Wilson holds key to Seahawks' fortunes in NFC Championship Game
Jan 17, 2014 at 10:47a ET
What's in a hot dog?
You usually don't want to know. Though the toppings of Russell Wilson's foot-long namesake are appetizing in a cholesterol-loving way.
The “DangeRuss Dog” has macaroni and cheese, caramelized onions, diced jalapeno, tortilla strips and Sriracha honey hot sauce. All for $12. When the chefs at CenturyLink Field concocted it for the NFC Championship Game, they probably didn't realize how it plays into the subliminal question that's making Seahawks fans queasy.
Is Wilson the game's weakest link?
Sunday's game on FOX (6:00 p.m. ET) matches arguably the NFL's two best teams. San Francisco vs. Seattle has inarguably become the NFL's hottest rivalry.
There hasn't been much else for critics to nitpick, especially since Jim Harbaugh upgraded from $8 Wal-Mart khakis to $23 Dickies at the behest of his embarrassed wife.
We are left with the woes of Wilson, though don't say that too loudly around Seattle. The thought of San Francisco derailing the Seahawks' Super Bowl Express is too horrific to contemplate.
“I think he's doing great,” Pete Carroll said.
The numbers make you think otherwise. During Seattle's 11-1 start, Wilson had 22 touchdown passes, six interceptions and completed 65.8 percent of his passes. In the Seahawks' 3-2 finish, Wilson has four touchdowns, three interceptions and a 56.6 completion ratio.
That may not mean something is dangerously wrong with Wilson. But something hasn't been quite right.
“He's doing what we need to do,” Carroll said.
What Seattle requires its quarterback to do is not mess up. Hand the ball successfully to Marshawn Lynch, complete a few strategic passes, be the proverbial “game manager” and let the wrecking-ball defense do the rest.
Wilson has thrived, turning from a third-round nobody into one of the league's most respected quarterbacks in less than a year. His composure and scrambling were the final pieces in Carroll's construction of the Seattle football monster.
Now people are wondering if the Seahawks have gone too conservative. If Wilson's creative flair has been muffled. Or worse, if he's not quite the pedigree of other millennial quarterbacks such as Andrew Luck and Colin Kaepernick.
“I think it’s more a function of the games,” Wilson said. “We've played some really good defenses and they've made some plays. There's definitely room for improvement on my part.”
Seattle played four of the top 10 defenses in its recent swoon. And last week's game against New Orleans was played in howling winds that a young John Elway would have had trouble negotiating. The weather's not supposed to as bad Sunday. The opposing defense is.
San Francisco's formula for success mirrors Seattle's: Hand the ball to a plow-horse runner, don't turn it over and beat the tar out of the other guy. The difference the past few weeks has been at quarterback, as defensive coordinators are again going insane figuring out how to contain Kaepernick.
They haven't had much luck since Michael Crabtree returned from injury to be Kaepernick's favorite target. The 49ers haven't lost since Nov. 17. Their eighth straight win was Sunday at Carolina, where they had three interceptions and sacked Cam Newton five times. The week before, they held Aaron Rodgers to 177 yards passing.
Harbaugh may not know how to dress, but he's pretty good at exposing quarterbacks. As always, Wilson could be greatly aided by Percy Harvin. As always, nobody knows if Harvin (concussion) will play.
One thing Wilson will unquestionably have going for him is Seattle's 12th Man crowd. Its fame is such that CenturyLink is also rolling out 12s Cakes. They are foot-wide, 8-inch high cakes with 12 layers of vanilla sponge cake dyed green and blue with vanilla butter cream frosting.
They go for $250 and are sold to suite holders. The regular rowdies will have to be fueled by DangeRuss Dogs and Beast Burgers, the Lynch-inspired creation featuring two beef patties, bacon, cheddar cheese, ham, onion rings, lettuce, tomato and red onion.
As for the real Beast, the 49ers want to swallow him as much as possible, since they know what that would mean.
“We have to make the quarterback beat us,” safety Donte Whitner said.
There you have the entire NFC Championship menu in a nutshell. The Seahawks want Wilson to not lose the game. The 49ers want to make him win it.
If the Niners get their way, we'll find out what the hot dog is really made of on Sunday.