Russell Wilson and Christian Ponder on contrasting trajectories

Weeks ago I wrote that Seattle had fallen behind the 49ers as my NFC West title pick largely because of the offensive limitations presented by Seattle’s quarterback position in contrast to the improved play of Alex Smith. On Sunday, Christian Ponder’s struggles and Russell Wilson’s ability to move the chains in rhythm illuminated the division title prospects of both Minnesota and Seattle, and the new trajectories of their quarterbacks.

Russell Wilson seemed to scramble for his life more often than confidently dropping into the pocket and finding a receiver 10 yards downfield. It was shot play, check-down or bust. That is when they weren’t feeding Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin.

After Week 5, I wrote the following here on Insert Sports Word:

“But for crying out loud Wilson’s 29th in yards, yards per pass and quarterback rating, and the Seahawks fellow skill position players certainly aren’t the league’s worst.”

Well, since then Wilson has only played better each week and his underrated slew of receiving options — particularly Sidney Rice and Golden Tate — are helping him open up the pass game, finally getting the blessing of Pete Carroll and Darrell Bevell to do so.

Eliminating the ground-and-pound defensive battle at San Francisco where Wilson was brutalized by dropped passes to boot, since Week 5 Wilson has compiled a 7-2 TD-INT ratio and three of his four highest yards-per-attempt marks of the season.

Wilson’s turnaround has coincided with Ponder’s decline. The second-year starter kicked 2012 off in vastly improved form before cooling down the past three weeks. Ponder followed a 352-yard afternoon in Washington with 58, 251 and 63-yard games. Yes, that’s double-digits.

This is somewhat a product of attempts but not enough to make this even close to excusable with QB ratings of 35.5, 74.8 and 37.3 and yards-per-attempt of 3.4, 7.2 and 2.9 in the past three games. Glack.

Some of this may be due to defenses smarting up to the Vikings approach with Ponder, as Minnesota has babied the second-year starter even by rookie standards. Of quarterbacks who have started each of their team’s games, only Robert Griffin III and Alex Smith have attempted fewer passes over 20 yards according to Pro Football Focus. Ponder is supported by neither the legs nor the defense for this strategy to be sustainably effective.

Two young quarterbacks in run-first offenses hit the field in Seattle on Sunday. One has launched a long-dormant pass offense while the other may have hit rock bottom.

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