RENTON — The distances the Seattle Seahawks offense needed to cover late in regulation and then again in overtime left plenty of opportunity, as Pete Carroll put it, to “really screw it up.”
Not with Russell Wilson at the controls. Not with the way this rookie is playing.
“There’s really nothing to hold us back with what we can do and ask the quarterback to do with the system and all of that now. He can really handle the package,” Carroll said. “We’re trying to benefit from that.”
With two drives on Sunday — one at the end of regulation and the other in overtime — Wilson kept Seattle firmly in control of the final playoff spot in the NFC with a 23-17 overtime win over Chicago. He led the Seahawks to touchdowns the final two times they touched the ball.
And they weren’t short drives. Seattle went 97 yards on its final possession of regulation to take the lead, then another 80 yards in overtime to pull out the victory. Wilson accounted for 56 of Seattle’s 80 yards on its overtime touchdown drive, including 28 yards rushing. Three times he converted third downs and capped Seattle’s victory by hitting Sidney Rice on a 13-yard TD.
Combined over Seattle’s final two possessions, the first of which was capped by Golden Tate sliding off tacklers for a 14-yard TD with 24 seconds left in regulation, Wilson accounted for 115 yards passing and 47 yards rushing.
His 71 total yards rushing turned out to be the most in Seahawks history for a quarterback. Most of those running yards came on designed zone-read plays where Wilson would fake the handoff to Marshawn Lynch, then dash around end for gains that gashed the Bears defense.
“He just has a tremendous level of awareness and poise and it’s just surprising that anybody could be like that, not just a rookie or a young guy in his first shot playing in Chicago or what not,” Carroll said. “He just continues to be impressive in all of those ways.”
Closing out games has lingered as a significant problem for the Seahawks on the road. And lately because of their defense.
It started in Detroit, when the Lions scored with 20 seconds left after driving 80 yards to pull out a 28-24 win. Last week in Miami, the Seahawks gave up 17 fourth-quarter points and Dan Carpenter’s field goal on the final play gave the Dolphins a 24-21 win.
And on Sunday, the Seahawks defense again let down when Jay Cutler scrambled free from pressure to find Brandon Marshall for 56 yards, setting up Robbie Gould’s 46-yard field goal on the final play of regulation to force overtime. Carroll said when Cutler scrambled, Seattle’s secondary briefly lost contain on Marshall and allowed him to come back toward the ball and make the play.
“We got a little out of whack. That’s like playing in the park then, everything goes and Jay, that was a marvelous move to get free, a great throw, a great adjustment on the catch to get that done and it took all of that. That was a shocking play that it occurred like that. We thought we had it nailed,” Carroll said. “That gave them a great chance to come back in it, which just happened to set up a great chance for overtime and see a young kid win it all.”
For all the excitement about the Seahawks victory, there are injury concerns going forward. Rice was hammered on the game-winning touchdown at the goal line by Major Wright and was down on the field for a few minutes. He tweeted Sunday night that he was cleared by doctors but Carroll said Monday that Rice was going through concussion protocols in part because of his history with head injuries.
“It’s based off the occurrence of it and his history, so it’s a little bit of everything I guess,” Carroll said. “He feels good, he’s not in bad shape at this point so we think he has a chance.”
Seattle is also unsure of the status of offensive lineman James Carpenter, who felt a sharp pain in his surgically reconstructed left knee and didn’t play after the first quarter.
Carroll said Carpenter was getting X-rays and an MRI, but was unsure of the results. He was also pessimistic about nickel cornerback Marcus Trufant, who has a hamstring pull.
Defensive end Red Bryant was in on 33 defensive plays despite a foot injury, but Carroll said he was sore Monday. He’s also hopeful of getting back linebacker Leroy Hill, who did not play after being unable to make it through pregame warm ups with an ankle injury.