In the past five games, dating from the second 49ers game to last week's Saints game, Russell Wilson has averaged 157.6 yards passing per a game with completion percentage of 56.52%. To put this number in perspective, Colin Kaepernick has averaged 222.6 passing yards per a game with a completion percentage of 59.22%, Tom Brady has averaged 254.8 passing yard per a game with a completion percentage of 57.48%, and Peyton Manning has averaged 316.4 passing yards per a game with a completion of 70.68% in their last five games. Wilson has been the worst performer, in recent games, of the remaining four QBs left in the playoffs.
Wilson has not only been, statistically, the worst QB of the final four but the Seahawks' 3-2 record in that time span is also the worst of the bunch. The 49ers have gone 5-0, Patriots 4-1, and Broncos 4-1 in that time. At the time of the year when teams want to be playing their best football, the Seahawks are not. A major reason for this is the lack of productivity in the passing game.
A lot of people like to blame the receivers for the lack of productivity on offense. This is understandable, Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin, and Jermaine Kearse is not an elite three-WR combination. They are good, just not elite. While they do occasionally fail to win their one on one matchups, there were numerous times last Saturday that the blame for a failed play was entirely on Wilson.
Two things that were the most alarming about Wilson's performance on Saturday were his inaccuracy and indecisiveness. In my opinion, accuracy is the best part of Wilson's game. However, Wilson was inaccurate on a lot of throws last Saturday, often throwing balls behind or into the ground which led to a lot of failed 3rd downs. I'm not going to harp on this too much because I don't know anything about throwing mechanics nor have anything to say other than that Wilson needs to throw better passes. It has nothing to do with play design, pressure or lack of separation. It is simply that Wilson misfired on a lot of passes last Saturday and hopefully he returns to pinpoint form Saturday.
On to the examples of indecisiveness - the first one occurred with 4:46 left in the 2nd quarter. On 2nd and 9, the Seahawks came out in "10" personnel- 1 RB and 4 WRs. They broke the huddle in an unbalanced formation with three WRs and Lynch on the right side of the formation. The Saints countered this with their nickel package and called a blitz off of the edge in an attempt to force a 3rd and long. The Seahawks called a bubble screen - the perfect play call to counter a blitz from the nickel counter. However, the play only resulted in a one yard game because Wilson hesitated on the throw to Percy Harvin and was consequently forced to scramble.
This play would have probably resulted in a 52 yard TD pass with Harvin providing all of it after the catch. Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin effectively blocked their men while Harvin's defender came on a blitz. This left Harvin uncovered and ultimately would have left him in tons of open space with only the safety to beat. Instead it resulted in a one yard scramble for Wilson. Harvin would then later get hurt on this drive and the Seahawks were forced to kick a field goal.
The second example of indecisiveness occurred at 4:13 in the 3rd quarter. Facing a 1st and 10, the Seahawks were in "21" personnel - 2 RBs, 1TE, 2WRs - then ran a play action pass that involved Baldwin and Tate on a go and out combination. Wilson had Tate fairly open for his first read, but pulled the ball down and was instead sacked.
This was another mental error by Wilson. Tate's presnap motion indicated that the Saints were in cover 1 so Wilson should have known presnap that Baldwin was going to clear out two defenders on his deep route and Tate would be open underneath. He should also have known that the play action would suck the LBs closer to the line of scrimmage thus create less traffic for a pass to Tate. Wilson looked right at Tate but for some reason didn't throw him the ball. He froze, got sacked, and the Seahawks went 3 and out two plays later.
If the Seahawks hope to beat the 49ers and eventually win the Super Bowl, it is going to be a lot easier if Wilson elevates his play. Super Bowls have been won with subpar QB play and dominant defense. However, a lot more Super Bowls have been one by stellar QB play. Wilson's play doesn't have to be stellar, it just has to be consistent and timely, or as Wilson says, "clutch." Consistent in the sense he needs put drives together, convert 3rd downs, and finish in the redzone more frequently than he has of late. Clutch in the sense of the following play.
The Saints had nine defenders in the box and were pretty much daring the Seahawks to throw it. Russell happily obliged and checked to a wheel route with Baldwin and Tate on the outside. Wilson recognized immediately that Baldwin beat his man, pulled the trigger, and threw an accurate pass. Baldwin, who it seems averages one spectacular catch per game, made a phenomenal catch to convert the 3rd down.
After struggling with accuracy and indecisiveness throughout the game, in the most crucial of situations, Wilson delivered a perfectly lofted touch pass down the sideline where only Doug could get it. A few more throws like this on Saturday - if we see Wilson get his 'laser focus' back - the Seahawks could be going to the Super Bowl.
Big up to Danny for the GIFs!
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- 12th Man podcast for the NFC Championship Game, with Scott Enyeart & Jason Puckett, via Sports Radio KJR