As is the case with most every team, title chases are largely dependent on quarterback play. Through five weeks, no one was playing better than Wilson, who was widely viewed as the frontrunner for his first MVP award. However the ball security that has been such a significant part of his game over the years became an issue the last month-plus, with him throwing a total of 10 interceptions in the three losses. The turnovers were such an issue that Wilson felt compelled to publicly remind reporters that he is a “great” player. Not that there was ever a doubt, but feeling the need to say so can be viewed as a sign the noise was advancing beyond the mental gates he so fervently guards.
But the questions for Wilson went beyond giveaways. There was also the issue of poor decision-making, such as choosing to throw the football when he should have tucked it and run. Against the Rams last Sunday, he passed up opportunities to make a difference with his legs and instead attempted to make the more difficult play with his arm, unsuccessfully so. That was not an issue Thursday. Wilson was efficient and poised. He took what was given to him, whether by land or air, finishing 23-of-28 passing for 197 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. He also rushed for 42 yards on 10 carries.
“I love playing this game. There are always highs and lows and tough challenges, but great players always know, one, how to be consistent and, two, how to consistently adjust and how to consistently overcome. For me, that’s my mentality. I tell you guys all the time I want to be neutral. I want to be able to remain calm in the midst of the storm. I know the kind of player I am. I know what I’m capable of,” said Wilson.
Wilson didn’t have to carry the load because the Seahawks got contributions from their ground game, with Hyde returning after missing three games with hamstring issues. The hope is that running back Chris Carson, who has been sidelined by injury, might return as early as next week, which could make the offense even more balanced and, therefore, dangerous. Thursday the run game finished with 165 yards on 31 carries, with each of the four ball-carriers having at least one rush of 10 yards or longer.
“Before the week, I just envisioned myself having a good game and playing a clean game — not trying to do anything out of the ordinary, just run the ball and protect Russ,” said Hyde, who envisioned during the week that he “would be talking (at the lectern) after the game.”
Dunlap also was brought to the postgame lectern for continuing to impose his will on the field. He had 82.5 career sacks with the Bengals, but tallied just one before being traded. Since then he has 3.5 and has brought energy to what had been an anemic pass rush; Seattle has 13 sacks in three games with him, one more than it had in its first seven games. Dunlap did not play in the first game against Arizona on Oct. 25, when the Seahawks had no sacks and no quarterback hits on Murray, who threw for 360 yards and a touchdown and ran for 67 more and a score. However Thursday night was a different story. Seattle had three sacks and seven QB hits.
“It was surreal,” Dunlap said of basically ending the game with his sack of Murray. “The way the sideline erupted, I could only imagine what it would have been like if the (fans) were in there. This team is very exciting. I’m happy to be a part of it. They brought me here to do one job, and I’m happy to say I was able to get it done.”