Vintage Russell Wilson, new-look Alex Collins help keep Seahawks' season afloat

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Pete Carroll called Russell Wilson "spectacular" for the way he rallied the Seattle Seahawks' offense from its inept start Sunday at Levi's Stadium.

Left tackle Duane Brown called his quarterback something he couldn't quite repeat after watching Wilson make the highlight play of Seattle's 28-21 win over the San Francisco 49ers.

With the Seahawks up 14-7 in the third quarter, Wilson took a shotgun snap and spun out of a would-be sack by cornerback Dontae Johnson, who had come untouched on a blitz off the left edge. With Nick Bosa bearing down on him, Wilson scrambled to his right and uncorked a throw off his back foot into the end zone to Freddie Swain, putting the ball on a rope some 30 yards in the air even though he was moving toward the sideline and didn't set himself before letting it go.

"I was speechless, man," Brown said. "I just went to him and said, 'You're a bad m-fer.' Those were my words to him. I really didn't have much to say. It was one of the best plays I've seen from him in my time here."

Wilson is still one of the NFL's more elusive quarterbacks in Year 10, something he also showed on a 16-yard touchdown run.

The Seahawks (2-2) are still very much alive after two straight losses dropped them to 1-2 and raised an ominous question of whether their season would still be afloat after a pair of NFC West games in five days. That's why Brown said they approached this one as a "must-win," knowing that division games carry added weight in the standings.

And that's why it didn't look good when the Seahawks went three-and-out on their first five possessions, tying for their most to begin a regular-season game since Carroll arrived in 2010. Those five possessions netted minus-7 yards as Wilson was sacked three times on 15 plays.

Wilson then told offensive coordinator Shane Waldron that they should tap into their expanded repertoire of quick tempo. But they couldn't do that until they finally got a first down via a 28-yard Alex Collins catch out of the backfield. That kickstarted a six-play, 80-yard drive that Wilson capped with a touchdown pass to DK Metcalf.

Seattle then scored touchdowns on three of its first four possessions of the second half: Wilson's scramble, his throw to Swain and a 14-yard run by Collins. That was a departure from their first three games, when the Seahawks scored zero third-quarter points and 13 second-half points overall.

"I don't think the mood ever changed or we ever doubted ourselves," Metcalf said. "We always know what we have in our offense so just stay positive, never any doubt on the sideline and our defense really carried us in that first quarter."

What the Seahawks have in their offense is an elite quarterback and one of the NFL's best collections of talent, all of which makes stretches like the one early in this game all the more head-scratching.

They might have a new No. 2 running back, too.

If Collins continues to provide a spark like he did Sunday, with 78 yards and a touchdown on 12 touches (10 rushes for 44 yards and two receptions for 34 more), there will be no reason to take him out of that role even when Rashaad Penny is eligible to come off injured reserve in two weeks.

The way Collins weaved his way through San Francisco's defense on his touchdown illustrated the difference in his running in his second stint with the Seahawks compared to when they drafted him in 2016. He's lighter -- listed at 210 pounds -- and shiftier as a result.

Carroll thinks Collins got up to around 220 as a rookie, believing he needed the extra bulk to absorb the NFL pounding.

"It just didn't suit him," Carroll said. "He's got great feet and he's got great quickness. That's how he made all those yards in college. And he thought, 'I've got to get bigger.' He just didn't look as good. So when he came back to us, the first time he came back, everybody went, 'Holy cow. No wonder he gained a bunch of yards at the Ravens.' He just looked better. He looked niftier and the kind of player our guys had seen in college."

Wilson looked nifty himself on his 16-yard touchdown run. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, he reached reached 19.23 mph on that play, his second-fastest speed as a ball carrier since Next Gen began tracking speed in 2018 and his fastest on a TD in that span.

Wilson finished 16-of-23 for 149 yards, two touchdown passes and no interceptions as he reached regular-season win No. 100 of his career. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Wilson joins Peyton Manning as the only starting quarterbacks to win at least 100 regular-season games in his first 10 seasons.

Reflecting on that milestone, Wilson recalled how he attended Manning's passing academy as a youngster. He thanked the Seahawks for taking a chance on him and noted the impact his mother and late father have had on his success. Then he quoted his close friend and long-time mental conditioning coach, Trevor Moawad, who, before passing away last month, would always tell Wilson that "the best is ahead."

"I'm excited about the next hundred," Wilson said.

Thursday night against the Los Angeles Rams would be a good time to start.