The NFL is insanely detailed and structured. Coaches don’t spend 80 hours a week coming up with the perfect play for the perfect situation just to have their quarterback go off script.
Yet, the Seattle Seahawks have embraced their random offense. So many times, the offense becomes Wilson avoiding a rusher, breaking the pocket and figuring out what happens next. That has become their foundation. Somehow, it works. Nobody else in the NFL even tries to play that style.
Wilson has awed us before, and in Thursday night’s 22-16 win against the Arizona Cardinals he added a highlight very few quarterbacks could pull off. Wilson rolled to his left. When the rush came, he spun away. He seemed to be hemmed in by Chandler Jones and Tyrann Mathieu, two of the NFL’s best defenders. So he made a subtle pump fake, which got Mathieu in the air, and spun around again.
“Cue the circus music,” NBC play-by-play announcer Mike Tirico said.
Then Wilson threw what seemed to be a desperation pass, but Doug Baldwin made a nice catch on the sideline as his defender fell down, and Baldwin ran for 54 yards. The game was 15-10 at that point and the Cardinals had some hope. Wilson’s big throw set up a touchdown on the next play and took the air out of Arizona. The game seemed over at that point. Wilson wasn’t great the entire night, but he made the play that cut the Cardinals’ heart out.
Nobody else routinely makes those types of plays. Most offensive coordinators couldn’t stand to see their route concepts constantly torn up as the quarterback runs out of the pocket to make something happen on the fly. On Wilson’s big play Thursday night, Baldwin was a blocker. When he saw Wilson starting his Houdini routine, he broke downfield. It wasn’t drawn up. Wilson, with a great heads-up assist from Baldwin, just made it happen. It would be one thing if that was an anomaly, but we’ve seen it from Wilson before, like his huge play after a bad snap in a wild-card game against the Minnesota Vikings two seasons ago.
Maybe that’s why some people have a hard time figuring out Wilson. He’s unconventional. He has played remarkable football from the pocket, but he doesn’t need to be in the pocket to play remarkable football. Turning NFL football into a series of random plays isn’t typical, but it fits Seattle. It works because Wilson is a unique talent. Maybe Fran Tarkenton is the best comparison to Wilson, as a quarterback who could make multiple defenders miss and still find a way to complete passes downfield. There have been other mobile quarterbacks, and other fun improvisational quarterbacks, but nobody in the game today who makes it work as consistently as Wilson does.
Wilson’s night will also draw attention for his magic act going in and out of the medical tent to seemingly avoid a concussion test, but he ended up coming back and making the play of the night. It will end up being one of the best plays we see in the NFL this season, because good luck finding another quarterback who can duplicate it.
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