Rookie Wilson guides Seahawks to OT win

Ira Miller, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

CHICAGO -- Quarterback Russell Wilson of Seattle is no longer short nor a rookie. Well, actually, he's still both of those things, but don't try telling that to the Chicago Bears -- or to the Seahawks, for that matter.
Wilson stood tall and played like a poised veteran Sunday, directing a magnificent drive late in the fourth quarter and then another in overtime, eventually giving the Seahawks a 23-17 victory over the Bears on his 13-yard touchdown pass to Sidney Rice after 7:27 of the extra period.
"Just exquisite execution by the quarterback," said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.
It was only the second road victory in seven games for Seattle, which is 5-0 at home and 7-5 overall, and kept the Seahawks in the race for at least a wild-card playoff spot in the NFC. Three of their final four games are at home and only one of the four is against a team with a winning record. One of those games -- at home against the 49ers -- could decide the NFC West.
Chicago, which fell to 8-4 and into a first-place tie with Green Bay in the NFC North -- technically a step behind the packers by virtue of a Week 2 Bears loss at Lambeau Field -- never touched the ball in overtime. The Seahawks won the coin toss and drove 80 yards in 12 plays with Wilson completing all three passes he attempted for 38 yards and scrambling twice on third downs for drive-preserving first down runs.
On the play just before the winner, he scrambled around and found Doug Baldwin near the sideline for a 13-yard gain. Officials held up the game for an unclear reason, just long enough for the Seahawks, who had been planning to use their money play -- a read option that keeps the ball longer in Wilson's hands -- to change to a pass to Rice, who took a monster hit from safety Major Wright at the goal line.
"He made a great move at the line of scrimmage, and made an unbelievable catch, just to be able to hold onto the ball the way he was hit," Wilson said.
Rice did not hold onto the ball, but after a long replay review, referee Mike Carey ruled he was in the end zone before losing possession.
Wilson completed 23 of 37 passes for 293 yards and the two touchdowns. He also rushed for 71 yards on nine carries as the Seahawks gashed the Bears for 176 rushing yards, nearly double the average allowed by the Bears in their previous 11 games.
"The kid playing quarterback is an amazing kid," Carroll said. "He has extraordinarily exquisite poise for a young kid. So many times, he had to do something special and he did it so beautifully and so confident."
Wilson is "a born leader," said Chicago wideout Brandon Marshall, who caught 10 of Jay Cutler's passes for a game-high 165 yards and a touchdown. His 56-yard catch with nine seconds remaining in the fourth quarter allowed the Bears time for Robbie Gould's 46-yard field goal, which forced the overtime.
"I listened to the guy talk," Marshall said. "I watch how he conducts himself, how he handles himself. That's a guy I can watch and learn from. Even a rookie, a young guy, Russell Wilson is a guy that is going to be special. He is special already."
He was surely special on the Seahawks' last drive in the fourth quarter, which covered 97 yards in 12 plays and ended with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate, who did some nice broken-field running, with 32 seconds remaining, briefly putting the Seahawks on top, 17-14.
That drive also took exactly a dozen plays, two of them scrambles by Wilson that gained 19 yards. The Seahawks even managed to overcome a holding penalty. And at a pivotal moment, with the clock running, Wilson completed a seven-yard, 4th-and-3 pass to tight end Zach Miller that carried to the Chicago 41-yard line. Wilson threw for 27 yards to Rice on the next play and then found Tate a play later.
Carroll showed his trust in the rookie quarterback by passing up on a chance to call time out before the fourth down play even though he knew failing on the play would end Seattle's chances.
"We (coaches) talked about it," Carroll said. "We thought it might have a better advantage to keep the tempo going."
Chicago could look back on a failed fourth down opportunity of its own. In the second quarter, with the Bears ahead, 7-0, they faced 4th-and-1 at the Seattle 15-yard line at what turned out to be the end of 14-play, 73-yard drive that took 8 ½ minutes.
Instead of a field goal, the Bears sent Michael Bush on a running play behind their rebuilt offensive line. Rookie linebacker Bobby Wagner led the charge that stopped Bush short.
"We were up seven," said Lovie Smith, the Chicago coach. "It felt like we had momentum. If you're going to win and be able to get in the playoffs and play good football at this time in the season, you've got to be able to ... pick up a fourth-and-short like that."
Notes: After a slow start, Chicago's running game picked up behind a line which in the last couple of weeks has changed starters at three spots because of injuries and ineffectiveness. And Cutler, who completed 17 of 26 passes for 233 yards, was sacked only once -- and that when he dropped the ball while dropping back ... Wide receiver Drew Bennett, who scored the Bears' first touchdown but later dropped a perfectly thrown potential touchdown pass while wide open, did not play after halftime due to a concussion ... Chicago also had to play without Devin Hester, its premier kick returner who is third among wide receivers in even though the Seahawks' defense was able to key on him ... None of the Seahawks' five road defeats were by more than seven points ... Although Rice stayed down for a time after catching the winning touchdown pass, he said that was strictly a medical precaution ordered by doctors. Carroll said "he seems to be okay," and Rice seemed to have no difficulty speaking with the media afterward.

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