Russell Wilson threw three touchdown passes Sunday night against the Philadelphia Eagles. The first came from the Eagles’ 11-yard line near the left pylon to Jimmy Graham in the first quarter, the next Tyler Lockett’s first touchdown of the season in the left flat in the second period, and finally the icing play on a catch and run by J.D. McKissic in the final quarter to give the Seattle Seahawks their 24-10 win.
Graham’s was his eighth touchdown of 2017, all in the last eight games when Wilson is 34-53 targeting the big tight end, which matches Graham’s total from his first 31 games as a Seahawk. The development of Graham as a red zone weapon has helped Seattle go 6-2 over that stretch with three wins by less than the margin Graham’s score provided.
But it’s Wilson’s rejuvenation near the goal line that is probably more impressive. Wilson in 2017 now has 20 touchdowns inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, tied for best in the league with Tom Brady and Wilson’s counterpart Sunday night, Carson Wentz, neither of whom scored on a red zone pass in week 13. In the past three weeks, Wilson has six of his red zone TDs to close the gap.
This marks a change from one of the prime critiques of Wilson’s play during the recent lull in the Seahawks’ championship chase: He lacks efficiency near the painted area, as noted by his career 53 percent completion rate in that territory and Seattle’s typically landing in the middle ten in red zone possessions converted for touchdowns.
Red zone scoring isn’t everything—in the last three games the Chicago Bears lead the NFL with an 80 percent conversion rate but they’re 0-3—you have to get there first, or score from greater distances. But the improved utilization of Graham has already generated Wilson’s highest number of red zone touchdowns in his career, with four games to go, and puts him on pace for the most touchdowns he’s ever thrown and potentially the league crown in touchdown passes, if he keeps up his recent routine.
It’s a small detail compared to the movement the Seahawks made in the playoff race, but as Wilson continues to seal off ostensible weak points his arsenal it will help him continue to drive Seattle to success in 2017 and beyond.