GREEN BAY, WI - Trailing 3-0 on the scoreboard with under eight minutes left to play in the third quarter, Russell Wilson and the Seahawks finally made it into the red zone for the first time with a chance to either tie or take the lead at Lambeau Field.
Following back-to-back incompletions, Seattle faced 3rd and 10 from the Green Bay 12-yard line as Wilson scanned the defense from shotgun out of a 2x2 set. After taking the snap, the veteran signal caller took a three step drop and looked for receiver DK Metcalf as his first read, but pressure from edge rusher Preston Smith forced him to roll out to his left and escape the pocket.
After seeing cornerback Kevin King with his back turned away from him, Wilson thought he could sneak the ball in to Metcalf, who had improvised his route back towards the sideline in the back of the end zone. The duo has hooked up for touchdowns on similar plays several times in the past.
But in this instance, Wilson's decision to fire into tight coverage didn't pay off. King alertly turned back towards the quarterback as he threw the football across his body and intercepted the pass, successfully turning the Seahawks away without any points to show for a promising drive.
“It was DK, just trying to get him a shot," Wilson explained after the game. "I kind of scampered outside the pocket to the left and King’s back was turned so I tried to zip it in there and he [King] just got his head around and made a play. It’s hard; you never want to second-guess yourself on those plays because you make so many of them. Scored a lot of touchdowns that way, hit a lot of touchdowns in a lot of different circumstances. But in that kind of game where it was back and forth, back and forth, that’s where I can eliminate that mistake and allow us to kick the field goal and make it 3-3 and here we go."
Wilson's critical miscue proved to be a microcosm of his first game back from finger surgery, as the eight-time Pro Bowler struggled mightily throughout a 17-0 shutout loss to the Packers on Sunday. He completed only 20 out of 40 pass attempts while throwing two interceptions - he was picked in the fourth quarter by safety Adrian Amos on a desperation heave to Lockett - and posting a 39.7 passer rating, the fourth-lowest of his career for a single game.
From the outset, Wilson didn't seem comfortable in the pocket, showing plenty of rust after sitting out the past three games on injured reserve. While his offensive line didn't do him any favors allowing pass rushers to come free throughout the game, his indecisiveness with the football at times helped create additional pressure and when he did unload the football, he lacked his typical pristine accuracy and touch.
For example, on the opening drive of the third quarter, Tyler Lockett came wide open at midfield running a comeback off of a slot fade route. But despite his timing being on point, Wilson airmailed the throw and it sailed over the receiver's head for an errant incompletion. This happened several times during the game with the quarterback having issues with throws getting away from him.
There's no question Wilson didn't look like his usual self uncharacteristically misfiring on numerous throws and making several questionable decisions with the football. But although the Seahawks chose not to run any plays from under center to protect his finger, both he and coach Pete Carroll disputed that his poor performance had anything to do with his injury impacting his passing ability or not being ready to play yet.
"My finger felt fine," Wilson said. "The problem with tonight was I just had two bad plays. That's what it really was. I felt like we were moving the ball pretty well... But I felt confident. I didn't feel anything… I threw one high to Tyler there that maybe I was trying to throw it a little too hard - just smooth throw it. But other than that, I felt confident in every throw."
"I know you're wondering, 'Was he ready?' and all that kind of stuff," Carroll added. "He was ready to play. There's no other information leading into this that could tell us any different. He was pumped. Got after it and all that. They [Green Bay] did a nice job tonight. They're a good defense. We couldn't get enough going on to make the points we needed."
After the game, Metcalf and tight end Gerald Everett were asked if the ball looked different coming out of Wilson's hand or if they felt his finger impacted his accuracy. Agreeing with their coach, neither felt the injury factored into his play.
In a game where both offenses struggled to put points on the board, the margin for error was razor thin for Wilson and Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Each quarterback threw a pick in the end zone in the third quarter, with Rodgers following up Wilson's first interception by getting picked off by safety Jamal Adams moments later to keep the Seahawks within three points late in the third quarter.
Squandering a phenomenal performance by Adams and a stingy Seattle defense that held Green Bay to three points in the first three quarters of play, after throwing a pair of picks and failing to lead a single scoring drive, Wilson took the sword for the offense not holding up its end of the bargain.
"I've got to play better and that was on me," Wilson said. "Those two [interceptions], that was really the game. I don't second-guess anything. I have 100 percent confidence in our team and what we can do and what I can do and what we're going to do. That's really what my mindset is."
Now 3-6 and in last place in the NFC West, Seattle's already slim playoff chances took yet another hit with a 10th consecutive loss to Green Bay at Lambeau Field. To earn one of the final wild card spots, the team will have to be near-perfect in the final eight games and still has two matchups against Arizona and a rematch with the Los Angeles Rams on the schedule.
But despite the dire circumstances after another tough defeat, Wilson remains steadfast in his belief the Seahawks will figure things out on offense and with plenty of football left to play, there's time left to turn the season around.
"I feel 100 percent confident where I’m at. I wouldn't be out here if I didn’t. It’s too important. And I feel great about where we can go still. It was challenging. This could have been a big, big step for us here to get this win on the road and everything else. Unfortunately, because of my mishaps here and there it didn’t happen that way. I do look forward to tomorrow. Look forward to getting back to work. I look forward to watching the tape and seeing where I can get better, where we can get better."