SEATTLE (AP) – Since he arrived in the NFL, Russell Wilson has meticulously shaped his career, from the tweets sent, to the hours of study at the Seattle Seahawks practice facility, to the catchphrases repeated weekly.
Johnny Manziel could have modeled his career after Wilson, but instead deals with a professional career engulfed in chaos.
The two quarterbacks with similar stature and skills, and seemingly polar personalities will meet for the first time on Sunday when the Seahawks host the Browns (3-10). It’s a chance for Wilson to continue one of the finest runs of quarterback play and keep Seattle (8-5) pointed toward a fourth straight playoff berth, and a challenge Manziel has yet to face as a pro, playing in the loudest stadium against one of the league’s best defenses.
“Anytime a three or four o’clock game out here comes on and Russell and the Seahawks are playing, it’s definitely fun to watch him,” Manziel said. “He’s had a lot of success. You definitely want to emulate him in those ways.”
While this could be billed as the latest proof under 6-foot quarterbacks can thrive in the NFL, Seattle has far more important matters at hand than the meeting of two undersized QBs. By the end of the weekend, Seattle could find its way into the playoffs for a fourth straight year and largely because of an unmatched stretch of play from Wilson.
According to STATS, Wilson is the first quarterback going back to 1960 to have four straight games with a passer rating of 138.5 or higher. He’s thrown for 1,171 yards, completed 75.4 percent of his passes, thrown 16 touchdowns with no interceptions in leading the Seahawks away from the ledge of missing the postseason.
“The exciting part is simply that we’re winning the games,” Wilson said. “All the stats and all that are fun and exciting … but we come here to win.”
Manziel will face Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett and the challenge of Seattle’s defense after arguably the best start of his young career. Aside from one careless interception, Manziel was otherwise nearly flawless in Cleveland’s 24-10 win over San Francisco last week that snapped a seven-game losing streak.
Manziel threw for 270 yards and was helped by a run game that totaled 230 yards, the most since 2010. It was the kind of solid performance leading to a victory that Cleveland’s been waiting to see from Manziel.
“He looks very comfortable playing in their style,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “It’s a wide open style, a lot of play actions and movements and things like that. The things that you watched him do as a college player, you can see in the offense.”
Here’s what else to watch as the Seahawks host the Browns for the first time since 2003.
CARRY THE LOAD: Who ends up as Seattle’s primary running back will be a major question likely through the rest of the regular season. With Marshawn Lynch still recovering from abdominal surgery and Thomas Rawls out for the year with a broken ankle, the Seahawks are turning to the trio of Bryce Brown, Christine Michael and Derrick Coleman to handle the load.
The trio has a combined 18 carries this season.
SUNDAY SACKS: The Browns brought pressure from the start last week, sacking the 49ers’ Blaine Gabbert nine times – the most by an NFL team this season – and forcing him from the pocket other times.
Wilson’s mobility will stretch Cleveland’s defensive front on the edges, and linebacker Paul Kruger said the QB’s scrambling ability makes every snap a challenge.
“You’re going to change the philosophy of your rush,” Kruger said. “You’re not going to be thinking about him escaping your whole time you’re rushing, but you definitely have to as far as game planning and schematically.”
BALDWIN BUSTS OUT: The favorite wide receiver during Wilson’s recent run has been Doug Baldwin. Over the past three games Baldwin has 17 catches for 321 yards and eight touchdowns, becoming the first wide receiver since Jerry Rice in 1993 with eight TDs in three games.
Baldwin needs 140 yards receiving over the final three games to become Seattle’s first 1,000-yard receiver since Bobby Engram in 2007.
TE TROUBLE: One area Seattle has struggled all season is defending tight ends and Cleveland has one of the best in the league in Gary Barnidge. After never having more than 13 catches in a season, Barnidge has 65 receptions and needs just 99 yards receiving to reach the 1,000-yard mark. He also has eight touchdowns and Seattle has allowed seven touchdowns to tight ends.
(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
12/18/2015 5:29:21 PM (GMT -5:00)