Russell Wilson Embodies Elite Quarterback Play in 'MNF' Win over Washington

Ty Schalter@tyschalterNFL National Lead WriterOctober 7, 2014

Alex Brandon/AP Images

There can't be any arguing anymore. There isn't any debate. Put the hot takes in the freezer, and mute the hashtags.

Russell Wilson is an elite NFL quarterback.

How do we know?

Forget the Super Bowl ring. Forget all the amazing stats he's compiled during his young career. He didn't finally reach a milestone in one statistical category, or cross some magic threshold in another. Against Washington, at FedEx Field, in a game where nothing broke his way and few of his teammates were having strong games, Wilson simply took over.

Alex Brandon/Associated Press

With his head, his feet and his arm, he turned sacks into first downs, first downs into touchdowns and touchdowns negated by penalties into even more touchdowns.

Despite intense pressure from a stout Washington defense, some key mistakes from his teammates and three touchdowns being taken off the board due to penalties, Wilson would not let his Seattle Seahawks lose this game—and despite the quarterback on the other sideline having a great night himself, the result was never in doubt.

Countless columns have been written, hot air expelled and Tweetstorms raged about whether or not certain quarterbacks are elite, or are still elite, or will ever be elite. For the most part, all of these debates are red herrings, wasted time and effort, senseless noise shouted into an echo chamber.

Here's a rule of thumb: If there's an argument to be had about a player, the answer is no. There's no arguing with the performance Wilson put up tonight.

Through the air, Wilson completed 75 percent of his passes, averaged 8.4 yards per attempt, threw two touchdowns that stayed on the board and committed zero turnovers.

On the ground, Wilson shredded Washington with scrambles, improvised runs, read-option carries and designed rushes. He ran 11 times for 122 yards—good for a massive 11.1 yards per carry—and added another touchdown. That put him in rare company:

Even so, the stats don't tell the whole story.

Time and again, Wilson escaped a relentless Washington pass rush, extending plays and finding open teammates with perfect passes. Whether the result was a meager gain, a big chunk or a touchdown, Wilson turned what felt like dozens of doomed plays into successful ones.

"We could have played a lot better," Wilson said on ESPN's Monday Night Football postgame show, "but a win's a win."

The offensive line didn't help Wilson much. Two bobbled snaps on the second series killed that drive. Per NFL.com, seven of the Seahawks' nine offensive penalties were assessed on the offensive line. Two, like this one on left guard James Carpenter, took touchdowns off the board:

Center Max Unger and left tackle Russell Okung each had multiple flags thrown their way. In a prime-time showcase game against a hungry opponent, the Seahawks line picked an awful night to lose its head.

"I thought the penalties killed us, but we persevered," Wilson said. His unflappable attitude was obvious even through the television camera, and it translated into his play. No matter how many mistakes his teammates made, Wilson never relinquished control of the game—or, it seemed, doubted its outcome.

For all of Wilson's derring-do, he was still sacked three times, and there was very little daylight for the Seahawks' tailbacks. Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin combined for 91 yards on 22 carries, a relatively unimpressive 4.1 yards per carry.

Wilson, though, was his own running game:

The Seahawks defense didn't play poorly. However, Seattle sacked Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins only once and didn't force a turnover. The notorious "Legion of Boom" secondary got roasted for two huge gainers by DeSean Jackson. Unlike so many other outings, the Seattle defense never made the game comfortable for its offense; it never let Wilson and Lynch relax and put the game in the cooler.

In fact, with 3:35 left in the fourth quarter, Cousins hit receiver Andre Roberts for a touchdown, making it a seven-point game. Wilson had to put together one more drive to salt the game away, and he came through in style.

On a critical 3rd-and-5, he made one of his most impressive plays of the night.

While eluding three angry Washington defenders—spearheaded by the athletic Ryan Kerrigan—Wilson rolled to his left, found Lynch nestled between the oncoming linebackers and holding safeties and lofted a picture-perfect pass that barely found its way over a defender and into Lynch's arms. Lynch turned upfield and went 30 yards, setting up the field goal that would ice the game.

This is what elite quarterbacks do: They make plays they shouldn't make, they make their teammates better, and they make wins happen when nothing is working.

Russell Wilson isn't just playing like an elite quarterback right now, he's defining what "elite quarterback" means.

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