Mute the external blare of negativity being generated by Russell Wilson’s first four starts as the Seahawks’ quarterback long enough to consider this: Just a quarter of the way into his rookie season, Wilson already has emerged victorious in head-to-head matchups against the Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers and the Dallas Cowboys’ Tony Romo.
And this: His statistics during the team’s 2-2 start, while not overly impressive, are comparable to and even better in some categories than those compiled by Matt Hasselbeck, Dave Krieg and Jim Zorn in their first four starts for the Seahawks. And that trio ranks 1-2-3 in just about every meaningful category on the franchise’s all-time passing list.
And this: The one voice that matters in all this belongs to coach Pete Carroll.
“We’re going with Russell right now, and he’s working his tail off to get it right,” Carroll said Monday, when he was peppered with questions about the status of both Wilson and backup Matt Flynn in the wake of a 19-13 loss to the Rams in St. Louis.
“We’re all aware that the focus goes back to the quarterback position, but there are a lot of guys that figure into what’s going on.”
What’s going on is that the Seahawks not only rank last in the NFL in passing offense entering this week’s game against the Panthers in Carolina, they’re the only team in the league averaging more yards rushing (150.8) than passing (130.8). They also are converting 28 percent of their third-down situations, fifth-lowest in the league; while Wilson has the NFL’s lowest third-down passer rating (45.4) as he has completed 11 of 27 passes for 77 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.
Everyone knew there would be growing pains when the decision was made to go with Wilson as the starter after the third preseason game. Carroll knew it. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell knew it. Wilson knew it.
As with everything in this league, the key is to grow from the mistakes made and the plays missed while dealing with the growing pains.
“When you lose and you turn the ball over three times and you have a couple of penalties when we’re moving the ball, that always hurts you,” Wilson said after Sunday’s loss. “We still had an opportunity, though. It shows that if we just fine-tune those little things that we’re doing wrong we’ve got a shot to really be good.”
Wilson’s three-interception Sunday followed a two-touchdown pass performance against the Packers on “Monday Night Football.” But before picking exclusively on the passer, take a closer look at the picks.
On the first, the ball went off wide receiver Doug Baldwin before it ended up in the hands of rookie cornerback Trumaine Johnson. “The ball could have been a little sharper on the throw to Doug,” Carroll said.
On the second, Wilson was rocked by blitzing rookie cornerback Janoris Jenkins just as he was releasing the pass that ended up being intercepted by linebacker Rocky McIntosh. “He could have gotten the ball off earlier on the blitz situation where he got hit, but the protection did break down there,” Carroll said.
On the third, tight end Anthony McCoy slipped and fell, leaving Wilson’s pass to be picked off by nickel back Bradley Fletcher. “He was throwing the ball right to him, and he just slipped and fell,” Carroll said. “You can’t do much about that one.”
Still, as Carroll added, “He wasn’t sloppy with it. He didn’t miss his reads. It wasn’t a big mistake. He wasn’t careless with the ball. He hasn’t been at any time.”
And the trio of interceptions overshadowed the fact that Wilson completed 68 percent of his passes, and his completing them at a 60-percent rate for the season.
“He did some really good things in the game,” Carroll said. “Again, his completion percentage was up there.”
The pass Carroll and Wilson really would like to have back was the incompletion the QB threw to wide receiver Sidney Rice in the end zone while tight end Zach Miller was open on an underneath route. “The way that turned out, that would have been an easy play for Zach to make,” Carroll said. “And he had a shot at Sidney at the back line, too. But (going to Miller) would have been an easy chance for us to make a touchdown.
“That’s the one that I think we regret most of all, because it could have changed the game."
Growing pains that the Seahawks need to find a remedy for, and quickly.
“This is a very hard part of the game for all young quarterbacks, this red zone and third down,” Carroll said. “It always has been. That’s where it gets most difficult and we need to get better in both those areas.”
Of the third-down situations, Carroll said, “We continue to work at, and this is an area that is very challenging and very difficult. We work quite a bit against each other (in third-down situations) in practice. And we’ll do more this week, just to continue try to catch up reps that are necessary for him so he can throw quick, and get rid of the football and feel certain about where he’s going with it.
“And we need to help him. We need to run the routes right. And we need to catch the ball when we get a chance, and all of that.”
Carroll’s bottom-line assessment: “Here’s a first-time starter. He’s been in every game, and he’s had a chance to win them. … He is not far from being really, really successful right now as a leader in that position. We just have to assess everything that’s going on. I’ve been amazed that he’s done so much and done so well. “There’s a lot going on. It’s not just one guy.”Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times