SEATTLE — In two seasons, Russell Wilson has made winning in Seattle impenetrable for opposing teams.
Since the day he became the Seattle Seahawks quarterback, Wilson has never lost on his home field. That’s 13 straight in the regular season. Going back even further, Wilson hasn’t lost a home game since Oct. 2, 2010 when he was at North Carolina State and the Wolfpack lost to Virginia Tech. It’s a streak of 23 games since Wilson has walked off his home field with a loss.
That string as Seahawks quarterback will get tested this week by one of Wilson’s idols, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees.
“There is no place like home. Playing here is a special moment,” Wilson said. “It is one of those things that is a once in a lifetime thing you have to make sure you go to CenturyLink and watch a game. It really is something special.”
Monday night is a rousing late-season matchup between the top two teams in the NFC when the 9-2 Saints visit the 10-1 Seahawks. It’s a marquee prime-time showcase that could be an NFC championship game preview and eventually might determine who earns home-field advantage in the conference playoffs.
The home-field fight is one of many subplots:
—The teams are facing each other for the first time since the 2010 NFC divisional playoffs, when the Seahawks ended New Orleans’ reign as Super Bowl champs with a surprising 41-36 upset capped by Marshawn Lynch’s stunning tackle-shedding touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
—There’s the Seahawks turmoil of the past week with the four-game suspension of starting cornerback Walter Thurmond for violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy, and the potential suspension of injured cornerback Brandon Browner.
—And there’s the Saints still seeking a validating road victory after losing at New England and the New York Jets earlier in the season.
But the most intriguing aspect is a pair of quarterbacks working successfully to break long-held stereotypes about the position they play: that they are too short.
“I followed him a lot. I watched him in his college career and I remember my dad telling me I have to watch this guy, this guy is awesome,” Wilson said. “ ... I know everyone compares our heights and everything, the thing that I admire about him is his leadership, attention to detail, (and) competitive nature.
When Brees was slinging passes at Purdue, Wilson was watching. When Brees was drafted by San Diego, Wilson was studying. And when Brees went to New Orleans and led the Saints to a Super Bowl title, Wilson was breaking down film and looking for tips to add to his game.
Wilson often gets compared to Fran Tarkenton for his ability to scramble and keep plays alive. But if there is a player he emulates, it’s Brees. He was such a Brees fan, Wilson often wore a Saints hat around the Wisconsin campus during his final year of college football.
“Listen, there’s plenty of things that that guy can do that I could never dream of doing athletically,” Brees said. “You watch the way he plays, you see the intensity and focus which he plays with, and he’s won a lot of big games in his early career thus far. I love what he has overcome throughout his career and kind of the road he has traveled. Like I said, I couldn’t have more respect for the guy.”
Despite his admiration, Wilson never got a chance to meet Brees until last year’s Pro Bowl, where there were long conversations. The elder QB passed on tips and suggestions on succeeding in the NFL as a shorter quarterback. It was time Wilson valued and was the beginning of a friendship.
“It wasn’t like we were sitting there comparing notes about being 6-foot and under,” Brees said. “I don’t know. We might’ve talked about just the fact that you have to see through windows and anticipate. The other senses kind of have to be heightened. If you lack vision at times or whatever, you’ve got to be able to do other things to make up for that.”
They might share similar traits, but their roles within the respective offenses they lead are dramatically different. Brees is the engine, entering Monday’s game second in the league in yards passing and touchdown passes, trailing only Peyton Manning in those categories. He’s completed more passes (300) than Wilson has attempted (275).
Therein lies the biggest difference. While the Saints’ offensive success is largely determined by how well Brees plays, the Seahawks remain predicated on being able to run first. They ask Wilson to be the point guard for their offense. Brees has attempted at least 33 passes in every game this season; Wilson has attempted more than 30 passes only seven times in his career.
Different styles, different quarterbacks, similar results.
“I think that our league is seeing very good production, very good play makers with different builds and different skill sets,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “I think it still gets back to that person that’s very driven, that’s very competitive (and) smart.”