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RENTON, Wash. -- The Seattle Seahawks' facility, festively cloaked in a cool mint green -- the team calls the hue "Seahawk" green while Nike prefers "Action" -- in a Lake Washington neighborhood populated by pine trees, would be an ideal holiday venue even if Christmas weren't a week away.
As it was, the spirit of the season was crackling through the building. A massive faux fir tree dominated the lobby, and a holiday-themed play was being performed in the auditorium for the staff. Despite Tuesday's official status as a work-free day, a number of players made cameo appearances.
|In his first outing against the 49ers, Russell Wilson completed only 9 of 23 passes.|
This was more than appropriate, for the Seahawks have made a nice living this season playing themselves -- perhaps, in a week or two, all the way to the playoffs. On the national stage Sunday night, 9-5 Seattle will host the 10-3-1 San Francisco 49ers in a game that will go a long way toward defining the NFC postseason pecking order.
"We're fighting for a championship," coach Pete Carroll said. "That's all I could ever ask for. We've got a chance to do something special."
Quarterback Russell Wilson, who has been a rookie revelation, was more direct.
"It will be a war, a sight to see," he said.
This looks like a collision that could bend steel.
The 49ers, coming off a thrilling victory at New England, have allowed a league-low 218 points; the grudging Seahawks have permitted only one more. Last week, San Francisco scored 41 points on the Patriots; the Seahawks have dropped 50 points or more in back-to-back games, tied for the third-largest two-game total in league history.
Seattle has won three straight and five of six. This wasn't totally unexpected. The Seahawks won five of their final eight games last season and, after the expensive acquisition of free-agent quarterback Matt Flynn, were seen by some as a playoff team. Few thought Wilson, the No. 75 overall pick, would wind up under center, though.
How difficult was the decision to go with Wilson?
"Maybe not as tough as you might think," Carroll said. "It was all about the competition to me and didn't have anything to do with the money."
In May, Carroll got his first inkling of what was to come.
"When I saw him practicing in minicamp, he just took over," said Carroll, who is 24-24 in his almost three seasons in Seattle, including playoffs. "He was running the show, and he could hang, and nothing was too big from him."
Said wide receiver Golden Tate: "I refer to him as almost like a perfect person. He doesn't make mistakes."
Of course he does, but ...
"I tried to establish myself in this organization right away," Wilson said. "Just tried to be a great leader and a guy that's going to be a tremendous competitor and have relentless attention to detail."
While No. 1 overall choice Andrew Luck of the Colts and the Redskins' No. 2 pick Robert Griffin III have hoarded most of the attention surrounding the Class of 2012 quarterbacks, Wilson has held his own. He has thrown for 21 touchdowns, one more than Luck. Though Griffin has rushed for six touchdowns, he never ran into the end zone three times in a single half as Wilson did last week in Toronto against the Bills.
Wilson, who has thrown only nine interceptions, has a passer rating of 95.5 that belies his inexperience. He has a better rating than Drew Brees of the Saints and the Lions' Matt Stafford, who both threw for more than 5,000 yards last season.
There is a good chance Wilson will post the second-highest rookie total ever for touchdown passes. Peyton Manning tossed 26 in 1998, but he threw 28 interceptions as well.
|How tough was the decision to go start rookie Russell Wilson this season? "Maybe not as tough as you might think," Pete Carroll says.|
The Seahawks think Wilson should be considered for rookie of the year along with his more famous classmates.
"The only thing you can't put him in the conversation with, he wasn't a first-round draft pick," Carroll said. "Those guys were taken 1-2, so that's why all the focus goes there. They've warranted it. They are fantastic players. Great kids in every way -- but so is our guy.
"To really take a legitimate look at who's doing what, you have to consider him."
Tate shook his head.
"Most of the world probably didn't think Russell Wilson was going to be a starter in the NFL his first year," he said. "You didn't expect & for the Seattle Seahawks to have a rookie quarterback and & him playing to go to the playoffs."
Ultimately, Wilson's success -- and the Seahawks' -- may rest with running back Marshawn Lynch. He is second in NFL rushing to the Vikings' remarkable Adrian Peterson with 1,379 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Lynch carried 19 times for 103 yards in the Seahawks' 13-6 loss to the 49ers in Week 7. Wilson looked like the rookie he was, completing 9 of 23 passes for 122 yards. Looked -- past tense.
Fourteen games in, Wilson is a rookie no more. And Seattle is playing like a legitimate team again.
"The key is protecting the ball, making the right play at the right time," Wilson said. "You can't shy away from the moment."