The Seattle Seahawks watched a near miracle morph into a crushing playoff defeat to the Atlanta Falcons, but Sunday’s 30-28 loss highlighted just how far this team has come in one season.
Russell Wilson capped a rookie campaign for the ages with a furious second-half comeback that boiled down to a final Hail Mary that wound up — this time — not in the hands of Golden Tate, but Julio Jones, the Falcons wideout doubling as a defensive back as the clock struck midnight on Seattle’s season.
Wilson threw for 386 yards on 36 passes, turning a 27-7 deficit into a 28-27 lead with 31 seconds left. It was the rookie’s first 300-yard game of the season, but his calm presence in the pocket was nothing new.
The Seahawks have a big-time quarterback on their hands.
It wasn’t a perfect performance. Wilson was off his game early as Seattle marked its second consecutive playoff outing without points in the first quarter. Atlanta dominated time of possession through the first 30 minutes, but that category wound up nearly even for both teams, a sign of how Wilson and the Seahawks dominated the second act.
No stage has been too big for Wilson. He brought his team farther than any other rookie passer this season, a remarkable feat considering that group includes Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck. When they were drafted back in April, Wilson was an afterthought, a third-round pick lost in the Seahawks’ signing of Matt Flynn.
Few expected Wilson to overtake Flynn or even Tarvaris Jackson, much less capture the imagination of a town that fell hard for the Seahawks in 2012.
“He’s an amazing football player. I think he proved it again,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “… It’s so unheard of for rookies to do something like that. He ain’t a rookie. … I can’t even imagine how he can get better.”
Said Wilson: “When the game was over, I was very disappointed, but right before I got back to the tunnel, walking off the field, I got so excited for the next opportunity, next year. Looking forward what we have in the future. We have a great football team.”
In a season that started as a mystery — especially under center — the Seahawks have walked away with plenty of answers and hope for tomorrow.