Seattle hopes Wilson, offense can pop in playoffs
RENTON, Wash. (AP) — The last time Russell Wilson played like he was
pushing to be included in the talk for MVP, he dissected the New Orleans Saints with one of the best performances of his career.
Since that December night, Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks scuffled
toward the conclusion of the season, raising concerns that a stumbling
offense could leave them vulnerable as the playoffs arrive.
"We weren't able to stay at the same level of production that we had
maybe prior to that, but you'll see," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said.
"Hopefully, we can play like we want to, which is to play a really good
balanced attack and do the things we like to do in the running game,
and play off of that. We're feeling pretty good about it, we're feeling
like we know where we are."
At the heart of re-igniting the offense is getting Wilson closer to the
passer he was during the middle part of the season. For four weeks in
the middle third of the season, Wilson could not have played much
better. He was efficient with his passes, capitalized on scoring
opportunities, avoided sacks and took smart chances downfield.
And then came the final stretch, facing four of the best defenses in
the NFL, when Wilson looked mortal. He held the ball too long. His
efficiency dipped. He missed open receivers and the Seahawks struggled
to sustain drives and capitalize in the red zone.
Those final four games have created some alarm as New Orleans returns
Saturday for the NFC divisional playoff game.
"I think there are a couple of areas we can continue to improve.
Continue to be a guy that is relentless in the red zone to get the ball
to our playmakers," Wilson said. "That's the biggest thing to find the
right guy at the right time."
It's not all on Wilson, but he certainly swooned in the final month.
The four games prior, capped with his Dec. 2 game against the Saints
where he threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns in Seattle's 34-7
win, Wilson was playing at his peak. During that four game stretch —
against Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Minnesota and New Orleans — Wilson
completed 73 percent of his passes, averaged 261 yards passing, 10.44
yards per pass, nine touchdowns and a passer rating of 128.1.
It was the best four-game stretch of Wilson's young career.
But then the slump arrived. Wilson threw for more than 200 yards only
once. He had just four touchdowns and three interceptions, and was
sacked 14 times. His yards per attempt dropped and his completion
percentage was at 57.8 percent. That final stretch included the worst
passing game of Wilson's career when he threw for just 108 yards in
Seattle's 17-10 home loss to Arizona.
The argument that Seattle's offensive slump came against good defenses
does hold credence. Over the final four weeks, the Seahawks faced the
Nos. 5, 8, 6 and 15 overall defenses in the league. Arizona finished
with the top run defense in the NFL, while San Francisco was fourth
against the run and seventh against the pass.
"We were going against some of the top defenses in the league,
specifically our division ... so you always have to take that into
consideration," Golden Tate said. "We just have to keep doing us. We
don't think we're being unproductive."
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell believes a chunk of the problem
can be directly traced to Seattle's struggles on third down. The
Seahawks were a combined 14 of 51 (27 percent) on third downs over the
final four weeks. That led to fewer long drives and less overall plays
for the Seahawks offense. Seattle had just 50 offensive plays at San
Francisco and 51 against Arizona.
"When we're in the 50s in total plays that's where our third downs have
been hurting us. So we have to really work on that area," Bevell said.
"Some of the red zone that we have looked at, we have to get back
better there. We climbed all the way to top five or whatever and then
we had some issues. So we have to make sure that we can finish drives
when we get those opportunities down there."
Seattle does have the knowledge that Wilson was stellar during the
playoffs last season, including a career-high 385 yards passing against
Atlanta. It certainly won't hamper the offense if wide receiver Percy Harvin is able to return for his second game of the season. Wilson said
Wednesday that Harvin, "looks unbelievable so far." Harvin was a full
participant in practice on Wednesday and a decision on whether he plays
against the Saints will likely be made Thursday.
"He's been itching to play," Wilson said. "Hopefully we can get him out
there. That would be exciting."
Seattle Hoping Wilson Can Improve In Playoffs
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