In a display that personified greatness, with a Super Bowl berth in play, Russell Wilson elevated himself to a rarified plateau. No longer is he a good Black quarterback on a great team who manages the game well—not after Sunday’s effort that helped the Seattle Seahawks get back to the ultimate game.
What Wilson did in the Seahawks’ astonishing comeback over the Green Bay Packers was a mark of greatness, the kind of heroics reserved for the usual suspects: Manning, Rodgers, Brady, Brees.
Only it was Wilson. It was not so much what he did, but how and when he did it. His two touchdown passes, including the game-winner in overtime, are magnified by the way he opened the game.
The usually reliable QB was as reliable as a wet napkin the first two quarters. He threw three interceptions by halftime. His team trailed 16-0. Wilson never looked so feeble behind center.
A less-than-great player would have succumbed to the bad play, would have lost confidence, hung his head. A less-than-great player would have been reluctant to continue throwing into tight spots.
Wilson did not flinch, though. He was credited with a fourth interception when a pass bounced off Jermaine Kearse’s hands into a Packers’. And yet, he did not flinch. Rather, he called on all the elements that make him an elite NFL quarterback: calm, brains, leadership, talent, toughness.
In his third year, Wilson’s composure and grasp of the game are other-worldly. He understands schemes and tendencies and knows how and when to play to his team’s strength.
Instead of getting down on himself when he struggled, Wilson kept his head up—and made sure his teammates did, too—the sign of a championship leader.
And with all that working, Wilson located his touch and delivered passes in the waning moments that made the difference, including a 35-yard touchdown pass to Kearse in OT to send Seattle to the Super Bowl.
To magnify the point about his brain power and command of the game, Wilson changed the play at the line of scrimmage, understanding Kearse would not have safety help in the middle of the field in the defense Green Bay played. Then he delivered a pass that was picturesque in its arc and placement into Kearse’s cradling arms.
“Nothing was more beautiful than that last play,” coach Pete Carroll said. “Exquisite football.”
Wilson cried afterward. He was emotionally depleted. And he did not wipe away his tears. In a game where toughness counts for everything, Wilson was not ashamed to let his organic emotions flow. That’s the sign of a true man.
“Storybook ending,” Wilson said.
Wilson’s story is not about statistics. Well, not passing stats. He has his big games, but mostly he makes plays when games are on the line, like Sunday, like the great ones do.
It was not just the game-winning touchdown, but it was the 35-yard pass the play before it. It was the fake and run for a TD in the fourth quarter. It was his head held high when many Seahawks fans left the building when they were down 19-7 with 5 minutes to go.
“There was no doubt within us,” Wilson said.
The numbers that count with Wilson are wins. In three seasons, he has a Super Bowl championship and a chance for another in two weeks against the New England Patriots, who destroyed the Indianapolis Colts. Wilson wins. That’s the barometer on greatness. And so he cannot be judged strictly as a Black quarterback, which sometimes still feels like the sports world is assigning a separate but unequal category. He’s a Black quarterback who is among all the game’s elite.
It’s made nicer because he’s refreshing, smart, humble, connected. Hardly any of more than 4,000 media members asked him after last year’s Super Bowl victory (where he should have been named MVP, by the way) about the significance of becoming the second Black quarterback to win it all, which was strikingly odd. But when one guy did, Wilson, grandson of former Norfolk State University president Harrison B. Wilson, said: “Well, I was aware. It’s something I think about, being the second African-American quarterback to win. That’s something special and it’s real,” Wilson said.
It was really scary for a second Sunday when Clay Mathews crushed him after one of his interceptions. Wilson got up and trotted off the field as if unfazed.
“Man, that was some hit,” Kearse said, “but (Wilson) got up like a champ.”
A great champ, indeed.