Can Seahawks QB Russell Wilson Break NFL's Single-Season Passing Touchdown Record?

CorbinSmithNFL

Through the first three weeks of the 2020 season, there isn't a player in the NFL operating at a higher level than Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who has been torching opposing defenses in the first 12 quarters of play.

With offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer being more aggressive passing the football on early downs and putting the ball into his star signal caller's hands, Wilson broke Patrick Mahomes previous record by throwing 14 touchdown passes in the first three games. He's thrown a touchdown on a preposterous 13.6 percent of his pass attempts thus far, completing 76.7 percent of his passes in total and posting a league-best 139.0 passer rating.

Over the past three weeks, he's thrown at least four touchdown passes each of Seattle's wins over Atlanta, New England, and Dallas, winning NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors twice.

We're just now reaching the quarter mark of the season, so it may seem a bit too early to start tracking Wilson's progress pursuing the single-season passing touchdown mark. But he's currently on pace for 75 touchdown passes, and while there's no way he will stay on that trajectory for a full season, there's no question he has a realistic shot at dethroning Peyton Manning in the record books.

But putting it bluntly, it's not going to be an easy task. And Wilson will need to put together a stretch unlike anything he's done previously in his career to make it happen.

Here's a look at the record number of touchdown passes for each progressive game during a season. In order to pass Manning, who threw 55 touchdown passes back in 2013, Wilson would need to average 3.23 touchdowns per game over the final 13 weeks, which has been included in the chart as a projection.

Game Number
Player (Year)
Touchdown Passes
Wilson Record Pace*

Game 4

Peyton Manning (2013)

16

17

Game 5

Peyton Manning (2013)

20

20

Game 6

Peyton Manning (2013)

22

24

Game 7

Tom Brady (2007)

27

27

Game 8

Tom Brady (2007)

30

30

Game 9

Tom Brady/Peyton Manning (2007, 2013)

30

33

Game 10

Tom Brady (2007)

38

37

Game 11

Peyton Manning

41

40

Game 12

Peyton Manning (2004)

44

43

Game 13

Peyton Manning (2004)

46

46

Game 14

Peyton Manning (2004/2013)

47

49

Game 15

Peyton Manning (2013)

51

52

Game 16

Peyton Manning (2013)

55

56

To put that average in perspective, before this season, Wilson had thrown three or more touchdowns in a game just 31 times in 128 career starts and only did it three times total in 2019. So far this year, he's thrown at least four in every game, which he had only done 10 times previously.

During Manning's record season, he threw at least three touchdowns in 11 games and threw at least four nine times, including a record-tying seven touchdowns in the season opener. The previous record holder, Tom Brady, threw at least three touchdowns in 12 games in 2007, opened the season with 10 straight games of three or more scoring tosses, and had three games with five-plus touchdowns.

These are the types of numbers Wilson will have to be able to produce over the course of the remainder of the season to have a chance at eclipsing Manning. This isn't to say he can't have an off game or two sprinkled in there - Manning and Brady had three combined games with one or less touchdowns during their record seasons - Wilson's red-hot start has afforded him the luxury of having a game or two like that.

But there's no doubt this will a difficult marathon trying to keep pace with Manning, Brady, and Mahomes, who finished his 2018 MVP season with 50 touchdown passes. Before this season, Wilson had never thrown three-plus touchdowns in more than seven games in a single season, which he accomplished in 2018.

With that said, given Schottenheimer's play calling adjustments, the improvements along the offensive line protecting Wilson, and defensive struggles making it necessary for the Seahawks to air it out to win shootouts, all of those past numbers can be thrown out the window. It's a new era in the Pacific Northwest and as the MVP front-runner continues to cook, all eyes will be on his touchdown totals as he tries to maintain a torrid pace to topple Manning's record.

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