BALTIMORE – Russell Wilson is soaring into that next stratosphere, where the pertinent question is not whether or not he’s elite, which is now undeniable, but whether his astonishing proficiency will be sustainable.
As Wilson’s once-shaky protection grows sturdier, as his command of blitz recognition solidifies, as he runs Seattle’s offense with nearly flawless precision, the limits of his potential must be adjusted upward. Where once he seemed to stall and stutter this season, Wilson has blasted through that static into another realm.
The proof is in the statistics, which are becoming the stuff of legend. But also in the visceral sense – not always present this season – that Wilson will simply find a way to move the ball.
Quickly, decisively and relentlessly.
“It’s very scary to see how our offense keeps progressing as Russell keeps getting more and more confidence,’’ veteran backup quarterback Tarvaris Jackson said.
What’s happening here is historic. Wilson is playing the quarterback position as it has rarely been played in the history of the NFL. For a four-game stretch, at least, that’s not hyperbole.
On Sunday, in the Seahawks’ 35-6 rout over the Baltimore Ravens, he threw five touchdown passes for the second time in three weeks, giving him 16 TDs – with no interceptions – over the past four games.
He is the first quarterback since 1960 to have a passer rating of 138.5 in four straight games. He is one of four quarterbacks – joining such hum-drum peers as Dan Marino, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees – to produce at least four touchdowns in three straight games (one of those coming on a run).
We could play this game for awhile, and you’ll love the company Wilson is keeping. Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Manning are the only others to have at least three passing TDs and no interceptions in four straight games. And in this he stands alone: Wilson is the only QB in history to have four straight games with at least three passing TDs, a 70 percent completion rate, and no interceptions.
“It’s Russ right now,’’ shrugged receiver Doug Baldwin, who grabbed three more touchdown passes to give him eight in the past three weeks. “He’s balling.”
Wilson’s rapport with his receivers, particularly Baldwin but also Jermaine Kearse (seven catches, 74 yards) and rookie Tyler Lockett (six catches, 104 yards, two touchdowns) is uncanny, and growing.
It helps immensely, of course, that the Seahawks’ offensive line, so maligned early in the season, has jelled into a unit that can keep Wilson clean. And Wilson, sacked just eight times in the last six games, is delivering the ball quickly and with deadly accuracy.
All that mad scrambling that seemed to be becoming a too-frequent reality for Wilson is now nearly dormant. He was not sacked on Sunday and ran the ball just once, picking up a first down with a six-yard gain on third-and-3.
“Everything he’s doing right now, he’s done before,’’ Baldwin said. “But he’s just doing it at a very high level. He’s always been magnificent outside the pocket, but now he’s doing something he hasn’t done up to this level inside the pocket. It makes it so much easier on everyone else. To his credit, he’s playing unbelievable right now.”
Give a nod as well to offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who has fashioned a diverse and dynamic attack; on Wilson’s final scoring strike to Baldwin, he was so open that a wide-angle lense would have located no Baltimore defender in the frame.
Yes, it’s a relatively small sample size. Yes, the Seahawks have cleaned up against some battered teams. Yes, Seattle’s offense will now be severely tested by the loss of running back Thomas Rawls on top of earlier injuries to Marshawn Lynch and Jimmy Graham.
But it’s not unrealistic to think that Wilson has broken through some sort of barrier. It’s hard to remember any bad passes he threw on Sunday; it’s easier to list the drops, most notably a sure-fire touchdown by Luke Willson that bounced off his hands in the end zone.
“They’re attacking,’’ Richard Sherman said of Seattle’s offense. “Whether pressure is coming, whether they’re rushing four or rushing seven, he’s getting the ball out and making the right decisions, and the receivers are making plays.”
The Wilson-Baldwin connection has become one of the best in the league -- and maybe you can take off the “one of” qualifier. Wilson and Baldwin seem to have an unspoken bond borne of four years together in the Seahawks system.
“A lot goes into it, not just sense of where he’s looking,’’ Baldwin said. “It’s him knowing my body language, knowing when I’m going to cut, knowing what I’m going to do.
“Last week, I ran the wrong route and he put the ball in a perfect spot because he was reading my body language. It’s the nuances, the subtleties that come with the game that we’re finally on the same page with, I guess.”
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll added, “They seem to be in sync in a really great way. ... They’ve been growing up together, and you can see the benefits of that.”
As is his wont, Wilson painstakingly divvied up the credit to include virtually everyone in the organization, from the line to the coaching staff to every other player on offense.
But he did acknowledge that something special is happening, a chemistry that is solidifying before our very eyes.
“You guys can probably feel it, just on TV and on the field,’’ Wilson said. “I don’t know if it can get much better. We want to keep rising, though.”