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Football Couldn’t Look Easier for Russell Wilson Right Now

The early-season MVP struck again on Sunday, throwing five TDs and pushing the Seahawks past the Cowboys

AP Images/Ringer illustration

When the best athletes in the world are in the midst of an MVP-caliber season, they have an uncanny ability to make everything look easier. This season, Russell Wilson has played with that sense of ease, as seen in his Sunday matchup against a Cowboys squad boasting a playoff-caliber roster. With four minutes left, Dallas took a one-point lead, and Wilson smoothly led a go-ahead scoring drive, floating a perfectly aimed 29-yard touchdown pass to DK Metcalf with 1:47 remaining. It marked Wilson’s 14th touchdown pass of the season, breaking Patrick Mahomes’s previous record for TD passes through three games. The torrid run is even more impressive when you consider that Wilson has only 24 total incompletions in that same span.

After the game, coach Pete Carroll told reporters that he was confident Wilson would give Seattle the lead, noting how “chill and perfectly poised” Wilson was before the offense took the field. “It was just perfectly executed,” Carroll said of Wilson orchestrating Seattle’s game-winning drive.

Carroll’s faith was well founded. Just last week, Wilson engineered a decisive fourth-quarter scoring drive. The Seahawks also entered Week 3 with the NFL’s most efficient passing game, according to Football Outsiders. They entered Sunday passing on early downs at a higher frequency (53 percent, per Warren Sharp’s database) than they did last year (49 percent), fully embracing the #LetRussCook campaign. Seattle continued that trend this week, as he dropped back 39 times. The Seahawks boast dynamic options for Wilson in the passing game, Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, who each topped 100 yards receiving. Metcalf, a 2019 second-round pick, is a budding star and showed Sunday that he’s capable of rising to occasion again, making up for an earlier embarrassing fumble to haul in the game-winning score.

Wilson credited both Lockett and Metcalf for their talent and effort after the game. But the quarterback himself is the catalyst. We’re already running out of words to describe Wilson’s spectacular start. One word the Seahawks might use: necessary. The margins have been slim, despite Wilson’s MVP-level play. Last week, Seattle outlasted the Patriots 35-30 and notched another one-possession win Sunday. Including the postseason, the Seahawks played in 13 one-possession games (10-3) last year. They’re 2-0 in such contests so far this year. “I’d rather win by a lot,” Wilson joked Sunday, “but I don’t mind winning either way. A win is a win, and I love winning.”

Part of the reason Seattle has found itself playing such tight contests this season is because of a suspect pass defense. Entering 2020, the record for pass yards allowed by a defense through three games was 1,131 by the 2011 Patriots. Seattle’s defense has now surrendered 1,292 passing yards following Dak Prescott’s 472-yard outing. Prescott needed to go 37-for-57 to reach that total, adding three touchdowns and two picks, but he kept Dallas in the game until the closing minute. Veteran linebacker Bobby Wagner, who’s been a key defensive member of the team through its Legion of Boom era, weighed the uninspiring start for Seattle’s pass defense after Sunday’s game.

“It’s not something that I’m accustomed to,” Wagner said. “We just need to get off the field, make our plays.”

The Seahawks added All-Pro safety Jamal Adams this offseason, but neglected to boost their pass rush after allowing Jadeveon Clowney to walk in free agency. It left a massive hole that’s further exposed when Adams, who strained his groin and left Sunday’s win early, isn’t on the field. The Seahawks sacked Prescott twice, but without a legitimate pass-rushing threat, their defense has a clear weakness, and opposing offenses have exploited it, allowing their own quarterbacks to get cooking in Wilson’s kitchen. But, luckily for Seattle, the likes of Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, and Prescott might as well have been chefs looking for a big break on Hell’s Kitchen. Wilson is Gordon Ramsay. Their work just doesn’t compare to the star of the show.

Through three games, that’s been enough. The Seahawks have relied on Wilson’s heroics to carry them so far, and it’s been extremely effective. Wilson went 27-for-40 with 315 yards and five touchdown passes Sunday. Once Seattle trailed, there was an air of expectation for Wilson to lead a scoring drive. And like clockwork—an eight-play, 75-yard drive—he did.

“If we’re going to be a championship team,” Wilson said he told his teammates ahead of the series, “this is going to be the drive right here.”

The Seahawks might not have the personnel of a flawless championship squad. But they have Wilson. So long as he’s playing at this outrageous level, they have the right to maintain belief they’re capable of reaching such goals, because even if they’re not perfect, they don’t have to be. Not as long as Wilson continues to be damn near close to it.