Rus­sell Wil­son has new weapon against Carolina Pan­thers

Tri-City Herald (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY GREGG BELL [email protected]­new­stri­bune.com

Seat­tle Seahawks quar­ter­back Rus­sell Wil­son now has a weapon he hasn’t had in the al­most semi-an­nual games against the Pan­thers.

He’s got a for­mer Pan­ther. Ed Dick­son has pro­vided a mid­sea­son boost with sub­tle, vet­eran ex­per­tise for Seat­tle’s pass­ing game. He missed the first six weeks with leg in­juries.

Sun­day, the 31-year-old tight end is re­turn­ing to his home field of the pre­vi­ous four sea­sons, Bank of Amer­ica Sta­dium in Char­lotte. He will be wear­ing the Seahawks’ road whites in­stead of Carolina’s home jer­seys when Seat­tle (5-5) plays Carolina (6-4) in a key game for the NFC’s play­off po­si­tion­ing. Dick­son ex­pects a wel­come as warm as Sun­day’s ex­pected game tem­per­a­tures in the 60s. “It wasn’t like I left on bad terms. It was free agency, and I found a home (in Seat­tle),” he said. “I’ve def­i­nitely got a lot of friends, and some fam­ily – there is some fam­ily there now. … It will be a lot of hugs and ev­ery­thing.”

Dick­son, a na­tive of In­gle­wood south of Los An­ge­les, played col­le­giately for Ore­gon be­fore the Bal­ti­more Ravens drafted him in 2010. He joined the Pan­thers be­fore the 2014 sea­son. He played in all 64 reg­u­lar-sea­son games with 41 starts for Carolina from 2014 through last sea­son.

Dick­son was Cam New­ton’s in­tended re­ceiver at a huge mo­ment in the NFC di­vi­sional play­off game at Cen­tu­ryLink Field in Jan­uary 2015. Kam Chan­cel­lor in­ter­cepted New­ton’s pass in front of Dick­son.

Seat­tle’s iconic safety re­turned that 90 yards for the game-break­ing score, and the Seahawks went on to play in Su­per Bowl 49.

A gi­ant pho­to­graph of that play is on a long wall astride the in­door prac­tice field at team head­quar­ters. It shows Chan­cel­lor run­ning to the cam­era, to the north end zone, and Dick­son in the back­ground chas­ing in vain. Dick­son gets to see that each work day as he walks from the Seahawks’ locker room to their meet­ing room at team head­quar­ters.

“Take it down. Take it down,” Dick­son joked. “That’s what I thought when I first saw it: Take it down!

“I told Kam Chan­cel­lor, ‘You know, if that pass was a sec­ond ear­lier it’s a touch­down and we’re cel­e­brat­ing.’ ”

Dick­son re­mains tight with the Pan­thers’ star Greg Olsen, whom he re­placed as Carolina’s starter last year af­ter Olsen’s early-sea­son in­jury. Dick­son also counts as friends Carolina de­fen­sive line­men Mario Ad­di­son and Kawann Short, plus Shaq Thomp­son, the for­mer Univer­sity of Wash­ing­ton line­backer.

“We were a close-knit fam­ily there,” Dick­son said. “Even coach (Ron) Rivera, from his wife to his daugh­ter, a lot of peo­ple have shown me a lot of love in that city. I’m got a lot of re­spect for them.

“Ev­ery­thing. From my fam­ily, to my wife and kids at the time, the things that (the Riveras) did, they are so heav­ily in­volved in that or­ga­ni­za­tion and com­mu­nity. I can’t say enough about them.”

But, Dick­son added: “Once the ball’s snapped, I’m there to win the game for the Seat­tle Seahawks.”

It’s a rather large one to win. For both teams.

The Seahawks are com­ing off a come­back win over Green Bay at home 10 days ago. They are a half-game be­hind Min­nesota and a game be­hind Carolina for the two wild­card play­off spots in the NFC. Six games re­main in the reg­u­lar sea­son. Seat­tle hosts San Fran­cisco next week, then the Vik­ings Dec. 10.

