Here are some more thoughts that have been rattling around in my head, kind of in order as they tumble:
1.The season started, imo,with a lot of optimism, but reasonably modest expectations. We returned a fantastic defense from last year, as well as an established run game and an O line that was expected to be fairly good with a year together under their belt. The big question mark was at QB, we had a toung, dynamic looking new kid, but he was a rookie, and general consensus says you kind of write off his first year while he adjusts to the pro game. I think this attitude infused the entire offense, they knew he looked good, but they also knew they weren't expected to be electric this year, and combined with the coaches keeping the brakes on, the offense never really seemed to buy into Russell 100%.He looked good, even great at times, But I feel the team was still mostly watching and judging still: could this kid, with his attitude and work ethic, be for real? Carroll comments in a presser somewhere that even he had douvbts at the very beginning, Russell just seemed too good to be true.
2. Chicago happened. Russell had been pretty consistently improving, shouldering more and more responsibility, but late in the Chi game, he told the huddle "This is it . . . this is what it comes down to" Then he went out and willed his team to a win . . only not. So he went and willed his team to the win AGAIN. This looked to me like the point at which the rest of the team fully bought in to Russell. Everything before, he was still just a rookie . . in Chicago, he earned the respect and beleif of every doubter on the team. It CANNOT be easy to come in fresh from college and take over a huddle full of guys like Marshawn, Zach, MRob. These are vets, guys who PROVIDE leadership, and Russell had ro earn the respect of them all. He has it now .. he is no longer the rookie, the kid, the new guy butting in . . he is their qb and leadetr now, and he is for real.
2a. With the emergence of Russell, and the new confidence the rest of the team has in him, the expectations are no longer pedestrian . . they took care of his learning season in the first 11 games . . in essence, this is his sophomore season now . . he has shown he can handle it, and thje team is now ready to follow him through a brick wall.
3. Russell is real now .. teams MUST account for him. The first half of the season, opponents came into the game detirmined to take Marshawn out of the game, and make the rest of the offense beat them. It worked somewhat, leading to a lot of close games, wins and losses, where the offense went in fits and starts. Now, however, teams have to plan for Russell, this opens thing up for the run game, which you can see in the improved yards per carry lately. ( I have not researched this, but by eyeball, Marshawn and Turbin both are having a much easier time finding yards) Yes, the line is run blocking well, but you have to give Russell a little credit . . teams cannot sell out against our run now, without RW making them pay, over and over again.
I am having a ball watch all these elements on our team come together now, at the time when it is most important to play well. Enjoy, Hawks fans, this is magic we are witnessing!