There are players who have more obvious and more traditional most valuable player cases than Russell Wilson. Tom Brady has been the best player in the league and the producer of the gaudiest stats. Carson Wentz has been the engine of the league’s best team. Antonio Brown and Alvin Kamara have been the most electric and dangerous skill-position players. The award depends on how you may want to define it.
If you want the MVP to be the player most essential and indispensable to his team’s success, Wilson would be the choice. His case is simple: The Seahawks, deeply flawed and critically injured, are in playoff position in the NFC after outlasting the best team in the NFL on Sunday night. Wilson is dragging them toward January with a dazzling, unique style distinctly tailored to fit his needy team. He may not be the MVP favorite, but after Sunday night he belongs in the conversation.
In the Seahawks’ 24-10 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in Seattle, Wilson carried the Seahawks’ season on his back. Given their schedule and the competition for NFC playoff spots, Seattle desperately needed a victory and had to get it against a 10-1 powerhouse. Wilson completed 20 of 31 passes for 227 yards and three touchdowns, and he ran for another 31 yards. The numbers were modest, and they told a woefully incomplete story. Wilson controlled every aspect of the game.
The Seahawks may call plays in the huddle, but how would you even know? Their offense starts, on nearly every snap, when Wilson drifts backward 10 or 15 yards and teases pursuing pass rushers, who discover what it is like to rake leaves in a wind tunnel. Wilson spins, retreats, darts, circles, dashes and only then picks a receiver to whom he will rocket a pass.
His performance came at a hinge moment for Seattle’s season, and maybe its franchise. When the Seahawks lost a mad game two weeks ago at home to the Falcons, it felt like the final gasp of an era. On Sunday night, the Seahawks were an underdog of more than three points at home for the first time since 2012.
Wilson faced down the league’s most ferocious pass rush and wore them out. The play of the night came in the fourth quarter, when the Seahawks clung to a 17-10 lead after the Eagles had just scored a touchdown. The Seahawks faced third and nine, and a failure to convert would tilt the game in Philadelphia’s favor.
Wilson dropped back, hesitated, scanned and saw no appealing passing options, but an opening. He sprinted forward, and just before reaching the first down line, executed a singular slice of improvisation. As two defenders converged, Wilson somehow realized running back Mike Davis was running alongside him. He pitched the ball to his right, like an option quarterback, as a tackler cut down his legs. Davis took the pitch another 17 yards. Four plays later, Wilson found J.D. McKissic wide open in the end zone for a game-sealing score.
The play would be the top highlight on Wilson’s MVP reel. Wilson does not have much of a statistical case, although he is second in passing yards and third in passing touchdowns. But his encompassing importance to Seattle is obvious. The Seahawks have an atrocious offensive line, but Wilson’s unique scrambling ability almost serves to make the lack of blocking a feature, his escape acts putting more pressure on a defense than a quarterback standing behind a wall of impeccable linemen ever could. They have cycled through six running backs. Other than Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham, his receivers are anonymous.
Wilson covers the Seahawks’ specific blemishes. He avoids pass rushers who crash through or around outmatched linemen. He creates time for receivers to break free. He helps Seattle’s running game just with his presence, forcing a defender to be responsible for him in the read-option. He would be great on any team, but the Seahawks are built around his strengths erasing their weaknesses.
Wilson has held the Seahawks together even as their vaunted defense has suffered the losses of Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman and Cliff Avril to season-ending injuries. The Seahawks’ defense still has plenty of firepower, particularly defensive player of the year candidate Bobby Wagner, who has been the best linebacker in the NFL this season, by a wide margin, according to Pro Football Focus.
Still, there is no doubt who makes Seattle go. The Seahawks are a heavily-flawed team that remains in the playoff hunt because Wilson is their quarterback. He is one of the best players in the NFL, and he deserves consideration as the most valuable.
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