Posted: Monday October 15, 2012 8:29AM ; Updated: Tuesday October 16, 2012 12:56PM
Peter King
Peter King>MONDAY MORNING QB

Quickly maturing Wilson, Giants' rout headline upside-down Week 6

Story Highlights

Russell Wilson's fourth-quarter comeback shows how he's improving each week

Giants used smarts, bulletin board material, to own NFC title rematch with 49ers

Aging Steelers; Fine Fifteen; Awards of the Week and Ten Things I Think I Think

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Tim Masthay
Green Bay punter Tim Masthay had this punt blocked by Bryan Braman of Houston and recovered for a touchdown by DeVier Posey of the Texans during Week 6.
John W. McDonough/SI

The longer you follow pro football, the more you realize why the game's so much fun and so maddening. I mean, we're six weeks into the season and who really knows anything?

Sunday was just another brick in the wall.

Russell Wilson 24, Tom Brady 23.

Reeling Green Bay 42, Almighty Houston 24. At Houston.

Former Niners owner Eddie DeBartolo to Sam Farmer of the L.A. Times, on the 49ers, after their 79-3 dismantling of the Jets and Bills in Weeks 4 and 5: "They're better than anybody they're going to play ... I don't see a weakness."

Sunday at Candlestick: New York Giants 26, San Francisco 3.

Buffalo gives up 97 points in two weeks and, in crisis, travels to the 4-1 Cards. In overtime: Buffalo 19, Arizona 16.

The Jets, finishing a three-game homestand against the NFL's wunderkind rookie quarterback. New York 35, Andrew Luck-led Indianapolis 9, this after the Jets had lost the first two games of the homestand by a combined 57-17.

The AFC East: New York 3-3, New England 3-3, Buffalo 3-3, Miami 3-3.

"The league's really wacky this year,'' Bills safety Jairus Byrd said from Arizona Sunday evening. "Anything can happen. Just look at us."

Look at anybody.

***

We have to stop calling rookies rookies

STATS Inc. came up with this great number last week: Through the first five weeks of the season, not only were the Miami Dolphins leading all NFL teams in use of the no-huddle, running it on 58.9 percent of the snaps, but also they were more productive in the no-huddle, averaging nearly a yard more per play when they didn't huddle than when they did ... with a rookie quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, running the controls.

Tannehill, according to STATS Inc., ran 26 snaps of no-huddle in his first NFL game and never slowed down. In the stunning upset of the Packers in Week 5, Andrew Luck ran 13 snaps of no-huddle -- something his coach, Bruce Arians, said Peyton Manning never did until his third or fourth year in the league. College teams are running three- and four-receiver sets so regularly, and high-school quarterbacks enter college football so much more ready to play because of summer seven-on-seven passing leagues. Young quarterbacks walk onto NFL teams so much more confident and ready than their current veteran NFL peers were.

Rookie quarterbacks were 4-1 Sunday, first-pick Luck the only loser, and Cleveland's Brandon Weeden getting his first pro victory. What should amaze us all is the quick maturation of them all. Robert Griffin III runs the Redskins like it's Baylor. Tannehill picked up where he left off at Texas A&M. And Russell Wilson -- more about him later -- has overcome the height and rookie thing to beat Tony Romo, Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton and Tom Brady in the first six weeks of his pro career.

"In college football,'' Cleveland coach Pat Shurmur told me Sunday evening, "Geno Smith throws eight touchdowns in a game, and he might drop back and see every receiver open. Here, you might drop back and everyone's covered. So the young quarterback has to learn to take what's there.''

The last time rookie quarterbacks went 1-2 in a draft, before this year, was 1998, with Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf. The landscape's changed dramatically in 14 years, obviously, in how quickly rookies can be ready to play. Check out the first six weeks of the rookie starters in 1998 versus 2012:

Comparing Rookie QB Classes
W-L TDs-INTs
Manning-Leaf, 1998 3-9 7-26
Luck-Griffin-Tannehill-Weeden-Wilson, 2012 13-16 31-31

So you say: Well, 13-16's not a great record. But these quarterbacks landed on teams that went a combined 24-56 last year. Wilson, Griffin and Tannehill have already exceeded or matched Manning's three rookie-season wins with the Colts.

Sometimes we're in the middle of history and don't realize what we're seeing. But there's a new era of quarterback play, and it's trending much younger and happening before our eyes today.

***

Now for the news of a fun weekend.

The maturation of Russell Wilson. After his sixth NFL game Sunday, a 24-23 win over the Patriots at home, Wilson told Tom Brady on the field, "I have so much respect for you as a player and a person. It's great to play against you." He walked through the Seattle locker room, shaking hands with every player. He stopped to share a few moments with owner Paul Allen. In his post-game press conference, during which he deflected any praise about himself toward the team, he finished the way he finishes interviews broadcast live to Seattle fans: "Go Hawks!''

Good teammate. Good politician. Good guy. And a very quick study as a quarterback.

Last week, at Carolina, the coaches wanted him to play better on third downs; Wilson completed nine of 10 passes on third down in beating the Panthers. This week, coaches harped on two things: better production in the red zone, and, when scrambling, throwing the ball downfield if he had someone open, rather than running or taking the surer checkdown. Seattle scored on two of three trips into the red zone Sunday. And he threw 24- and 50-yard completions to Doug Baldwin on the run, flowing right.

Thirteen points down to Brady, in a heavy Seattle mist with nine minutes to go, Wilson led an 83-yard drive ending in his red-zone touchdown pass to Braylon Edwards. He got the ball back at his 43 with two minutes and change left. On the fourth play of the drive, from the Patriots' 46, Wilson started with play-action and rolled right. He said he wasn't sure Sidney Rice would be his target, and how could he know he'd be victimizing two New England rookies? But then he saw something: Rice getting an edge on a double-move on Tavon Wilson, feigning toward the corner then darting to the post.

"I had a feeling he'd open up,'' Wilson told me. "You never really wait until a guy is open. You have to anticipate. And I delivered the ball to a spot where I thought only Sidney would be able to catch it.''

Throwing from his own 46, Wilson released a high-arcing perfect spiral. Downfield, safety Nate Ebner, another New England rookie, sprinted over to help the Patriots' Wilson, who was two steps behind Rice. The ball landed 57 yards from the spot Wilson threw it, three yards deep in the end zone -- and right into Rice's hands. Perfect throw.

When Seattle GM John Schneider picked Wilson 75th overall, he was privately chided by his peers for picking Wilson too high. He's too small (5-foot-11), football people said; he won't be able to take the punishment of the pro game, and his arm's just okay. It's only six games, of course, and anything can happen, and he's had a couple of games of shaky decision-making. But that throw to Rice, 57 yards in the air and exactly on target, with a game against the three-time Super Bowl champions on the line, shows why Schneider made a great draft pick.

I asked Wilson if he was stunned to have beaten Tom Brady and the Patriots, with the Belichick-designed defense.

"No,'' he said. "Not at all. This is what I've been waiting for my whole life. God's given me a blessing and an opportunity. I've always looked up to Tom, even though he's 6-4, 6-5 and a different kind of player. He's so smart, got so much competitive fire and tenacity. He didn't get drafted high, and he had to work for everything he ever got. I really identify with him. I try to prepare the same way I know he prepares.''

There are good stories, and there's Russell Wilson beating the Patriots to send the loudest crowd in the NFL into bedlam.

 
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