AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
Teammates say rookie quarterback Russell Wilson is leading the team beyond his years.
CHICAGO -- Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson had much to say Sunday about his coaches, teammates and even what he termed a "spectacular" Chicago Bears defense.
Everyone else was talking about him.
There was so much to say after Wilson backed up a 97-yard touchdown drive late in regulation with an 80-yarder to beat the Bears in overtime 23-17.
"It was just extraordinary, exquisite poise," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said.
Teammates, opponents, even scouts knew they had seen something special at Soldier Field. They delivered praise beyond what you're likely to hear heaped upon any rookie quarterback this season, and that is saying quite a lot in itself.
"He's a born leader," Bears receiver Brandon Marshall said. "I listened to the guy talk. I watch how he conducts himself, how he handles himself. That's a guy I can watch and learn from."
Pride sometimes prevents NFL coaches and players from acknowledging that another man was better than them, that another man was as good as he appeared to be.
No one hid from the truth Sunday. Wilson beat the Bears with his arm, with his feet, with his brain. In overtime, Wilson beat them with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Sidney Rice on a play the Seahawks changed at the last moment. Coordinator Darrell Bevell, knowing Wilson had rushed for 47 yards over the final two drives to that point, had called a read-option play in the huddle.
"We went back and the referees were changing something or whatever and we just changed the play," Wilson said. "Coach Bevell did a great job recognizing what they were going to do and I was definitely seeing it too. It was a perfect play for us."
Seattle faked the read-option, which had helped spring Wilson repeatedly. The Bears fell for it. Rice, OK despite taking a hard hit to the back of the helmet, held onto the ball just long enough to score.
"It was an over route for me. It was a naked play to the left and I came off the ball and made [Charles] Tillman stop his feet like I was going to block him," Rice said. "As soon as he looked to the side, I jetted across the middle and threw my hand up in front of me."
Wilson passed for 118 yards over the final two drives. He completed 23 of 37 passes for 293 yards and two scores overall. His 71 yards rushing were more than any Bears player managed against a generally improved Seattle run defense.
"I think he should get rookie of the year consideration even over the other guys because he is leading our team in some great games," Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman said.
Now is not the time to hand out postseason awards, but at the very least, Wilson's name needs to rise into the first sentence of any discussion, up there with Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. He's got the stats and a 7-5 starting record, too.
The only problem, it seems, is that Wilson isn't behaving like a rookie at all. For example, each week he provides every Seahawks receiver with detailed scouting reports on the next opponent's defensive backs and linebackers. He's been doing this since the first few weeks of the season.
"He sends like a five-page text," Rice said. "He's leading this team like a veteran."
Seattle needed overtime only because its defense allowed a 56-yard pass to Marshall in the final 20 seconds, setting up Robbie Gould's tying 46-yard field goal.
Matt Flynn, the quarterback Seattle had signed to a $19.5 million deal in free agency before drafting Wilson, made a significant contribution by correctly calling the overtime coin toss. Seattle never let Chicago have the ball. That was wise, too, because the Bears' Jay Cutler was generally outstanding on his way to a 94.8 out of 100 Total QBR score (Wilson was at 85.4).
With that, the Seahawks had ended a three-game road losing streak. They had improved to 7-5 and gained ground on San Francisco (8-3-1) in the NFC West after the 49ers suffered a 16-13 overtime defeat at St. Louis.
"It's huge," Rice said of the outcome in St. Louis. "We definitely needed that [49ers defeat]. Wish they would have lost the last one against the Rams. We know what's at stake."
Seattle, 5-0 at home this season, faces all three division opponents at CenturyLink Field in December. There's also a game against the Buffalo Bills in Toronto.
Beating the Bears means anything less than 10-6 will come as a disappointment for Seattle.
Arizona brings an eight-game losing streak to the Pacific Northwest in Week 14. The Cardinals defeated the Seahawks by a 20-16 score in Week 1 when Seattle's receivers couldn't handle multiple passes in the end zone during a last-minute rally. The Seahawks played conservatively in that game and quite a few others, particularly early this season, as they tried to shield Wilson from rookie setbacks.
"I know it was painful," Carroll said. "We were just trying to make a really good progression with no backward steps. He has continued to grow where we have now come to the point where we want him to go out and do all the stuff he can do. We don't have to hold anything back at all."
Arizona, though quite formidable on defense, isn't going to like what it sees upon breaking down the video from this Seahawks victory at Chicago. Neither will Lovie Smith, the Bears' coach.
"A lot of the success that they had was kind of based on what he did," Smith said.
A 27-yard strike to Rice late in regulation stood out for the subtleties Wilson employed. Wilson rolled right and held the ball just long enough to pull a defender off Rice in coverage. Wilson then threw back to the inside for Rice, setting up first down from the Chicago 14 with 32 seconds remaining and the Seahawks down, 14-10. Rookies aren't supposed to do those things. Many veterans can't do them either.
Wilson even alertly recovered a fumble along the sideline with 2:45 left in regulation after completing a pass to Marshawn Lynch for a 10-yard gain from deep in Seattle territory.
"There were so many plays in there where he had to do something special on the play -- to move, to find the guy, to locate the receiver and to use the right throw and the right decision or to take off and run," Carroll said.
Scouts from other teams were watching from the press box. I heard one of them use the word "monster" in describing the 75th player chosen in the 2012 draft.
This was not a one-time thing, either.
What Wilson did Sunday was consistent with what he's been doing for a while, except it was more dramatic and there was no defensive collapse to spoil it.
After a slow start to the season, Wilson entered Sunday trailing only Tom Brady in Total QBR after Week 5. He was seventh in passer rating over that span. He had beaten Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton and Tony Romo. He had put his team in position to beat Matthew Stafford and Ryan Tannehill as well, but both times the Seattle defense couldn't hold fourth-quarter leads on the road.
There would be no late defensive stand this time, either. Wilson made sure Seattle would not need one.
"Everybody realizes in our locker room that the kid playing quarterback is an amazing kid," Carroll said.
Of all the superlatives raining down on Wilson, one stood above the others: Marshall saying he could learn from watching the rookie.
Marshall is a seventh-year veteran and three-time Pro Bowl choice riding a string of six consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. Wilson is a third-round draft choice with 12 career starts. Marshall had 10 catches for 165 yards against Seattle, but the Seahawks had one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL, rookie or not, and they had the ball last. That was why they won.
"Even as a rookie, a young guy, Russell Wilson is a guy that is going to be special," Marshall said. "He is special already."