Film breakdown: Wilson sometimes must leave Houdini in the box
Russell 'Houdini' Wilson
Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, who as far as we know is not a descendent of the late master illusionist Harry Houdini, is one of the greatest escape artists to ever play the position at any level.
But at times, Wilson will make a bad decision, or two. Following last week's loss at Denver, Wilson blamed himself for two of the six sacks Denver racked up. In his words, he attempted to do too much rather than throw the ball away.
"Just trying to extend the play, third downs and the stuff like that," he said.
Coach Pete Carroll said that the team banks on Wilson's ability to make something out of nothing. However, they also count on him not hurting the team with bad decisions.
"Sometimes that bites you, and it did a couple of times," Carroll said.
What follows is a film breakdown of an example of a poor choice Wilson made late in the second quarter at Denver when the Seahawks, down 17-10, had a chance to get three points, or maybe more, before halftime:
Seattle has the ball at its 41-yards line with 37 seconds remaining and one timeout remaining while facing a second down with one yard to go.
This is a great down-and-distance situation for any team to be aggressive knowing that third-and-one has a high conversion rate.
The Seahawks need 29 yards to reach the Denver 30 and give kicker Sebastian Janikowski a shot at a very realistic 47-yard field goal attempt.
Seattle comes out in a 3-wide receiver set with tight end Nick Vannett lined up as a wing on the right side giving the Seahawks three receivers to the right.
Denver is in dime personnel group with six defensive backs. The Broncos are looking for speed so they go with four linebackers and one true defensive lineman while playing a two-deep zone with man-to-man coverage underneath.
Defensive back Will Parks matches up on Vannett and linebacker Brandon Marshall shows blitz before ultimately peeling off to cover running back C.J. Prosise into the flat.
Denver's coverage locks down Seattle's receivers. The defensive backs in man coverage initially drop back, allowing the receivers to eat their cushion then proceeded to trail the receivers knowing that they have safety help over the top.
Wilson scans the field hoping to hit Jaron Brown on the right side as he runs a corner route, or maybe T.J. Lockett down the middle on a post.
Both options are tough throws against trail main technique with safety help, but that's why Wilson gets paid the big bucks.
However, before he can make a decision on where to go with the football, the protection breaks down forcing Wilson to start moving.
Here we see that Brown and Lockett are potentially open with Brown being the best option given that the safety on his side is the deepest.
But by this time, however, Wilson is already in escape mode after feeling the heat from a stunt to his left that created pressure up the middle and outside.
Plus, linebacker Shaquil Barrett is coming hard from a standup Wide 9 technique after beating right tackle Germain Ifedi.
Here we get a rearview of what Wilson saw before the snap. He knows that Vannett, before releasing into his route, will chip Barrett, thus helping Ifedi.
Wilson also knows that at least two defenders will probably come at him from the left. No worries if three rush because the center is uncovered and can help block the three rushers.
Plus, Prosise would be uncovered for a dump off into the flat, if needed.
We see the play start to take shape here. Vannett engages with Barrett before releasing into his route in order to help Ifedi, who would otherwise have next to no chance of getting Barrett lined up in a Wide 9 because of his speed.
Linebacker Bradley Chubb, who aligned wide opposite of Barrett, is crashing inside on guard Ethan Pocic while linebacker Shane Ray is beginning his attack inside before bouncing outside around Chubb.
Marshall, behind Ray, starts to come forward as if he is blitzing before peeling back to cover Prosise.
Here we see the rear view of Frame C. Prosise and Vannett have committed to their routes, the stunt is in full swing to the left and Ifedi is setting up to pick up Barrett.
Only four pass rushers are coming and Wilson has five blockers in place. The protection is sound and Wilson is scanning the field. However, all five receivers in the route are well covered, as seen in Frame C.
He has no place to go with the ball and at best has to make an anticipation throw to either Brown running the corner route to the right, or Lockett, who will break to the post. But he has to be leery of the safeties, and at this point, why force it?
With nobody open, Denver's pass rush starts to force Wilson to bail out of the pocket. After Chubb ran into Pocic, center Justin Britt picked up Ray. But when Ray bounced outside. Britt had no chance to keep up and left tackle Duane Brown didn't help because he was busy assisting Pocic. Chubb begins to split between Brown and Pocic, who is all out of sorts and completely leaning with his legs straight desperate to hold on.
Pocic ultimately ends up blatantly holding Chubb from behind, but it isn't called. Wilson, meanwhile, has given up on throwing it to covered Brown or Lockett and looks for on outlet to the left. Unfortunately, Prosise is well covered by Denver's Brandon Marshall and Seattle's Brandon Marshall, the single receiver to the left, is also well covered. Wilson has no place to go with the ball and the pass rush is coming.
Here is where Wilson messes up. He has a small chance to clear Ray but decides that he cannot after Ray makes a very quick move at him.
Wilson instead begins running backwards (notice that Barrett has beaten Ifedi). The smart move would have been to get as far left as possible, even if meant gaining depth to avoid Ray, and then throwing the ball away.
That would have given Seattle a third down and one with about 30 seconds remaining. Instead...
Wilson reverses field while retreating, obviously not giving consideration to the idea that Barrett might have beaten Ifedi and is closing from behind.
By gaining depth backward, Wilson only creates a much more difficult blocking angle for Ifedi to maintain and makes it far more likely that the more athletic Barrett will get deep and around the right tackle to track down Wilson.
At this point, Wilson is done for. Even the blatant holding by Pocic around Chubb's neck can't save the Pro Bowl quarterback. Again, had Wilson simply thrown the ball away, he wouldn't be been in this situation.
Sack. Cue Taps. Wilson is down for a 22-yard loss and the scoring opportunity has ended with Seattle facing a third down with 23 yards to go for the first. Seattle simply let the clock run out to end the half.
For every play like this that Wilson messes up, he makes a half dozen others that help Seattle win games. But, even according to him, he has to be smarter about when to make something out of nothing. Sometimes even the greatest escape artists have to admit when they've been defeated, surrender and live to fight another play.