Seahawks need more peak Russell Wilson to survive

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In a win over the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday night, the theme of the night for the Seattle Seahawks was still "loss." The team suffered waves of injuries whether it be to major contributors or ancillary players.

Newcomer Duane Brown at left tackle exited the game and never returned. Talented but constantly absent running back C.J. Prosise left his first game following and injury absence after a few touches. Emerging pass rusher Frank Clark had to bow out with a thigh injury late in the contest.

Yet, nothing stung with quite the same piercing effect as watching Richard Sherman came off the field following a departure with what was designated a "heel" injury. The All-Pro cornerback traveled up and down the sideline offering up foreboding words to his teammates. Sherman seemed to indicate he believed he had torn his Achilles and told Russell Wilson "it happens" when informing the quarterback that he was likely done for the season. Pete Carroll confirmed after the game Sherman did indeed rupture his Achilles.

Sherman's dramatic exit saw him join Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas on the sideline, who missed his second-straight game with a hamstring malady. Thomas might be the most unique defensive player on the face of the planet. Sherman was feared like no other cornerback at various points of his career. The two have combined with punishing safety Kam Chancellor to form the ferocious Legion of Boom in leading the Carroll era Seahawks to success year-in and year-out. Chancellor, by the way, also reportedly left the game on a cart.

The layers of injuries to prominent players from a blessed chapter of Seattle football proved a jarring scene on Thursday Night Football. The Seahawks escape Week 10 with a 6-3 record but now face a cloudy future that may not feature several of their best players for some stretch of time. If anything, Thursday night served as a reminder of what's been true all season; the Seahawks go as Russell Wilson goes.

Wilson was already carrying more than his fair share of the load on offense. Saying that Seattle can't run the ball is an understatement. The poor run blocking only exacerbated the inefficiencies of every running back the Seahawks trot out. It was more of the same tonight. Outside of one run up the right middle that went for 23 yards, Thomas Rawls failed to mount any sort of consistent threat on the ground.

With no support from the ground game, what Wilson has done this season can be described as something of a miracle. He's played like a potential early season MVP, and earned a spot on the Next Gen Stats mid-season All-Pro team, thanks to his ability to make difficult throws in tight windows. Wilson has also been able to overcome an offensive line that struggles in pass protection just as much as it does blocking for the running backs.

On plays when he's been under pressure this season, Wilson has completed 40 of 78 pass attempts for 541 yards and four touchdowns, with a 90.8 passer rating. His four touchdown passes under pressure are the second-most this season, while his passer rating is the fifth-best. Wilson has yet to throw an interception under pressure in 2017.

The Seahawks will need more performances like the one they got out of Wilson on Thursday night if they wish to remain an NFC powerhouse in the face of mounting injuries across the team. He displayed both the vintage Houdini magic plays right alongside the stellar passing efficiency he integrated into his game as he's matured.

On a second-half pass to slot receiver Doug Baldwin, Wilson reminded us why no one improvises quite like the former third-round quarterback. On a play where Chris Colinsworth noted Baldwin was meant to block, Wilson broke structure and hit the receiver along the sideline before Baldwin ultimately took off downfield for a big gain.

Wilson traveled 34.7 yards while scrambling before he released the ball on that throw. It was the second-most yards of distance traveled by any quarterback on a scramble completion this season. His 9.31-second time to throw was the fourth-longest on a completion over the last two seasons. Indeed, it was peak vintage Russell Wilson.

While these plays make highlights, and show Wilson's ability to make something out of plays that should truly be nothing, they don't sustain an offense. What makes Wilson special is that he offers something beyond just the patented magic he saves as a counter punch. Over the last few seasons, he's developed into one of the most precise passers in the game.

Wilson put his proficiency on display Thursday, putting together one of his most efficient short passing games in recent memory. On passes that traveled less than 10 air yards, Wilson went 15 of 19 for 155 yards with two scores and posted a 135.7 Passer Rating, his second-highest on short passes over the last two seasons.

With pinpoint precision and an underrated stable of receiving weapons to do damage after the catch, Wilson can operate a quick-strike passing game with the best of them. In conjunction with his improvisational counterpunch, Wilson makes the Seahawks offense hard to defend even when it is one-dimensional.

The Seahawks need the peak Russell Wilson performance they received against the Cardinals to be a weekly occurrence. With one of the best cornerbacks of this decade's midseason exit adding to the list of challenges for its team, it's clearer than ever that Seattle's fate will rest almost solely in the hands of its quarterback. While he's more than capable, Wilson will need to offer up some of the best play of his career as he continues to push toward a possible MVP bid this season.

You can explore the charts and data provided by Next Gen Stats for yourself right here, as well.

Matt Harmon is a writer/editor for NFL.com, and the creator of #ReceptionPerception, who you can follow on Twitter @MattHarmon_BYB or like on Facebook.

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