INDIANAPOLIS — Russell Wilson is many things: a Super Bowl champion, a three-time Pro Bowler, an undeniably great quarterback.
Chuck Pagano has another name for him: "Houdini."
As a quarterback, Wilson does many things well, but his uncanny ability to avoid pass rushers, squeeze through impossible gaps in defensive fronts, miraculously spin out of collapsing pockets and extend plays with his feet has the Indianapolis Colts coaching staff on alert this week.
Ahead of the Colts' (1-2) matchup with the Seattle Seahawks (1-2) on NBC's Sunday Night Football, the Indianapolis defense is prepping for this pass-rush escape artist, but Pagano is operating under no illusions. He has no doubt, sooner or later, Wilson will break containment.
"He's going to get out. I'm telling you right now," Pagano told reporters on Wednesday. "Just get ready to write it. You can write it right now. He's going to escape, and he's going to get out. That's him. He's really, really special."
Colts defensive coordinator Ted Monachino also acknowledged this unique challenge. After giving up some rushing yardage to Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer last week and now in anticipation of Wilson, Monachino made some adjustments to his defense this week.
"(Wilson) presents a completely different set of circumstances and issues, and we've got some things in this week's package to hopefully remedy some of that," Monachino said. "We gave up 44 yards rushing to a quarterback (Kizer) a week ago, so we've turned up the volume on how we've got to take care of quarterbacks."
Wilson can of course do damage with his speed running the ball once he breaks out of the pocket – he's ran for 2,789 yards (5.5 avg.) and 13 touchdowns in his five-year career – but the real problem is the way he can look up while on the run and find receivers down field after a play has broken down.
"We've got to do a great job in the back end of plastering wide receivers when he does escape," Pagano said. "He's got a really, really strong arm, and he's always got his eyes down the field. He can make all the throws moving to his left, moving to his right, and he can burn you."
Wilson has dangerous options often running open as well — notably reliable wide receiver Doug Baldwin and explosive, All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham.
But it should be noted, despite all this praise and all of this talent, this Seahawks offense has struggled at times this season. In fact, the unit generated only one touchdown and 21 points total through the first two games – a 17-9 loss to the Green Bay Packers and a 12-9 win over the San Francisco 49ers.
A variety of factors have contributed to Seattle's slow start. The offensive line has allowed seven sacks through three games; Wilson has been guilty of a few errant throws here and there, and his completion rate (57.4 percent) is well below his career average (64.4); dropped passes haven't helped those completion numbers, either.
"We haven't functioned as cleanly (early in games), we just haven't," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said this week, via Seahawks.com. "We didn't at Green Bay, and we dropped a couple balls that would have made a world of difference in game two, and it was hard getting started in game three."
Whatever the problems were, the offense seemed to begin righting itself in the second half of last week's game at Tennessee. After a sluggish first half in which the Seahawks punted on their first six possessions and produced only five first downs and 127 net yards, Seattle racked up 19 first downs and 306 yards in the second half. A majority of that yardage came from Wilson, who caught fire going 22-of-33 for 263 yards and three touchdowns after halftime.
So perhaps the Seahawks have found their offensive rhythm in time for their primetime Week 4 matchup with the Colts. Either way, the Indy defense has a tough challenge in front of it against Houdini and his assistants on Sunday night.