If Russell Wilson had found his receivers more often against the 49ers, the Seahawks quite probably would have won — despite all of the other errors by players and refs in the game.
A lot has been made all season of Seattle’s renewed running game and the magic 50 number (completions plus rushes), but the X factor really has been Wilson’s targets.
Including the loss to the 49ers, Seattle has lost four games despite big rushing days and is just 7-4 when hitting the magic number, so those stats obviously have not fully predicted results.
But Wilson’s targets have: Seattle is 0-5 when under 50 percent of his throws go to his wide receivers, 8-1 when over half go to the wideouts.
In the wins, Wilson has targeted his wide receivers 64.9 percent of the time. In the losses, he has gone to them on just 44.6 percent.
The overtime loss to the 49ers fell in the latter category.
Even with Doug Baldwin back, Wilson tried his wideouts a season-low 35.5 percent of the time (11 of 31). Wilson targeted Baldwin six times, hitting four and scoring twice. Solid work by that pair.
But Wilson continued a recent trend of shying away from Tyler Lockett and David Moore. Lockett had gotten at least four targets in all but one of the first 11 games. But, he got just two targets in both games against the 49ers over the past three weeks (he caught both for 45 yards Sunday).
Moore, meanwhile, caught his first pass since his 103-yard game against Carolina three weeks ago. Wilson had targeted Moore 23 times in a four-game stretch ending with that win over Carolina, but he has tried him just nine times in the past three games. That includes some near-miss TD tries against Minnesota.
Moore is still learning and lacks the savvy of Baldwin and Lockett, so the rapport is still not quite there between the QB and the second-year receiver. Jaron Brown, meanwhile, has been a pure afterthought — he had no targets in this game despite scoring twice in the earlier win vs. the 49ers.
In Santa Clara, Wilson dumped the ball off far too often, throwing and completing 14 passes to running backs Mike Davis and Chris Carson. Both played very well, gaining a respectable 94 yards. But, Wilson made his backs his primary targets way too much. The receivers clearly needed to be more involved.
Obviously this targets-to-wins stat is not entirely on Wilson. OC Brian Schottenheimer’s route trees often have proven to be too predictable, making it tough for Wilson to find open guys.
But Wilson also has not seemed to trust his younger receivers as much as he does Baldwin. It’s understandable with Moore, but not with the uber-reliable Lockett. Wilson sometimes comes off his reads and checks down too fast, even if protection is solid, and misses some decent downfield shots (he could have tried George Fant on a corner route late in the game Sunday).
Wilson has attempted 30-plus passes six times, and the Hawks are 2-4 in those games — so throwing more is not the answer. But, Seattle’s wins in those 30-throw games have come when receivers have gotten at least 20 targets.
Whether Wilson throws a lot or a little, the trend is clear: He needs to start throwing a greater percentage of passes to his wide receivers to ensure the Seahawks win.