SEATTLE – Russell Wilson has started just 28 NFL regular-season games. You'd never know by watching him.
The Seahawks quarterback plays at a level that's uncanny for a second-year player. When the Saints blitzed eight, he hit Doug Baldwin deep on a beautiful throw over Baldwin's shoulder. When the Seahawks were backed up and facing third down, he threw a perfect back-shoulder laser to Jermaine Kearse. When the Saints defense reacted on a play-action fake to the right, he found Baldwin crossing the end zone to his left and hit him for a touchdown.
There are many reasons the Seahawks are 11-1 and have the No. 1 seed in the NFC all but wrapped up after a shockingly dominant 34-7 win over the Saints. Their defense is strong, their running game is deep and the home-field advantage is overwhelming. But high up the list is Wilson, who was taken 75th overall in the draft last year.
Think there are some teams that would take a do-over on whoever they drafted instead of Wilson?
Truth be told, by the time Wilson really got going Monday night the Seahawks already had control of the game. Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril came on a pass rush from Drew Brees' right, looped around and knocked the ball out of Brees' hands into the arms of defensive end Michael Bennett. Bennett took off for a 22-yard fumble return touchdown and an early 10-0 Seattle lead. It was never a competitive game after that.
Wilson made sure the early lead held up. This won't be said often about a game that Brees plays in, but Wilson was easily the best quarterback on the field. Part of that was the Seahawks defense, which swarmed Brees all night and held him to just 92 yards on 25 attempts through three quarters. But Wilson earned all of the praise he should get after that game.
Wilson can make every throw a NFL quarterback needs to make, and he made them all on Monday night. Wilson was 14-of-19 for 226 yards in the first half. The Saints came into the game as one of three NFL defenses allowing fewer than 200 passing yards per game. Wilson made their secondary look foolish. At halftime, the Seahawks had 315 yards, and the Saints had 90.
Wilson has been much better at home in his career, but guess what? The Seahawks' win on over New Orleans means that Wilson likely won't need to play on the road in the NFC playoffs. Seattle has a two-game lead on Carolina and New Orleans in the race for the No. 1 seed and owns the tiebreaker over both. They lead every other NFC team by at least four games with four to go.
Monday night was quite a statement, perhaps the best single-game performance by a NFL team all year when you factor in the competition. The Seahawks are on a mission to get to the Super Bowl, and their precocious quarterback is leading them every step of the way.
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