Josh Weinfuss, ESPN Staff Writer 16d

Russell Wilson's ability to extend plays 'completely changes the game' for Cardinals

TEMPE, Ariz. -- There's been one constant with the Seattle Seahawks' offense throughout the last few years, regardless of who is in the backfield or split out wide.

As quarterback Russell Wilson goes, so go the Seahawks.

Slow him, and their offense changes dramatically. Let him play his game, and he can pick a defense apart while wearing it down in the process.

The Arizona Cardinals know both sides of that equation all too well. They've slowed Wilson and been picked apart by him.

"He makes that offense go right now," Cardinals safety Antoine Bethea said. "Whether it's the read-option, him running or him scrambling for longer plays, whatever the case may be, he makes that offense go. We definitely have to have our eyes on him."

Wilson isn't just the Seahawks' on-field leader this season. He's also the team’s leading rusher with 46 carries for 271 yards and a touchdown. As Seattle continues to try to figure out its rushing game -- only one other player has a rushing touchdown -- as injuries have battered its backfield, the offense has been relying on Wilson.

Wilson's passing and designed runs are two things the Cardinals need to prepare for.

But his ability to extend broken plays is an entirely different animal for Arizona to plan for.

"It completely changes the game and it provides a whole totally different aspect to their offense," defensive tackle Corey Peters said. "It's going to be an incredible challenge for us, especially on a short week, but we've been working the plan."

By scrambling out of pressure and extending plays, Wilson forces plays to last longer. That, in turn, puts more pressure on defenses.

Wilson holds on to the ball before he passes almost as long as anyone in the NFL. He's second in the league in time before passes, averaging 2.87 seconds per pass play, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Wilson is also fifth in the NFL in average time in pocket, spending 2.43 seconds per play there.

Wilson alone can cause plays to last five, six, seven or eight seconds, Peters said. The defensive front isn't affected by it as much as the secondary, which has to extend its coverage longer when Wilson goes on the move.

"It's one of those things where the rush has got to work with the coverage," defensive coordinator James Bettcher said. "And the coverage has got to save the rush on some downs. There's going to be an opportunity for him to get outside the pocket and he's going to try to extend the play, and we're going to have to plaster and stay on our man."

One option the Cardinals have is to put a spy on Wilson.

Other teams have tried it, coach Bruce Arians said, but if Arizona does, that player has to be fast. They have options to do it if they choose, Arians added.

"A lot of people spy him, but you got to be able to catch him," Bettcher said. "He's elusive."

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