<
>

With Seahawks reeling, Russell Wilson under the microscope

RENTON, Wash. -- Russell Wilson began and ended his weekly session with reporters on Thursday the way he always does.

Sporting a red practice jersey and a camouflage baseball hat, he started by asking how everyone was doing and closed with his signature, "Go 'Hawks!"

In between, he answered question after question about what's wrong with the Seattle Seahawks and why they are 4-5 with seven games left. Wilson insisted that things aren't as bad as they seem, that the Seahawks are about to rebound and go on a run.

Asked what he personally needs to do better, Wilson pointed to turnovers and touchdowns. He's already matched his interception total from a year ago with seven, and the Seahawks are last in the league in red-zone efficiency, scoring touchdowns 35 percent of the time.

"I think that we’re so close," Wilson said. "The biggest thing is that’s where I kind of look at it all and review everything, and not stretch for answers. A lot of people want to stretch for answers and try to figure out what’s wrong or whatever. At the end of the day it comes down to us just scoring more touchdowns and finding a way to do that."

Even though the defense has shaped the Seahawks' identity in recent years, Wilson knows the spotlight is on him, and he's embraced the opportunities that come along with being a Super Bowl-winning quarterback. He attended a party at the White House during the offseason, has taken advantage of endorsement opportunities and signed a four-year, $87.6 million contract extension this summer.

Asked if this season has felt different because of the new deal, Wilson said, "No, I don’t think so at all. People want to make it something else. But for me, it’s just, I love the game of football."

While some high-profile athletes attempt to block off every aspect of their personal lives, Wilson selectively chooses which parts to reveal. His relationship with Ciara has been well-publicized. During the bye week, Wilson posted Instagram pictures of the couple on vacation, and last month he showed them dressed up as Batman and Catwoman for her birthday.

"I keep most of it private," Wilson said. "My private life is my private life. But I think at the same time, there’s no fear in anything or anything like that. I’m grateful for the people that I have in my life. Just the surroundings, from the team, to everybody and my friends and all that too as well. I’m sure you’re referring to Ciara, too, as well. She’s an unbelievable person. So that’s a part of it. But I think ultimately when it comes down to football, the focus is on football. That’s just how it has to be and how it always is. I love playing this game. I’m passionate about it, and I’m passionate about that, so that’s where it’s really at, too."

Wilson's work ethic and commitment cannot be questioned. His teammates and coaches have praised him for his preparation and study habits. At 26 years old, he's been to the Super Bowl twice and hoisted the Lombardi Trophy once. Wilson's 97.4 passer rating is the third best in NFL history.

But this season has been marked by inconsistency. After Wilson completed just 14 of 32 passes against the Arizona Cardinals Sunday night, coach Pete Carroll was asked about the quarterback's performance.

"I think he’s playing like he plays," Carroll said. "He’s making his plays with his feet. He’s made some great throws. ... He’s worked with the rush as he’s had to. I think that in this game, we talk about the ones that got away, the throws that got away from us, and the opportunities that got away, there was plenty of them in there."

Explaining a failed two-point conversion to wide receiver Doug Baldwin, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said: "[Wilson] had an opportunity to give Doug a chance and really didn’t give him a chance. Particularly on that type of situation, you want to make sure you give your guys an opportunity to make a play."

Bevell was asked why the fades to tight end Jimmy Graham in the red zone have not been successful.

"I think you’ve got to make sure that you give him a chance," Bevell said, indicating the quarterback has not been doing that.

In fairness to Wilson, he's been under constant pressure. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Wilson has been sacked on 9.8 percent of his dropbacks and pressured 40.9 percent of the time -- both league highs. The coaches want him to cut down on the sacks, but oftentimes the Seahawks are most successful when Wilson is running around, improvising and finding receivers downfield. It's fair to wonder whether any young quarterback could develop under the Seahawks' current conditions.

There are, however, specific areas where they need Wilson to be better. He's completing 45.8 percent of his passes in the red zone (26th) and has a 66.9 passer rating against the blitz (30th).

There are signs that Wilson might be right, that this team might still have life. The Seahawks are one of two teams in NFL history to lose their first five games of the season after leading each in the fourth quarter. They are one of three teams this season that has had leads in the fourth quarter of each of their first nine games. The other two -- Carolina Panthers and New England Patriots -- are undefeated.

The Seahawks have a favorable schedule the rest of the way and can still go on a run. Offensively, that will require getting Marshawn Lynch on a roll and Wilson masking the deficiencies on the offensive line.

If those things don't happen, the season could go the other way, and for the first time in Wilson's career, the Seahawks could miss the playoffs.

"There’s no sense of loss of faith in us at all," Wilson said. "We believe in one another. We believe in our system and our coaches and the guys that we have, and we believe that we’re going to turn it around."

Statistics used are courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information unless otherwise noted.