By now, you’re likely familiar with the stamp Russell Wilson is putting on this season. The Seahawks have #LetRussCook in the first month of this season, and the quarterback has rewarded his team with MVP-level play. Seattle has yet to be defeated, and Wilson lifted the team to a 27-26 win over the Vikings on Sunday Night Football with a classic, game-winning drive.
The Seahawks started the game with a goose-egg first half, staring at a 13-0 deficit at the end of the second quarter. But they clawed back into the game in the third quarter with two touchdown passes from Wilson and a one on the ground from Chris Carson. Still, they eventually found themselves in a situation every school kid re-creates in his head in practice: Down five, 1:57 left on the clock, one timeout in the bag, 94 yards to the end zone. Oh, and it was pouring rain. No matter—Wilson delivered with another near-perfect performance.
On first down, Wilson immediately went to work, scrambling for a 17-yard gain to get Seattle out of the shadow of its own end zone.
Three incompletions followed, and Wilson found himself in another classic backyard scenario: fourth-and-10. Rather than simply look to move the sticks, Wilson heaved a ball downfield to DK Metcalf, picking up 39 yards.
Two plays later, Wilson spun in a circle in the pocket, then rolled out to his right and found his other favorite target, Tyler Lockett, for a gain of 17 that also stopped the clock at 1:00.
Another two plays later, and Wilson lasered a ball to Metcalf, who was running a quick slant, for a pickup of 15. Just like that, the Seahawks were on the Minnesota 6-yard line. The clock was ticking, but it almost didn’t matter—Seattle still had its timeout and just needed to punch the ball into the end zone to claim the lead.
That proved a bit harder than expected. On first down, Wilson nearly hit Lockett at the goal line, but the ball—which must have been slick from the rain—was just too far for the longtime Seahawks wideout. It bounced off his fingers.
Second down was even more agonizing for Seahawks fans. Wilson found Metcalf on an out route near the right sideline, right at the goal line, but the ball fell through his arms. Whether this was a drop or a touchdown was pretty much a coin flip. The officials called it the former.
On third-and-goal, an end zone fade fell incomplete. (Of course it did; it was an end zone fade.) So the Seahawks once again found themselves with their perfect record on the line, this time with a fourth-and-goal and 20 seconds left on the clock. Seattle called its final timeout and schemed up the game-winning play. Wilson dropped back into the pocket, and with plenty of time to survey the field, fired a strike to Metcalf in the middle of the end zone.
It was a remarkable drive for Wilson, especially given the offense’s ice-cold start to the game. Wilson’s final stat line—20-of-32 for 217 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception—might actually be one of his least impressive of the season, which is a good indication of how special his year has been so far. And while it’s still too early to really dig into the MVP race, his final drive keeps him neck-and-neck with Aaron Rodgers, especially since Rodgers has already turned in some special prime-time performances of his own.
Some fans and NFL media members will surely point toward what happened just before Wilson’s game-winning drive, when the Vikings attempted to convert a fourth-and-1 from Seattle’s 6-yard line, rather than kick a field goal and take an eight-point lead with less than two minutes on the clock. That’s especially true given that the Seahawks tried for a two-point conversion after the touchdown to Metcalf but didn’t get it—had they been down eight instead of five, they would have come up short. But the decision was roughly a wash—both Pro Football Focus and ESPN pegged the decision as not changing the team’s win probability. Had the Vikings picked it up, they would have been able to run out the clock. And they should have picked it up—running back Alexander Mattison had a clear path to the first-down marker:
That’s not a bad decision, it’s just bad execution. But even without the conversion, the Vikings had a lot going for them. The Seahawks needed a touchdown and couldn’t settle for a field goal—and they had to traverse a mile of grass to get to the end zone, had just one timeout, and hadn’t moved the ball well against the Minnesota defense for most of the night. What the Vikings couldn’t plan for, though, was Wilson leading a nearly perfect drive for a score and the win. That’s just a testament to how well he is playing right now. He’s never been better, and on Sunday night, it was the Vikings who were on the receiving end of just how good he can be.