As we all have seen, Russell Wilson has been phenomenal this year and, if Peyton Manning wasn't putting up record breaking stats, he would be a serious frontrunner for the MVP. Despite Wilson looking flawless at time's this season, there is still one area he struggles with: road games against good defenses. Wilson's 5-1 record on the season is misleading in that he has had moments where he has played subpar and has made similar mistakes that he made in his rookie season on the road.
In 2012, Wilson was 3-5 on the road and threw 8 of his 10 interceptions on the road as well as only 9 of his 26 touchdowns. And, even in his win at Carolina in week 5, he threw 2 interceptions and 0 TDs. Most people will argue that Wilson was a much different player from the beginning of the 2012 season vs. the second half due to Pete Carroll not unleashing the full playback and because he was a rookie. Yet, throughout all of his home games last year, Wilson looked like phenomenal, having a 17:2 TD-INT ratio and looked like an elite QB. In between his 0 TD-3 int, 45.8 passer rating loss in St. Louis and his 0TD-1 int, 38.7 passer rating loss in San Francisco, WIlson had one of his best games all season against New England at home, with 3 TD-0 int and a passer rating of 133.7. Russell went from looking like a rookie, to looking like a veteran, to again liking a rookie in a span of 4 weeks. Sure, New England's defense was not as good as the Rams or the Niners, yet Russell still looked like a much different quarterback at home vs. on the road. Russell did get a big win on the road against a stiff Chicago defense later that year, but overall, Russell still showed major struggles on the road.
In 2013, Wilson is 5-1 on the road with a TD-Int ratio of 10:2 and a passer rating of 103.5 yet has taken 20 sacks on the road vs. 10 at home. Although Russell hasn't thrown many interceptions, his play on the road has still been very different, particularly in his games at Houston, Indy, and St. Louis.
In week 3 at Houston, Russell had one of the worst performances of his career: 12/23 for 123 yds, 0 TDs, 1 Int, 5 sacks, and a QB rating of 49.7. WIlson also almost had what could have been a game-ending fumble on the Seahawks own 1 yard line. Sure, Russell was getting pressure all day, but he still held the ball too long and didn't audible enough to hot routes when he saw pressure coming. Russell still did put his team in a position to win, but this game easily could have been the Seahawks first loss of the season and WIlson would have been a primary reason why.
Following the Houston game, Wilson travelled to Indy and had another subpar game: 15/31 for 210 yards, 2 TDs, 1 Int, and a QB rating of 78.7. Wilson took 2 sacks, 1 at the end of the half in which he fumbled and almost led to a defensive TD for Indy. Again in this game, Russell just did not look like the elite QB that we have seen at home. Even when the Wilson had a chance to orchestrate another game winning TD drive with 1:55 on the clock left in the 4th, Wilson went 0-4 on the drive and threw a Int to end the game. Sure, this game was a wacky one with all of the blocked field goals on special teams, but Russell Wilson ultimately had chances to secure a win and failed to do so.
Coming off a road win in Arizona that easily could have been lost due to Wilson's 2 fumbles, the Seahawks then travelled to St. Louis in week 7 and WIlson had another poor performance on the road: 10/18 for 139 yards (with 80 yards coming off the Tate TD), 2 TD, 0 Int, and took a season high 7 sacks. Yes, the offensive line had one of the worst displays of pass protection you will ever see, yet Russell still did not make the necessary calls or hot reads to avoid taking sacks and make completions. Russell saw a ton of pressure this game but he did not make the adjustments to counteract the pass rush. Even when he had time, he still looked rattled and made poor throws.
Yes, Wilson did have good games against Carolina and Atlanta on the road, but those wins still do not mask Wilson's struggles in his 4 other road games this season. He has held the ball too long on many of his 20 sacks on the road and just hasn't made the big throws we see him make at home. Over the past 3 weeks, however, Wilson has been red hot and is coming off one of his best career games against a Saints defense that was ranked in the top 5. Will Wilson's hot streak continue in San Francisco on Sunday?
Despite his 2-1 record against the Niners, WIlson has not been spectacular even at home against the Niner defense. In his Week 2 home win against the Niners, Wilson was 8/19 (42 %) for 142 yards, 1 TD, and 1 Int. In his other 5 home games this season, Wilson is 91/126 (72%) for 1216 yards, 11 TDs, and 3 Int. Wilson took 4 sacks in the Week 2 game against the Niners yet has taken only 6 sacks in the 5 other home games. The Seahawks were able to win again because of their solid run game, defense and special teams. However, had it not been for the personal fouls on Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith that extended 2 drives that went for touchdowns that made the game 19-3 in the 4th instead of it possibly being 8-3, this game could very well have been a loss for the Seahawks.
Despite the Niners always giving Russell Wilson problems, Wilson seems to always play his best football during the months of November and December. In November and December of 2012, Russell Wilson was completing 67.2 % of his passes and had a 16:2 TD-Int ratio, good for a passer rating of 120.3 (only Peyton Manning had a higher QB rating during the same time period). In November and December this year, Wilson has been completing 73% of his passes (averaging an amazing 10.2 yards per attempt) and has a 12:2 TD-Int ratio, good for a passer rating of 128.1.
So will Wilson's spectacular play late in seasons continue on Sunday or will his struggles on the road and struggles against Niners get the best of him? I believe that Wilson must play like he normally plays late in the season to win on Sunday. The Niners are going to be playing with a ton of energy in front of their home crowd as they want to avenge their embarrassing loss in Seattle as well as keep their playoff hopes alive. The defense, special teams, and run game will not be able to handle the entire load on Sunday and Russell Wilson must step up and be the difference maker. This game will be the biggest test of Wilson's career because so many factors will be working against him: he's on the road, he has a short week to prepare, he's playing a elite defense that he has struggled against, and he's playing against a division rival fired up and desperate for a win. A loss will not really say much about Russell Wilson. A win, however, will prove that Wilson can win in any circumstances no matter how big the stage is and will make everyone wonder just how good the 2nd year play caller could actually become.