ALLEN PARK, Mich. >> Russell Wilson isn’t running like he used to.
Due in part to knee and ankle injuries, Seattle’s quarterback has been slowed on the ground.
The Detroit Lions , though, are preparing for him to be at his best on his feet Saturday night in an NFC wild-card game .
Wilson has played in two Super Bowls, winning one, by being one of the NFL’s most mobile quarterbacks. He escapes the grasp of defenders, steps up in collapsing pockets and moves out of them to throw to an open receiver. And if has more space to roam than a receiver has separation, he can run up the field on his own.
He just hasn’t been running past the line of scrimmage much this season.
Wilson had career lows in carries (72), yards rushing (259) and yards per rush (3.6) this season after averaging more than 700 yards rushing and 6-plus yards a carry over the previous two years.
“When I was kind of dinged up I had to hang in (the pocket) a little bit longer than sometimes I normally would maybe and I couldn’t really extend those plays as much,” he said Wednesday. “But we were able to do a lot of great things.”
Detroit isn’t buying into Wilson’s potential demise as a threat with his feet.
“I just finished watching a whole bunch of games and he may be judicious with how much he runs, but he’s still running and he still can run,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “I don’t see any real changes in that. I know maybe the stats show that, but I’m watching the film and I know what I see. I see a guy that’s still very, very capable. He can hurt you inside and outside of the pocket.”
Controlling Wilson’s ability to move in, around and out of the pocket might be a little easier due to injuries that have lingered since the season started. Wilson hurt his right ankle in Week 1 and two weeks sprained a ligament in his left knee, an injury that potentially could have knocked him out of the lineup for several weeks.
“I haven’t really ever been injured before, dating back to high school and college so I’ve been fortunate in that way,” Wilson said. “The great thing is I’ve been able to get through all the injuries and be able to get through to this moment. We have a great chance to do what we want to do.”
Detroit desperately wanted to win the NFC North this season, ending a division title drought that has dragged on since 1993. The Lions set themselves up to do it by winning eight of nine games to hold a two-game lead over the Green Bay Packers with three games to go. The Lions lost the championship and a home playoff game that would’ve come with it in because they couldn’t get to Aaron Rodgers often enough in Sunday night’s setback against Green Bay.
On one of four touchdown passes, Rodgers had nearly 9 seconds to throw by spinning to his left away from defensive end Kerry Hyder, setting his feet and dipping his right shoulder to move to the left again on a throw to Geronimo Allison. Rodgers ran by design at least once and at other times because he took advantage of opportunities to move the ball with his feet against the Lions.
“We need to hold the edge longer than we did against the Packers,” Hyder said. “Give A-Rod credit, he did what he does to a lot of teams. Wilson can do the same thing, too. We have to rush him under control. If we get too far up field to get him, he’ll step up in the pocket to throw or run.”
Wilson has played through his knee sprain, but Seattle has had to change its offense in its first season retired running back Marshawn Lynch. The Seahawks aren’t using Wilson as an option with the zone-read run game, trying to limit the number of times he is exposed to take a hit.
“He’s not maybe running down the field or for as long runs, but he’s still able to buy time, get out of the pocket and create some plays outside of the pocket,” Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said. “I think that’s the most important thing. It’s not that he runs for 100 yards a game, but that he can get out of the pocket and still see down the field and still make plays. You still see that.”