The Seahawks won their fourth straight game in dominating fashion in Baltimore on Sunday, moving to 8-5 and strengthening their playoff standing with another huge game by Russell Wilson. Seattle is making their annual late-season run again this year, but doing it in a little different fashion than they've done so in years past, running away from teams with a potent offensive attack instead of leaning on their normally-suffocating defense.
It's been a pretty insane turnaround for Seattle, who, for most of the year, hadn't really looked like the team that has won the NFC two years in a row. The defense hadn't been as potent, the run game hadn't been as dangerous, and Russell Wilson hadn't been as efficient or accurate.
Something had to give. As Doug Baldwin wrote back on November 8th, the team knew the baton would have to be passed from Marshawn Lynch -- who has been the motor that ran the Seattle offense for years -- to Russell Wilson and the passing game.
"Much has been made about the recent struggles of our offense," said Baldwin. "However, we are all witnessing the evolution of this side of the ball. As opposing defenses focus more on stopping Beastmode and the read option, we will rely more heavily on Russell Wilson and the passing game. As WR's, we will continue to make the most out of our opportunities. Stay tuned.
The evolution Baldwin predicted has been clear.
Baldwin has become Russell Wilson's go-to-guy and has caught eight touchdowns in his last three games, a feat only surpassed by Art Powell back in 1963 (who had nine in a three-game span). For more context, the only other receivers with eight touchdown catches in a three-game span are Calvin Johnson, Drew Bennett, Cris Carter, and Jerry Rice (who did it twice). That's some good company.
Russell Wilson's line the last four games has been better than any quarterback in the NFL. He's 89-of-118 (75.4-percent) for 1,170 yards (at 9.9 yards per attempt) with 16 touchdowns, no picks, and an incredible 145.8 rating (plus a rushing touchdown just for fun).
For some perspective on his run right now, consider this: Wilson is the first quarterback since the NFL merger to put together four straight games with a 138.5-plus quarterback rating and his four straight games with three touchdown passes or more is a Seahawks franchise record. In fact, only four quarterbacks in the history of the game have put together four consecutive games with three-plus touchdowns and no interceptions: Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, and now Russell Wilson (each only once). Wilson is the only quarterback in history to do that with a 70-percent-plus completion rate.
Incredibly, much of this run has come without Marshawn Lynch or Jimmy Graham.
Four weeks ago, shortly after Baldwin had commented on the evolution-to-come for the Seahawks, Russell Wilson found himself struggling, with a 10-to-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Now, four weeks later, it sits at 26-to-7.
The Seahawks have scored 29 points or more in five straight games, another team record, and after starting out the first eight games of the year with just 12 offensive touchdowns, they have 23 in the last five. Doug Baldwin has nine touchdowns in those five games after scoring just 11 in his entire career previously. Rookie Tyler Lockett has emerged as a viable deep threat and has five touchdowns on the year. Jermaine Kearse is contributing. Luke Willson has stepped up to fill in for Graham.
How have the Seahawks so suddenly turned things around?
Well, it starts up front. After being sacked 31 times in their first seven games, Wilson's only been sacked seven times in the last six, including zero Sunday against the Ravens. It's amazing what a little bit of time in the pocket can do for a passer like Wilson.
A lot of this could be attributed to the Seahawks' decision to replace Drew Nowak with Patrick Lewis at the center position. Lewis improved the line's communication vastly, as Seattle's coaches have told us, and they're getting on the same page with their protections.
Russell Wilson is getting the ball out more quickly as well. Darrell Bevell has designed some offensive schemes that allow Wilson to hit his back foot and get the ball out, and it's not all just swing passes and screens. He's using trips formations to help receivers get open, he's using legal rub-route plays, he's disguising run vs. pass well, and he's allowed Wilson to really find a rhythm passing from the pocket of late.
At the end of the day, though, a ton of credit should and will go to Russell Wilson. He's been incredibly accurate. He's been amazingly poised. He's thrown in a few of his patented Houdini escape acts for good measure. He has been nails on third downs and has improved greatly in the redzone. The Seahawks' offense is clicking in a way that it has never clicked in the Pete Carroll era. If Wilson, Baldwin, and the Seahawks offense can continue to throw the football with the efficiency and explosiveness that they've displayed over the last month, they're going to be legitimate contenders to win the NFC for the third year in a row.
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