He didn’t have a statistical game that rivaled what Doug Williams did when he led the Washington Redskins to a Super Bowl victory all those decades ago. But the Seattle Seahawks didn’t need Russell Wilson to perform like the second coming of all those other Super Bowl quarterbacks who had games that will forever live in our memory.
What Wilson did Sunday night was manage a victory smartly. He knew he couldn’t make a big mistake early, and he didn’t. Even better, he didn’t make mistakes at all. Wilson was, surely, the best quarterback on MetLife Field, even though his passing numbers didn’t match those of the more celebrated Peyton Manning.
Football, as we know, is a team sport, and Wilson’s contribution to his team far outpaced Manning’s.
It’s a mistake to undervalue any quarterback in a big moment. For you can’t be certain how a man will handle the spotlight. He could wilt under the heat of it or he could do what a surprisingly large number of athletes have done in moments that ought to overwhelm a man.
And why couldn’t Wilson be that athlete?
He couldn’t, so many people thought, because he didn’t have the experience and savvy that Manning did. Manning had been inside these pressure cookers time and again, and he would be better equipped to do so again, right?
No, not this time … not this Super Bowl Sunday … not against a fast, attacking team that had far more firepower on its defense than Manning and his Broncos had on offense. They were absolutely overwhelmed by an unyielding defense, beaten into submission in a way few football people could have imagined.
Throw in the performance the strong-armed Wilson produced — an almost flawless performance — and it wasn’t possible for a decidedly lesser football team like the Broncos to win.
They didn’t either.
For when it looked on paper as if it might be a give-and-take game, Wilson wasn’t about to give one thing. He would touch all the right benchmarks Sunday. He ran when he needed to run; he connected with open receivers when he had to; and, most important of all, he stayed out of his defense’s way.
What Wilson did was produce for young quarterbacks a recipe for winning on the biggest stage in American sports. He played like a virtuoso, a man who enjoyed being the center of attention. He did what I believed he could do … but what few outside Seattle thought he could do. The Seahawks were purely defense, those people thought, and nothing more.
Defense has been so discounted, particularly in a league built on offense. Yet Wilson never doubted his defensive-minded team’s chance; he never let his teammates doubt it either.
He told them: Why not us?
Yeah, why not?
Because people said Wilson, the second Black quarterback to win a Super Bowl, and the upstart Seahawks couldn’t possibly go all the way with a rah-rah coach like Pete Carroll, and do so on a field far removed from their home-field.
But they did go the distance, and Wilson turned that question he faced at the start of this playoff run into something that sounded like this: It is us.
Yes, Russell Wilson, it is.
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Follow Justice B. Hill on Twitter: @jbernardh
(Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)