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Shutdown Corner

Russell Wilson’s amazing scramble is yet another reason the Seahawks are a dangerous playoff foe

Doug Farrar
Shutdown Corner

SEATTLE -- With 12:56 left in the third quarter of last Sunday's game between the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson pulled off a scramble that would have made perennially grumpy ex-quarterback Fran Tarkenton happy and proud. Finding his receivers covered, Wilson executed a Tarkenton-like series of moves, juking 49ers defenders Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks out of their shoes twice each, and eventually running from the right-side numbers to the left in an amazing play that detailed Wilson's ingenuity and resourcefulness.

“I wasn’t gassed at all," Wilson said this week. "I was just looking for somebody downfield trying to make a play. I think that was the only third down we didn’t get. I was just trying to look for somebody down field and make a play. We got a positive play out of it in terms of getting some positive yards, unfortunately we didn’t get the first down, but that was an exciting play. I think the biggest thing is that you want to extend the play as long as you can with making a smart decision.”

We're just surprised he didn't keel over at some point. But this amazing play brings a larger point home -- as the 9-5 Seahawks prepare for this Sunday's regular-season finale against the St. Louis Rams, Wilson might be the one rookie quarterback nobody wants to deal with right now. Seattle has scored 150 points and allowed just 30 in its last three games. In the month of December, Wilson has a 110.1 quarterback rating -- only Cam Newton and Tony Romo are better in that department for the month among signal-callers with four starts -- and he's thrown for eight touchdowns against two interceptions. Add in the three rushing touchdowns he bagged against the Buffalo Bills two Sundays ago, and it's pretty clear that Wilson gives the Seahawks a playoff edge few other quarterbacks present at this particular point in time.

When you're hot, you're hot.

ESPN's Mike Sando estimated that Wilson had the ball in his hands for 17.6 seconds on the play against the 49ers, which correlates with our ultra-scientific "one-Mississippi" method. It was the only "real" third down conversion the Seahawks missed all day in their 42-13 curb-stomping of the 49ers -- Seattle was 11 of 13 on such plays, and the only other failed third-down conversion was a kneel-down on the last play of the game.

"I was so rooting for a first down," Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said of that play on Wednesday. "That would have been a phenomenal first down. But when he does that and comes off the field after, I'm patting him on the butt for it. I think it's great -- the more he moves, the better. Because he knows what he's doing -- he knows how to find time and space to get a receiver in the clear, or he'll take off running. I have no problem with it. There was a portion of the game where there was about three of four plays where he had to take off and run. Every one of our receivers were covered up, but he didn't make a poor decision to take off or leave early or anything like that. He just got really resourceful, and wore them down a little bit in chasing him, and I think that's how our guy plays. I'm all for it, particularly when he doesn't get hit. As long as he gets on the ground, or gets out of bounds, we're in good shape."

"It tells us that he has a really unique ability to get us out of bad spots," Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson told me. "We block things wrong sometimes, and guys are free, and it's his escapability. And again, he's a scrambler, not a runner [on plays like that]. It's a little different than some of the guys around the league -- he's very accurate once he decides to let the ball go.  That's what's making his special now. It's almost like a shorter, younger Ben Roethlisberger type. He just extends plays. I have a friend, Arnaz Battle, who played for Pittsburgh the last few years -- he's not there anymore. And he said, 'Just the fact that Ben extends plays -- that's how we get open. You can't cover a guy that long, and he'll just hit his back foot and throw. Russell can beat you that way, he can beat you running -- whatever you want to do."

Wilson had another play in the game where he ran right, escaped a couple of defenders, and hit a deep pass downfield. We've seen this from the rookie before, and it might not be as splashy as the runs Robert Griffin III pulls off -- but for sheer "Did you see THAT?!?!?" value, this run will be tough to top.

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