RENTON — San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh earned the nickname “Captain Comeback” for his ability as a pro quarterback to lead teams to come-from-behind victories.
His team will face a quarterback tonight, Seattle’s Russell Wilson, who has done enough in 19 games as a pro to serve notice that he’s ready to inherit Harbaugh’s lofty title.
Harbaugh led his teams to 15 fourth-quarter comebacks and four other winning drives in 14 seasons as a quarterback in the NFL.
Through 19 games, Wilson has led Seattle to five fourth-quarter comebacks and led one other winning drive.
“My dad used to always tell me that big-time players make big-time plays in big-time situations,” Wilson said. “And I think that for me, I live up to that. I’m waiting for that moment. I’m relaxed in those moments. I try to be the calm in the storm for all of the other guys in the huddle.”
Wilson’s ability to stay focused in the frenetic final moments of games inspires his teammates to higher levels of performance.
“He gives everyone else confidence,” Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “I can liken it back to when we
brought Brett Favre in with our team (in Minnesota). We had other quarterbacks going on and stuff. And then there was the first game that he goes out there and he wins the game at the end on a touchdown pass and everyone is full-board in.
“They are able to say, ‘OK, this is our guy,’ because he oozes that and believes in that. Russell is kind of the same way. That he oozes that and he believes it, and once you start making those plays, everyone around you is all in. And they believe that he has the ability to lead us to where we want to go.”
Wilson’s stats in the critical moments of games serve as validation of Bevell’s statement.
Wilson completed 64 of 105 passes (61 percent) for 796 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception in fourth quarters last season. His 102.7 fourth-quarter passer rating was No. 5 in the NFL.
And Wilson picked up where he left off in this seasson’s opener against Carolina, throwing for 114 yards on 7-of-8 accuracy, including a 43-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse, in his team’s 12-7 win over the Panthers for a perfect 158.3 passer rating in the final quarter.
“He’s hard to beat, and he’s kind of showed the same thing for us,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “He keeps us in every game. He gives us a chance. He was doing that well before we got him, and it was just whether we were going to pick him or not. He had shown everything that we see now. I don’t think he’s changed very much. I think he’s doing what he’s always done. That’s why he’s so good at it.”
Wilson should get another chance to flash that big-time playmaking ability in another important moment when NFC West rival San Francisco travels to CenturyLink Field for a nationally televised game Sunday night.
Wilson threw for a career-high four touchdowns against the 49ers last December, a 42-13 thumping administered by the Seahawks that helped propel them to a deep playoff run.
Seattle’s looking for another jolt of momentum with a big, early season win over a division rival.
“He hasn’t proven us wrong yet,” Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman said. “For a young rookie last year I think he went out there and performed admirably. He went out there and won us the Chicago Bears game, and in games like Detroit he drove us all the way down and put us ahead. So I think we have the utmost confidence in him.
“Any time we’re down in the fourth quarter, as a defense we don’t ever think we’re out of a game. We always believe that our offense is going to go down there and drive and get the game-winning score, or tie us up, or bring us back, whichever one we need because that is what they’ve shown. They showed that in the Washington Redskins (playoff) game, they showed that in the Atlanta (playoff) game, and on many other countless occasions.
“When they prove it, you have to believe it.”
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (1-0) AT SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (1-0)
5:30 p.m., CenturyLink Field
TV: Ch. 5. Radio: 710-AM, 97.3-FM.
The series: Tied, 14-14. San Francisco has won eight of the past 14 and five of the last eight. Seattle snapped a four-game losing streak in the series with a 42-13 victory last December. The 49ers are 4-7 at CenturyLink Field.
What to watch: Lacking depth along the defensive line, the Seahawks brought back defensive tackle Clinton McDonald on Saturday, signing the University of Memphis product to a one-year deal. McDonald was a surprise cut during final roster cut-downs before the season started. With Brandon Mebane (ankle) and Tony McDaniel (groin) nursing nagging injuries, McDonald provides experienced depth between those two. The Seahawks released offensive lineman Mike Person to make room for McDonald. Cornerback Brandon Browner (hamstring) and safety Jeron Johnson (hamstring) are doubtful for tonight’s game. Walter Thurmond will start for a second straight game if Browner can’t play. Rookie defensive tackle Jordan Hill (strained biceps) has been ruled out for Sunday’s game. Defensive end Chris Clemons (knee) is questionable but likely will not play. For San Francisco, running back LaMichael James is questionable with a knee injury. Colin Kaepernick (129.4) and Russell Wilson (115.7) are the top-ranked passers in the NFC. Both are coming off their first 300-yard-plus passing performance in a regular season game.
The pick: Seahawks, 24-20.
24 Marshawn LynchRB 5-11215seventh
Lynch has played well against 49ers in past games, and will be up for this one.
81 Golden TateWR5-10202fourth
Notre Dame product needs to make some downfield plays to loosen up stingy San Francisco defense.
92 Brandon MebaneDT6-1311seventh
Seattle’s longest-tenured player has to plug up the middle and keep Frank Gore from busting loose.
25 Richard ShermanCB6-3195third
Ex-Stanford player will be crucial in containing Anquan Boldin.
7 Colin KaepernickQB6-4230third
Talented signal-caller has to handle the noise at C-Link better.
81 Anquan BoldinWR5-918511th
Doesn’t have the speed anymore, but still finds ways to make plays.
94 Justin SmithDT6-428513th
Crafty veteran the key to unleashing 49ers’ pass rush.
35 Eric ReidS6-1213first
Rookie out of LSU can make plays but is also susceptible to giving up big plays. CAPTAIN COMEBACK
In his first 19 NFL games, Russell Wilson has led the Seahawks to six victories in which they trailed or were tied in the fourth quarter. Here’s a closer look at Wilson’s late heroics:
DateOpponentDeficit/tie scoreFinal scoreWinning play (time remaining)
Sept. 24, 2012vs. Green BayTrailed, 12-7Won, 14-1224 pass to Golden Tate (0:00)
Oct. 14, 2012vs. New EnglandTrailed, 23-10Won, 24-2346 pass to Sidney Rice (1:18)
Dec. 2, 2012at ChicagoTrailed, 14-10Won, 23-1714 pass to Tate (:24, fourth quarter)
13 pass to Rice (7:33, overtime)
Dec. 30, 2012vs. St. LouisTied, 13-13Won, 20-131 run by Wilson (1:39)
Jan. 6, 2013vs. Washington*Trailed, 14-13Won, 24-1427 run by Marshawn Lynch (3:45)
Sept. 8, 2013at CarolinaTrailed, 7-6Won, 12-743 pass to Jermaine Kearse (10:13)
*NFC Wild Card gameEric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks @eric_d_williams email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org