RENTON, Wash. — Looks like August.
Thats the best way to summarize the way rookie Russell Wilson has played these past five games for the Seattle Seahawks.
Wilson, a former N.C. State standout, is playing the same way he did back when he arrived in camp and hit the ground running. And throwing. And doing just about anything else he wanted in his first chance at facing NFL competition.
The difference is that its the regular season, and theres no doubt how hard the opponent is trying or whether the starters are in the game. Defensive coordinators are working late into the night, trying to cook up something Seattles rookie cant digest. Yet Wilson is getting better as this season progresses.
Sunday at Chicago was his latest gem. Wilson passed for 293 yards and ran for 71 while leading the Seahawks to a comeback victory against a defense that doesnt allow many late leads to slip away.
He passed for two more touchdowns, giving him 19 already. His first capped a 97-yard drive and gave the Seahawks a 17-14 lead with 24 seconds left in the game.
After the Bears kicked a field goal to force overtime, Wilson won the game with a touchdown pass to Sidney Rice.
It has been more than a month since he was last intercepted, and he is seven touchdown passes from matching Peyton Mannings NFL rookie record of 26.
Wilson is making the kinds of plays that won him the starting job in August. Now those plays are winning games in December as the Seahawks (7-5) lead the race for the NFCs second wildcard spot.
Not that a lot of people have noticed, but Wilsons numbers are as good, some better, than Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III, the first two players picked in this years NFL draft.
Theyre going to hype who theyre going to hype, and youre in the Seattle market, and it doesnt matter what you do, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman told USA Today. Hes beat the Bears, the Packers, the Patriots. You show me another quarterback with his resume, and Ill show you a great quarterback.
But he doesnt get the credit because they dont want to give him the credit. They dont want to make him a big name. They make the guys a big name who they want to make a big name.
Hes a great quarterback, and hes probably a little better than those guys.
Wilson has caught up to the speed of a regular-season NFL game and the complexity of the defenses. The game is starting to slow down for him.
Its the culmination of a process the Seahawks clearly staked out, starting from the moment Wilson was thrust into the quarterback competition in the offseason and continuing into August when the exhibitions became his personal showcase.
We werent that protective of him early on, coach Pete Carroll said. We were just trying to see what the scope, what the range of his play could be. We were very aggressive in those games, and that brought out the best in him.
Wilson threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to Braylon Edwards on his first possession of the preseason and ran 32 yards for a score later in that game. He threw for two touchdowns in a start at Kansas City, rushed for 58 yards and was named Seattles starting quarterback two days later.
When the regular season began, though, the menu changed.
We did reel back a little bit, Carroll said.
Wilson had five completions that gained 30 yards or more in the four exhibitions, but just one in the first four regular-season games. He had three rushes of 25 or more yards in August, but ran for more than 20 yards total in only one of the first eight regular-season games.
This was part of a plan. It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes an entire franchise to groom a rookie quarterback, and Seattle began the regular season determined not to pile so much upon Wilson that the offense caved in on top of him.
We tried not to have any big fallback steps where we had a game that would really crush him, Carroll said.
Now, after 12 regular-season games and with Seattles playoff hopes at risk, the Seahawks turned the game over to their rookie quarterback on the road while playing a Bears team that had allowed the second-fewest points in the league.
The result? He completed the final seven passes he attempted for 97 yards and two touchdowns in addition to rushing five times for 47 yards on Seattles final two possessions.
Boy, hes a talent, man, Sherman told USA Today. Hes fun to watch. I just cant be more proud of the kid.
Wilson made a December game in Chicago look as easy as that exhibition in Kansas City when he won Seattles starting job.
It has taken us some time to get back to that, Carroll said. Whether its to be criticized or not, I dont care. Thats the way we did it.
Now, were happy to see that were at a point now as we start the fourth quarter of our season, and here we go, we can go for it.