least, as far as his height: Wilson is 5-11.
Seattle trailed 14-10 with 3:40 left when it got the ball on its own 3. This seemed like a setup: Bears defense vs. a rookie.
Wilson patiently, smartly picked away at the Bears. He fooled them. He told his coaches that the read-option was available all day against the Bears. Then, he ran three out of four plays himself. When the Bears started figuring out what was happening, Wilson rolled right slowly, the Bears started moving in, and he threw 27 yards to Sidney Rice.
In overtime, he kept doing the same things, and kept escaping the pocket. On third-and-2 near midfield, he sold a fake handoff, then ran for a first down. Three plays later, third down again, he ran for 12 yards. It ended with a 13-yard touchdown to Rice.
Wilson made the Bears look silly. And for the Bears, it was the second time in three games that has happened. Wilson said he has been watching some of the Bears’ defenders for 10, 15 years?
Exactly. They are now looking old, especially Brian Urlacher, who has lost every last bit of his speed.
The Bears’ defense is relying entirely on the gimmick of punching the ball away for fumbles. You can’t count on that. And when it doesn’t work, the Bears fall for every play-action pass or fake handoff.
San Francisco’s then-backup quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, exposed the Bears defense two weeks ago, and now a rookie has done it. At Soldier Field. In the final minutes. Over 97 yards.
Meanwhile, Carroll was thrilled not only with the win, but also with the kind of moment that builds a young quarterback for the future.
First thing Monday morning, the Seahawks’ receivers and running backs will have their weekly long text message from Wilson, going over the tendencies of each defender in the next game. In this case, Arizona.
The NFL seems set with a new generation of quarterbacks. But when will the league realize that a quarterback doesn’t have to fit a prototype? Drew Brees and Michael Vick are just an inch taller than Wilson.
The Seahawks have their quarterback now, at 1/10th the price of their coin-toss expert.