SEATTLE — It’s been a season of superlatives so far for Russell Wilson.
The Seattle Seahawks quarterback was already off to the best start of his career when he delivered another surgical performance Thursday night against the Los Angeles Rams. Wilson tossed four more touchdowns — with one coming on an improbable throw to Tyler Lockett — and avoided trouble with his legs. He had a perfect passer rating through three quarters before finishing at 151.8.
You’d only need a few fingers, if any, to count better performances from Wilson in his seven-plus NFL seasons. But what he did in Week 2 at Pittsburgh might be on the same hand.
• Wilson playing at MVP level during torrid start
• Lamar Jackson’s learning curve still steep
• Patriots’ D sparked by ‘Boogeymen’ at LB
• Career days for Amari, Dak overshadowed
• Howard emerging as Eagles’ lead back
“Russell played one of the best games I’ve ever seen him play,” coach Pete Carroll said after the Seahawks’ 30-29 win. “… All of the plays that he came up with his legs, running, for one, but also, not just to get out of trouble, but to find the receivers and make the throws just one after another after another. The extraordinary play to ‘Lock’ … everybody’s just raving it’s one of the best catches they’ve ever seen.
“But it’s also one of the best throws ever made if that’s the case. Because there was no room for error. But I just thought Russ was — he stole the show tonight as he did so much. And on top of what he’s done to start the season off in great fashion. So really fired up for him and our team.”
Wilson’s play tops the list of reasons the Seahawks are 4-1 and a half-game behind the undefeated 49ers the NFC West standings heading into their Week 6 game at Cleveland. Wilson’s play has raised his odds of winning the MVP from 25-1 (10th in the NFL) to 5-1, second behind Patrick Mahomes, according to Caesars Sportsbook.
All of the most relevant passing numbers paint a clear picture illustrating that Wilson has never been better to begin a season than right now. As the chart below shows, it’s not all that close. His 12-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio is the best of his career through the first five games, as are his 73.1% completion rate, 9.0 yards per attempt and 76.8 Total QBR, which is third in the league behind Dak Prescott and Mahomes.
Wilson’s hot start reminds many of the second half of the 2015 season. Prior to this, Wilson has never been hotter than he was during that eight-game stretch, when he threw 25 touchdowns to two interceptions.
“It feels different because of the way it’s happened,” Carroll said. “I think that’s looking back. We’re right in the middle of it now. It’s hard to say if it’s the same or not. I have higher regard for Russ’ command of the game now than we did three, four years ago — the things that he’s doing and how he’s controlling things. That was a great streak. That was an all-time streak. He and [receiver] Doug [Baldwin] were just on fire for all that time. I need some more games just to compare it I think. It feels different.”
But some of Wilson’s current numbers compare favorably to those from the final eight games of 2015. He posted a lower completion rate (67.5%), yards per attempt (8.62) and passer rating (124.3) four years ago. Wilson’s 12 touchdown passes would average out to about 19 over eight games. His career-high for a single season is 35, set last year.
It’s safe to say Wilson is earning every penny of the record $140 million extension he signed in April, which made him the league’s highest-paid player.
“He’s been playing MVP-level all season, man,” Seahawks left tackle Duane Brown said. “He’s been doing this his whole career. I know a lot has been said about his performance thus far this season, but he’s been doing this every year. He’s just amazing, man, he’s just amazing. … He’s a generational talent. He’s a Hall of Fame player, man, and I’m just glad he’s on my team.”
Anyone looking to poke holes in the Seahawks’ start would have ample ammunition. Their first three victories came against teams (Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Arizona) with two wins between them. Three of their four wins were by a combined four points. And they would be 3-2 had Greg Zuerlein not pushed a 44-yard field goal try wide right in the closing seconds Thursday night. The Seahawks’ pass-rush has run hot and cold despite their firepower, their secondary remains a question mark and they’re still prone to getting in their own way.
But they have what might be the most valuable asset an NFL team can have: a quarterback playing at an MVP level.
“We’ve been witness to a freshman coming up,” Carroll said of Wilson. “He’s way into graduate school now and he’s doing great stuff.”