While a pair of fellow rookie quarterbacks continue to dominate the headlines, Russell Wilson is quietly putting together an impressive campaign of his own.
Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks try to stay unbeaten at home and avenge an earlier loss to the Arizona Cardinals, who hope to avoid dropping nine straight for the first time in 68 seasons Sunday.
Selected in the third round of this year's draft, the 5-foot-11 Wilson had to answer concerns about his lack of height, a big reason five quarterbacks were taken before him. While No. 1 pick Andrew Luck and No. 2 selection Robert Griffin III have both thrived, Wilson has too, leading Seattle (7-5) into the thick of the playoff race.
"I don't think Russell gets enough credit," cornerback Richard Sherman told the team's official website. "I think he should get rookie of the year consideration even over those other guys because he is leading our team in some great games."
Wilson has been superb while the Seahawks have won three of their last four, throwing nine touchdowns and no interceptions. He came up especially big in last Sunday's 23-17 overtime win at Chicago, recording a season high-tying 293 passing yards and two TDs and an additional 71 yards on nine carries.
He orchestrated a 97-yard drive to give Seattle the lead with 24 seconds left in regulation, then found Sidney Rice for the game-winning score in OT to cap an 80-yard march.
"He's just so beautifully poised and so confident that it gives himself a chance to play at this level," coach Pete Carroll said. "It's just surprising that anybody could be like that, not just a rookie or a young guy in his first shot playing in Chicago or whatnot. He just continues to be impressive in all of those ways."
The Seahawks have to like their chances of keeping things going at home, where Wilson has posted an NFL-best 122.0 passer rating in helping them open 5-0. Seattle's defense has also wreaked havoc at CenturyLink Field, yielding 13.8 points per game to rank second in the league.
The Seahawks had taken three straight in this series before losing the last two, including a season-opening 20-16 defeat at Arizona (4-8) on Sept. 9. While the Cardinals went on to win their next three games, they've since managed just 11.9 points per contest in dropping eight in a row.
They haven't lost nine straight within a single season since going 0-10 in 1943 when the team was located in Chicago.
"This whole streak we've been in isn't any fun," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "You work hard as a team, you prepare. I don't see any finger-pointing or fracturing. We've got a good group of players and a good group of young leaders. Make no mistake: they want to win."
Arizona's offense struggled mightily again in last Sunday's 7-6 road loss to the New York Jets. The Cardinals had a franchise worst-tying five first downs - going 0 for 15 on third down - and totaled 22 yards of offense in the second half.
Safety Rashad Johnson had 40 of the team's 81 rushing yards on a fake punt. Rookie Ryan Lindley, making his second consecutive start, completed 10 of 31 passes for 72 yards and an interception, a performance that prompted Whisenhunt to change quarterbacks again.
With Kevin Kolb likely to miss a seventh straight game due to a rib injury, John Skelton will get another shot to start. Skelton, benched in favor of Lindley in Week 11, has an NFL-worst 64.4 passer rating this season.
"You can't take any opportunity for granted," Skelton said. "If it comes at the beginning of the season, the end of the season, when you're losing, when you're winning, you've just got to take advantage of every opportunity you get."
Skelton will face a Seattle team without one of its starting cornerbacks. Sherman is expected to play after appealing his four-game suspension for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy, but Pro Bowler Brandon Browner dropped his appeal of a similar ban this week and will miss the rest of the regular season.
Walter Thurmond will slide into his spot.
"I've been disappointed about the whole situation, that it is something that he had to deal with it and we had to deal with it, but there is nothing we can do at this point," Carroll said.
Seattle will also be without starting left guard James Carpenter, who was placed on the season-ending reserve/non-football illness list after leaving last Sunday's game with pain in his surgically repaired knee.
Rice, who took a big hit on his game-winning TD grab against the Bears, cleared all concussion tests and is expected to play.
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