FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — As Atlanta Falcons safety William Moore has viewed more and more film on Seattle rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, he's finding it harder and harder to believe that Wilson was taking snaps for the University of Wisconsin a little more than a year ago.
"This isn't your average rookie we're going against," said Moore of the quarterback the NFC's top playoff seed will face in Sunday's divisional playoff game inside the Georgia Dome.
"He's making plays every game now that the average quarterback can't make. He may be a rookie, but he's almost carrying their whole team on his shoulders."
Wilson's numbers wholly support Moore's praise. His passer rating of 100.0 broke Ben Roethlisberger's 8-year-old rookie mark of 98.1. He was even better in December, posting a mark f 115.2 as the Seahawks went 5-0 to go 11-5 on the regular season.
Then came last week at Washington in the wildcard playoff round. After the Seahawks fell behind 14-0, Wilson rallied them to a 24-14 victory, throwing for 187 yards and rushing for 67 more.
And just to prove he's not only a quarterback, he threw the final block on running back Marshawn Lynch's game-winning touchdown.
"That's how comfortable he is out there," said Moore of the 5-11, 205-pound QB. "I respect him as a quarterback, but I might respect him more as a running back. He's pretty amazing."
Falcons coach Mike Smith didn't deliver the game plan to stop Wilson, Lynch and company until Wednesday, but he formed a lofty opinion of the Richmond, Va., native earlier in the week.
"You watch him scramble and he looks like [Hall of Fame quarterback] Fran Tarkenton," Smith said on Monday. "He doesn't have the body size of [Carolina's] Cam Newton or [Washington's] Robert Griffin III, but he has the athleticism. He's very smooth and he's very intelligent. He won't take a hit. He's very hard to get your hands on."
Wilson's very hard to stop, period. He's thrown for over 3,000 yards and 26 touchdowns. He averages 5.2 yards per carry on the ground.
"He tied Peyton Manning's rookie touchdown passing record, so he's doing a nice job of throwing the football," said Smith. "But you also have to account for him as a running back. And he's got an arm that can throw it 55 or 60 yards down the field. He can really extend some plays."
What Wilson won't want to extend is his current contract. Though most mortals would love to earn $2.99 million over four years, the NFL's 2011 collective bargaining agreement forces him to live under that contract for at least three years, regardless of how productive he is.
Thus is Wilson a finalist for the Vizio Top Value Performer Award. He'll likely be a finalist the next two years, as well.
At least he will if he can avoid Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon whenever possible on Sunday.
"I know Wilson's a tough kid," Weatherspoon grinned Wednesday afternoon. "But I don't think he'll want to be blocking much against us."
Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...