Seattle's Wilson approaching Manning's rookie TD mark

RENTON, Wash. — Looks like August.

That's the best way to summarize the way Russell Wilson has played these past five games for the Seahawks.

Seattle's rookie quarterback is playing the same way he did back when he arrived in training camp and hit the ground running. And throwing. And doing just about anything else he wanted in his first chance at facing NFL competition.

The difference is that it's the regular season, and there's no doubt how hard the opponent is trying or whether the starters are in the game. Defensive coordinators are working late into the night, trying to cook up something that Seattle's rookie can't digest. Yet Wilson is getting better as this season progresses.

It has been more than a month since he was last intercepted, and he is seven touchdown passes away from matching Peyton Manning's NFL rookie record of 26. Wilson is making the kinds of plays that won him the starting job in August. Now those plays are winning games in December.

Wilson has caught up to the speed of a regular-season NFL game and the complexity of the defenses. The game is starting to slow down for him.

It's the culmination of a process the Seahawks clearly staked out, starting from the moment Wilson was thrust into the quarterback competition in the offseason and continuing into August when the exhibition games became his own personal showcase.

"We weren't that protective of him early on," coach Pete Carroll said. "We were just trying to see what the scope, what the range of his play could be. We were very aggressive in those games, and that brought out the best in him."

Wilson threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to Braylon Edwards on his first possession of the preseason and ran 32 yards for a score later in that game. Wilson threw for two touchdowns in a start at Kansas City, rushed for 58 yards and was named Seattle's starting quarterback two days later.

When the regular season began, though, the menu changed.

"We did reel back a little bit," Carroll said.

Wilson had five completions that gained 30 yards or more in the four exhibition games, but just one in the first four regular-season games. He had three rushes of 25 or more yards in August, but ran for more than 20 yards total in only one of the first eight regular-season games.

This was part of a plan. It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes an entire franchise to groom a rookie quarterback, and Seattle began the regular season determined not to pile so much upon Wilson that the offense caved in on top of him.

"We tried not to have any big fallback steps where we had a game that would really crush him," Carroll said.

Now, after 12 regular-season games and with Seattle's playoff hopes at risk, the Seahawks turned the game over to their rookie quarterback on the road while playing a Bears team that had allowed the second-fewest points in the league.

The result? He completed the final seven passes he attempted for 97 yards and two touchdowns in addition to rushing five times for 47 yards on Seattle's final two possessions.

He made a December game in Chicago look as easy as that exhibition game in Kansas City when he won Seattle's starting job.

"It has taken us some time to get back to that," Carroll said. "Whether it's to be criticized or not, I don't care. That's the way we did it.

"Now, we're happy to see that we're at a point now as we start the fourth quarter of our season, and here we go, we can go for it."

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