SEATTLE (AP) — Russell Wilson has never carried this much of the load for the Seattle Seahawks to be successful.
They have been stretches in previous seasons where Wilson is the reason Seattle would have offensive success.
But it’s never lasted for an entire season such as this where Wilson is the primary offensive reason why Seattle has playoff hopes going into the regular-season finale against Arizona.
Seattle (9-6) needs a victory and an Atlanta loss to extend its playoff streak to six straight years. The Cardinals (7-8) would like to see the Seahawks joining them in cleaning out their lockers come Monday.
“This season there has been a lot to it and guys have been making a lot of great plays and doing a lot of special things,” Wilson said. “That’s not me, that’s the other guys making plays.”
Wilson’s season is not easy to define. He’s been among the best in certain games, yet has forgettable mistakes no quarterback with his experience should make.
He will join the rare fraternity of quarterbacks leading their team in rushing for a season, yet is second in the NFL with 32 touchdown passes, including a league-record 18 in the fourth quarter.
Seattle has scored 36 offensive touchdowns this season — Wilson is responsible for 35 of those running or passing. The Seahawks have just one rushing TD — J.D. McKissic — by someone other than Wilson.
Of Seattle’s total offensive yards this season, Wilson is responsible for 81.6 per cent of those.
That doesn’t mean he’s always played well. The past three weeks are a perfect example when Wilson went from being in the MVP conversation to some of his more forgettable performances.
Last week against Dallas, Wilson threw two touchdowns and didn’t commit a turnover, but was hesitant with his throws, finished with just 93 yards passing and Seattle’s offence lagged.
Wilson knows he must be better this week against an opponent that’s caused Seattle issues in the past and has been playing spectacular defence for the past two months.
The Cardinals are allowing just 268 yards per game since Week 10 and are coming off their first shutout in 25 years.
“I think the guys started playing together longer,” Arizona coach Bruce Arians said. “Every year, you bring in some new guys and this time, it took us a little bit longer to get going.”
Here’s what else to watch as the Cardinals try for a third straight win in Seattle:
FITZ KEEPS ROLLING: Larry Fitzgerald has already posted his fifth career 100-catch season. He’s second in the NFL with 101 receptions entering the regular-season finale.
He needs one catch on Sunday to have 211 straight games with a reception, tying Tony Gonzalez for the second-longest streak in league history.
Even at age 34 and in his 14th season, Fitzgerald has not slowed down.
“He’s going to go down as a Hall of Famer but I really can’t say enough about the man because I mean he’s old as dirt and he’s still playing at an extremely high level,” Seattle’s Doug Baldwin joked. “He’s just a professional.”
RUN AROUND: Seattle’s run game has been absent all season. Don’t expect it to suddenly show up in the season finale against Arizona’s improving unit.
The Cardinals have allowed just 139 combined yards rushing in the past three games, shutting down the Titans, Redskins and Giants. The Cardinals have allowed just one team — Houston — to rush for more than 100 yards since Week 7.
Seattle is averaging 101.9 yards per game rushing but most of that is because of Wilson, who is set to become the first QB to lead his team in rushing since Cam Newton in 2012. Wilson has 550 yards rushing.
“We’re not giving into the circumstances,” Cardinals defensive tackle Frostee Rucker said. “We have a lot of guys who have pride and they work very hard.”
SLOWING JONES: Arizona’s Chandler Jones has a chance to set the franchise record for sacks in a season and become the first Cardinals player to lead the NFL in sacks. Jones has 15 sacks and needs two more to set the franchise mark.
Jones has enjoyed his games against the Seahawks in the past. Jones has 5 1/2 sacks in four previous games against Seattle.
“He’s creative with his rushes and it really comes down to he’s just such a long guy and he’s just really effective,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said.
NEW HOME: Arians caught grief this week for his postgame comments after last Sunday’s win over the Giants where he said about Seattle’s CenturyLink Field, “We know that’s our home field. We’re goin’ up there and kick their (behinds).”
The Cardinals have won two straight in Seattle and three of the past four. The road team has enjoyed the upper hand in the series in the past few years with Seattle winning three of the past four in Arizona and the other meeting in the desert finishing in a tie.
“I saw what their coach said, it’s kind of funny,” Seattle linebacker K.J. Wright said.
BUDDA’S BACK: It will be a triumphant return for Budda Baker, the former Washington star who is having a standout rookie season as a safety and, especially, on special teams. He will have plenty of family and friends on hand for Sunday’s game.
“It’s going to be like playing at UW again,” Baker said. “Now I’m with the Cardinals and I’m going against a lot of guys I knew.”
Not only will he be back in his own stomping grounds, he will be going against Seahawk players he came to know and even train with during his time there. Baker made the Pro Bowl on special teams. He’s third in the NFL in special team tackles with 16.
For more NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL
Tim Booth, The Associated Press