The third-year quarterback buried the ghosts of his poor home games earlier in the season with a nearly perfect outing that also was probably his best game of the 2014 season.
He threw a postseason-career-high three touchdown passes and tallied a 149.2 rating, completing 68.2 percent, while tying Matt Hasselbeck for most playoff wins in Seattle history (five).
Wilson now has nine TD passes and just one interception in six postseason games, and his passer rating has been over 100 in four of them. In fact, his postseason passer rating of 109.6 is the best in NFL history (hat tip to Hawk Blogger for first reporting that stat).
So why was Wilson so good vs. the Panthers? (1) His offensive line kept him clean, (2) he was perfect on third downs, (3) he got the ball out quickly when he could and (4) he trusted his receivers to come down with long passes.
Wilson was hit just twice (both sacks). The only other games with that few hits were the first three games of the season — vs. Green Bay, San Diego, Denver — and the win in Philadelphia. His TD-INT ratio in those games was 8-1, he completed 66.1 percent of his passes and had a total rating of 106 vs. those four.
That’s what happens when Wilson gets time to throw.
The Panthers loaded up to stop Marshawn Lynch, basically daring Wilson to beat their rookie defensive backs. And Wilson obliged.
He was perfect on third downs — hitting all eight passes for 199 yards, converting seven into first downs and throwing all three TDs.
Wilson also continued to work on getting the ball out more quickly, something coaches have stressed over the last few weeks.
“That was the biggest thing today,” Wilson said. “I continue to talk to my quarterback coach, coach Carl Smith, just trying to get the ball out on time and just get the ball to the right guy at the right time.”
Wilson also has been trusting his receivers more, as he did last year. He was not afraid to toss the ball up to Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and Luke Willson, especially with two rookies in the Carolina secondary.
He found Kearse for a 33-yard gain on third down in the first quarter, lobbed a pass over the top to Baldwin in the end zone from 16 yards, put a perfect pass on Kearse for a 63-yard score and hit Willson for a 25-yard touchdown.
“They did a pretty good job of stopping (Lynch, who had 59 yards on 14 carries) and so our passing game had to show up tonight,” Wilson said, “and we made those plays. When guys make exceptional plays like that, it’s easy on me. You just give them a chance, and they make a play.”
Wilson needed to be efficient, too. The Hawks held the ball for eight fewer minutes than the Panthers; Seattle ran just five plays in the second quarter but made them count as Wilson hit Kearse on the 63-yard score.
The Hawks had only one drive longer than 3:34; their touchdown drives all lasted less than three minutes thanks to Wilson hitting six plays of at least 16 yards.
“That’s something that we really cherish — explosive plays — because we know that those determine scores in drives and stuff, so it’s a big deal,” coach Pete Carroll said. “For us to continue to see that in our game, it makes us hard to defend.
“We’re really good on the other side of the ball, too, in the same area. It’s a real point of emphasis to us. There were some beautiful plays. Luke did some great stuff, and Jermaine had a terrific game. Fantastic play by Russell and Jermaine. It led to all that stuff.”
Wilson said he wanted to atone for a subpar game in Carolina earlier in the season — he threw his only road interception in that game and tallied his fifth-worst rating of the year (77.5).
“Honestly, the last time we played them, I didn’t have my best game,” he said. “This time, we really connected. We really clicked on all cylinders.”