The Pan­thers have lost two straight, a 52-21 blowout de­feat at Pitts­burgh and a 20-19 loss at Detroit last week­end. Rivera had Carolina go for a two­point con­ver­sion and the win late in that Lions game. New­ton’s pass was too high for his re­ceiver in the end zone, and the Pan­thers’ lead over the Seahawks for a play­off berth slipped back.

Ram­i­fi­ca­tions ga­lore Sun­day in Char­lotte.

“Well, I’ll tell you this much: If you don’t win, it doesn’t mat­ter what the ram­i­fi­ca­tions are,” said Rivera, who coached Dick­son, New­ton and the Pan­thers past the Seahawks in Char­lotte in the play­offs in Jan­uary 2016, and to a 17-1 record that sea­son be­fore los­ing to Den­ver in Su­per Bowl 50.

“You’ve got to go out and take care of your busi­ness be­fore you can do any­thing else.”

Dick­son and Wil­son have been tak­ing care of their busi­ness be­fore, dur­ing and af­ter prac­tices since the tight end re­joined the team late last month. Dick­son, this year’s re­place­ment for de­parted Jimmy Gra­ham in Seat­tle, caught a touch­down pass in tight cov­er­age against Detroit on Oct. 28 in his de­layed Seahawks de­but.

Dick­son’s vet­eran savvy truly showed up last week, in a large mo­ment against the Pack­ers.

Seahawks of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Brian Schot­ten­heimer worked Wil­son and Dick­son on a slot­for­ma­tion play to ex­ploit a Green Bay dou­ble blitz they’d seen com­ing off the of­fense’s left edge. They planned for Green Bay cor­ner­back Josh Jack­son and line­backer Clay Matthews to storm free off the end, and leave mid­dle line­backer Blake Mar­tinez re­spon­si­ble with drop­ping and slid­ing hard from left cen­ter to right for a dif­fi­cult cover be­hind Matthews’ blitz.

Schot­ten­heimer drew up a for­ma­tion that put Dick­son in the short left slot a few yards wider than his nor­mal tight on left end. That would make Mar­tinez’s job harder in cov­er­ing him from the other hash mark. If Matthews blitzes, Dick­son was to run a quick go route be­hind where he just va­cated. If Matthews fakes and stays, Dick­son was to run a drag route across the field away from him and past Mar­tinez.

The Pack­ers rarely blitzed Seat­tle. It looked like the game may end with Schot­ten­heimer’s in­stalled play go­ing for naught. But with 5:11 to go and the Seahawks fac­ing third-and-9 at the Green Bay 15 with Seat­tle down 24-20, Wil­son and Dick­son no­ticed the ex­act blitz look from the Pack­ers they’d been wait­ing for.

Wil­son looked at Dick­son, who looked at Wil­son, who could not wait to get the shot­gun snap from cen­ter Justin Britt. On cue, Jack­son and Matthews crashed in off Seat­tle’s left edge. Wil­son took one step af­ter he got the ball and fired a dart to Dick­son, who ran that sim­ple seam route. It was re­fresh­ingly sim­ple, an old-school “pop” pass to the tight end. As de­signed, Wil­son’s pass ar­rived too quickly for Mar­tinez to get there; Dick­son eas­ily caught the pass for the go-ahead touch­down.

“I think two vet­eran play­ers, they work, they work a lit­tle bit af­ter prac­tice each day. They know that they have to get caught up whether it’s throw­ing a cou­ple of routes ex­tra af­ter prac­tice,” Schot­ten­heimer said.

ELAINE THOMP­SON AP

Seat­tle Seahawks quar­ter­back Rus­sell Wil­son, shown here warm­ing up 10 days ago, is 5-2 all-time against the Pan­thers, who he will be fac­ing in Bank of Amer­ica Sta­dium in down­town Char­lotte.

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