Russell Wilson won’t win MVP, but to get in playoffs, he outdueled front-runner

SEATTLE — The Seattle Seahawks had a three-point lead and four-and-a-half minutes on the clock Sunday night when their offense, with the NFL’s most committed and prolific rushing attack, took over with the game on the line.

It seemed almost certain that they would try to grind out a victory on the ground, and in the process, clinch a playoff berth.

Instead, the Seahawks left it up to Russell Wilson and his receivers to seal their win over the Kansas City Chiefs.

With the way they had played, why not? That was the thinking coach Pete Carroll expressed to offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer when Seattle regained possession following a Chiefs field goal that cut the Seahawks’ lead to 31-28.

To that point, Wilson had matched MVP front-runner Patrick Mahomes with three touchdown passes and had answered every punch from the NFL’s highest-scoring offense.

“I was talking to Schotty, ‘Let’s keep going for it. You can throw as much as you need to here. Don’t hold back,'” Carroll said. “Russ was on fire. We could ride him.”

So they did.

After a first-down run and an incompletion, Wilson converted a third-and-6 to David Moore, who muscled his way past the line to gain. He hooked up with Tyler Lockett on a perfectly placed over-the-shoulder deep ball for 45 yards then with Doug Baldwin, who made a one-handed grab for 29 yards to get Seattle to Kansas City’s 1. Chris Carson punched it in from there to give the Seahawks another two-score lead.

The eight-play drive included 5 drop-backs, 3 Wilson completions for 81 yards and 3 Carson rushes.

When the Seahawks held Kansas City to a field goal on the ensuing possession and then withstood an unsuccessful onside kick attempt, they had escaped with a 38-31 win that punched their ticket to the playoffs.

Wilson (18-of-29 for 271 yards, no turnovers) has had more prolific games. Considering what was at stake, who was on the other side and the plays he made down the stretch, this could rank among the best games of Wilson’s career.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, he was 8-of-11 for 197 yards and a touchdown on passes 15-plus yards downfield. It was his second-most completions on such throws in his career.

He also torched Kansas City when it blitzed, finishing 9-of-15 for 123 yards and 2 touchdowns when the Chiefs brought an extra pass-rusher. That gives him an NFL-high 15 touchdowns to only one interception against the blitz this season. Wilson was also 7-of-11 for 71 yards and 2 touchdowns when under duress and he scrambled 4 times for 61 yards, including a pair of first downs.

“The times he took off and ran and created first downs for us, he looked like he was done and gone,” Carroll said. “He was doing the stuff that I think a lot of people came to watch this game because of Patrick and Russ. They’re magnificent ballplayers.”

Kansas City tied the game at 17 in the third quarter when Mahomes (23 of 40, 273 yards) made one of the jaw-dropping, physics-defying plays he’s becoming known for. While running to his left, he delivered a side-arm throw back across his body to Charcandrick West for his second touchdown of the night.

Wilson showed plenty of off-script magic of his own, including a touchdown throw to tight end Ed Dickson while rolling left. Dickson’s diving catch was one of his two big plays. He also converted a third-and-15 with a tackle-breaking 18-yard catch in the third quarter. That extended a drive that ended with a Baldwin touchdown.

“It was a great catch for the touchdown, but his run after the catch was one of the moments in the game where you know, ‘OK, we have a shot to win this frickin’ game,'” Carroll said. “And you can tell because the plays are being made and the guys are coming through.”

Carroll said there’s “no doubt” Wilson fed off of having to go back and forth with an MVP candidate during the second half.

“He knows who he’s playing against and he knows all that,” Carroll said before mentioning how Wilson was left off the NFC Pro Bowl roster. “I guess it’s just a statement that we didn’t throw the ball enough and everybody’s enamored with that. But he’s thrown the ball great. Look at his rating (112.7, third behind Drew Brees and Mahomes). I don’t know who has a better rating than him, but he’s been phenomenal all year long. I hope he doesn’t say anything about it because he won’t. But yeah, when you’re competing against guys like that, you want to do well. He came through and did a great job.”

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