RENTON, Wash. — Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offense haven’t exactly produced impressive numbers during the past month.
But ask Wilson and coach Pete Carroll if there are worries heading into Sunday’s NFC championship game against San Francisco and, while they say they would like to see more consistency, they say the numbers aren’t the important thing.
“We’re always looking for more and he is too and all that,” Carroll said. “But as long as our football team is playing well and we’re playing within the formula and we’re playing good defense, we’re running the football, we’re playing on (special) teams, and we’re taking care of the ball and getting it, we’re going to have a really good chance to win. And that’s what’s most important to us. It’s not about the stats and all that.”
Seattle advanced to the NFC championship game despite getting a career-low passing performance from Wilson, who threw for 103 yards in the Seahawks’ 23-15 win over the Saints. It was the fourth time in the past five games that Wilson failed to top 200 yards passing and the Seahawks had less than 300 yards of total offense.
The Seahawks were helped by a huge day from Marshawn Lynch, running for 140 yards and two touchdowns in his best game since Week 10. And the passing numbers against New Orleans were skewed by the awful weather conditions with strong winds and heavy rain making throwing the football a challenge.
But the lack of consistency by the passing game versus New Orleans, against a team Wilson had carved up earlier in the season, only heightened fan worries heading into Sunday.
“We’ve played some really good defenses and they’ve made some plays. There’s definitely room for improvement, especially on my part and that’s the thing I look forward to every week,” Wilson said. “I always think I can get better and there’s tons of throws in there that I can make and I know I will make. So I have no worry about that. I think the ultimate goal is for us to win football games and to be explosive and make the clutch play when we need to make the clutch play.”
Ultimately, it’s Wilson’s job to be a caretaker of the ball and not take undue risks in the passing game. That’s what Carroll wants from his quarterback, and Wilson follows, sometimes to the point of frustration by fans. Carroll was asked this week if he thought Wilson was being too conservative.
“No, I really haven’t,” he said.
Carroll believes that because being too aggressive can sometimes lead to turnovers and no one values possession more than Seattle. That’s why the Seahawks led the NFL this season with a plus-20 turnover differential — they were extremely aggressive on defense and cautious on offense.
“I never play scared. I never have, I never will,” Wilson said. “I think that for me, in terms of decision-making, I always try to make the smart decision.”
What Seattle has really been missing over the past five weeks is the ability to establish a passing game down the field beyond intermediate routes.
According to information from STATS Inc., Seattle has completed just 2 of 16 passes with one touchdown and two interceptions on passes that have traveled more than 21 yards in the past five games. Even the intermediate passing game of throws between 11 and 20 yards is lacking, with Wilson going 13 of 24.
Seattle’s never been a team to make an excessive number of throws downfield, but it was always part of the game plan. In each of the first 13 games this season, Wilson had at least one completion on a pass of 21 or more yards. He was first shut out in Week 14 at San Francisco, which coincided with Seattle’s offensive sputtering.
“I feel like early in the season we took a lot of shots downfield and the defenses have taken notice to that and are trying to limit that,” wide receiver Jermaine Kearse said. “I feel like we just have to continue to stay at it, continue to practice our game plan and just let the plays come to us.”