Russell Wilson calls it “pre-hab,” the incessant training-room work he does to get his body back to peak form when he’s battered and bruised. And now Wilson is back in the flow, finally whole enough to flash the creativity that augments Seattle’s game plan so prosperously.
The Seahawks, in the Pete Carroll era, have shown themselves to be masters of a different form of pre-hab. Invariably, the first half of the season has been about dealing with various deficiencies that crop up, seemingly putting the Seahawks’ ultimate success in peril as they meander through the early going.
But just as invariably, they always seem to break through, finding their form and silencing the doubters at just the point it appeared their cumulative issues would overwhelm them.
Now, once again, the Seahawks have weathered the storm. Wilson moves better each week, and has a ground game to supplement the passing attack. The much-maligned offensive line is suddenly getting accolades instead of scorn — and the defense remains a unit full of difference-makers.
It’s a team finding its mojo right when it needs to, just as it always seems to, somehow, someway. Call it Carroll’s magic, a formula for surviving the malaise and peaking when it matters. And to a man, the Seahawks believe the peaking part hasn’t happened yet.
“There’s a lot more out there,” Wilson said. “That’s the exciting part. We’re in the right spot right now.”
Though Seattle sustained an alarming array of injuries throughout Sunday’s 26-15 win over Philadelphia — “a lousy list,” in Carroll’s words — the Seahawks find themselves positioned beautifully for the homestretch, and beyond.
At 7-2-1, they have a three-game lead on the rest of the division, and can start focusing on locking down as much home field for the postseason as possible.
The bright prospects start with Wilson, who had two distinctive moments in the game that hammered home how much healthier he’s getting. The first was a scramble that resulted in a 35-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham, in which Wilson displayed an elusiveness factor, coupled with innovation on the run, that had been missing much of the season.
The other, of course, was Wilson’s 15-yard touchdown reception from Doug Baldwin, a role-reversal that would have been unthinkable as recently as three weeks ago.
“I thought he moved beautifully,’’ Carroll said of his quarterback.
“That’s Russell Wilson,’’ added Baldwin. “It makes a huge difference when he’s healthy and able to do that for us, because it opens so much on our offense.”
At the same time, the Seahawks got running back Thomas Rawls back in the lineup. His impact was palpable, from a dynamic cutback that freed him for an 18-yard gain, to his customary habit of seeking out contact, much to the delight of his kindred spirits on defense.
“It’s his nature,” Kam Chancellor said with evident admiration. “Thomas Rawls is like a ram. Once he sees you, he’s aiming at you. You’ve got to watch out for the bull.”
The downside Sunday, and it was a big one, was an injury to C.J. Prosise that Carroll indicated would sideline him “for a while,” thus delaying the enticing prospect of a Prosise-Rawls one-two punch in the backfield.
That dream intensified in the first quarter when Prosise made two jukes, broke into the clear and sprinted 72 yards for a touchdown. But he hurt his shoulder right before halftime and now the Seahawks will have to do without him again at the precise point when the offense is beginning to open up.
It was a game marked by explosive plays from the Seahawks, which is the result of Carroll finally feeling emboldened to turn Wilson loose following the loss to New Orleans three weeks ago.
“All the coaches on offense recognize now it’s time to go,’’ Carroll said. “Everything has shifted. You’ve seen us make shifts in the past. This is one of those big shifts for us. It’s really exciting to see. We feel aggressive.”
A word must be said about the offensive line, under constant reconstruction — and scrutiny — since before the season. The unit has had its stumbles, obviously, but seems to be jelling under Tom Cable’s own annual rendition of pre-habbing. Of course, having a mobile Wilson is a huge boost, but whatever the reason, the Seahawks set a season-high with 152 rushing yards, and Wilson was sacked just once.
“We’ve always felt we had a lot of different ways to beat people,’’ Richard Sherman said. “We believe in the guys out there. Russell obviously needed to get healthy, and our offensive line is playing better. Give them some credit; that was a good D-line, with some big-time playmakers, and they held up.”
That’s what the Seahawks have done: held up. They have put up 859 yards of offense over the past two games, while the return of Chancellor has reinvigorated the defense. Another boost is likely soon with the return of Michael Bennett; provided none of the other injuries from Sunday prove major, they are getting closer and closer to full strength.
“I feel like we’re headed in the right direction,’’ said Bobby Wagner. “It’s up to us to keep it going.”
Sherman put it another way, as he is won't to do: “We’re as good as we need to be.”
Unspoken was the likely addendum from Sherman: But not as good as they’re going to be. Yet that is the assumption of every Seahawk, because they’ve seen it before.
Larry Stone | theseattletimes.com | November 20, 2016