Russell Wilson’s Toughness, Leadership Vital to Seahawks’ Playoff Success in Atlanta and Beyond

Russell WilsonAll of the news coming out of FedEx Field after Sunday’s wild card showdown surrounded Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, but the real focus should’ve been on the game’s other rookie quarterback.

Russell Wilson was the forgotten member of the NFL’s rookie quarterback triumvirate for much of the 2012 season, and he appeared to fall into that role again on Sunday as RG3 and Andrew Luck dominated the headlines. Yet, when the dust settled, Wilson, not either of the anointed ones, was the one left standing in the postseason.

Down 14-0 to the Redskins in the first quarter in Washington, D.C., the team from Washington state looked to its leader for help. Even as a rookie on a veteran-laden Seahawks roster, Wilson was the one who responded to the call.

Behind Wilson’s accurate passing, completing 15 of 26 for 187 yards and a touchdown, and shifty running, gaining 67 yards on eight attempts, Seattle charged back with 24 unanswered points to move on to a divisional round meeting in Atlanta. The X factor for the Seahawks, though, wasn’t Wilson’s dual-threat ability, but rather his toughness and resolve to win.

Wilson’s touchdown pass to Michael Robinson late in the first half was a pivotal point in the Seahawks’ comeback, bringing them within a score of the lead. But his most defining moment was on a play where his name didn’t even show up on the stat sheet.

Trailing 14-13 midway through the fourth quarter, Wilson handed the ball off to running back Marshawn Lynch, who managed to scamper 27 yards downfield, slicing through Redskins defenders to score the go-ahead touchdown. The score is credited to Lynch and only serves to grow the “Beast Mode” legacy he started during the 2010 playoffs, but it was a key block from Wilson that sprung the tailback into the end zone.

During the run, Wilson did what almost no other quarterback in the NFL would after handing the ball off — he blocked. Wilson flew down the field like a hawk over the Puget Sound, even passing the churning legs of Lynch on the way, and laid a mean lick on a Redskins defender to ensure the score. There is no other quarterback in football that would be able, or willing, to make that play, and that’s where Wilson’s true value lies.

Wilson isn’t your prototypical NFL signal caller. He’s small in stature, standing at just a hair under six feet tall, and there are concerns about his durability and ability to throw from inside the pocket. But even amid all the criticism, his intangibles, such as the leadership and toughness he displayed in Sunday’s win, are what sets him apart from other quarterbacks and have kept the Seahawks alive this long.

Seattle has a hefty test on the horizon, with the NFC-best Falcons awaiting the Seahawks’ arrival next Sunday, but with Wilson leading the effort, there should be nothing but confidence emanating from the shores of Washington this week.

Have a question for Luke Hughes? Send it to him via Twitter at @LukeFHughes or send it here.

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