Comparing Wilson to rookie Manning not so far-fetched

dave.boling@thenewstribune.comDecember 31, 2012 

It seems unimaginable enough to report that Seattle’s Russell Wilson tied Peyton Manning’s NFL record for touchdown passes in a season by a rookie.

After all, such a thing was expected of Manning, who went from being the first overall pick to a four-time league MVP.

Wilson, in contrast, was a third-round pick last April who was a long shot to even land the starting job when the Seahawks opened training camp.

But when you look at their complete rookie statistics, it’s arguable that the current Wilson stands head and shoulders above the Manning of 1998.

While both threw 26 touchdowns, Manning was intercepted 28 times in his first season in Indianapolis, which is almost three times as many as Wilson’s 10 picks this season. Manning’s passer rating was a puny 71.2 compared to Wilson’s franchise-record 100.0.

And after the Seahawks’ 20-13 win over St. Louis on Sunday, fullback Michael Robinson tossed in a statistic to trump all others: “Did Peyton go to the playoffs his first year?”

No. Actually, Manning’s Colts were 3-13 that season.

“OK, so you know who I think is better.”

Wilson once again offered evidence of his extraordinary talents and leadership. Under pressure all day (six sacks and seven hits), he still completed 15 of 19 passes for 250 yards and a touchdown for a 136.3 passer rating.

And in another dramatic circumstance, with the score tied with just over five minutes remaining, Wilson added another scoring drive to his legacy, leading the Seahawks 90 yards and scrambling in for the winning touchdown.

The play was a designed pass, with the intent of getting Wilson his 27th and record-breaking touchdown pass. But when the play unraveled, tight end Zach Miller tried to get open “so he could get that record all to himself,” Miller said. “I was open but it would have been tight, and he made the smart decision – he always does – which was to run.”

Wilson said the passing record flashed through his mind when he considered trying to pass it to Miller. “But I realized that’s not me,” Wilson said. “I wasn’t worried about that. The only thing was that we win the game.”

Wilson has had easier days. The Rams were combative and diverse on defense; on offense, the Seahawks went into halftime with three points after a three-game run averaging 50 points a game.

“Things didn’t go our way today,” Miller said. “But he kept battling and coming through with big plays, especially in the fourth quarter. It’s a tribute to him and how hard he’s worked, and the resolve he has.”

Coach Pete Carroll put it this way: “He found ways.”

Yes, he did, sometimes inventing them. One time it was delivering a de-cleater block on a defensive back to help Marshawn Lynch. Another time it was darting away from pressure to find Robinson free for a 10-yard touchdown pass.

And even more dramatically, it involved slipping through defenders’ arms and firing a pass to Golden Tate for a 44-yard gain on a third-down play that should have been just another sack.

Wilson generally dodges any statements requiring first-person perspective, but he took a moment to consider the meaning of his record-tying effort.

“It’s such a blessing, because (Manning) is so great,” Wilson said. “To tie that record is really something special. It’s a tribute to my faith in God … and also my football team, what they’ve done. The football team has fought the whole season … the coaching staff has really done a great job preparing me.”

What went a little unnoticed, in the wake of his historic fourth-quarter heroics, was a little presentation before the game when Wilson received the Steve Largent Award.

The award, voted on by the players, honors the person who best exemplifies team spirit, dedication and integrity. Wilson is the first rookie to win it.

“He’s an incredible kid,” Carroll said. “And we’re just lucky that we have him on our side.”

Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 dave.boling@thenewstribune.com @DaveBoling

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