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Russell Wilson’s Return to Seattle Ends in Loss

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SEATTLE — It didn’t take long for the Seattle Seahawks and their fans to maneuver on from the Russell Wilson era. Never mind that he had led the team through a decade of winning. Never mind that he had helped secure the team’s only Super Bowl title.

The Seahawks traded Wilson to the Denver Broncos within the off-season after he grew disillusioned along with his former team’s lack of protection for him, and its unwillingness to offer him a voice in personnel decisions. Ultimately, the gap between Wilson and the club grew too wide to shut.

That gap was an enormous reason Wilson, despite all his success during 10 seasons in Seattle, was showered with boos from the moment he took the sphere for warm-ups before the Broncos played the Seahawks of their season opener on Monday. The boos continued when the teams re-emerged for kickoff, and each time Wilson touched the ball or overthrew a receiver.

The boos only stopped, in reality, once they were replaced by Seattle cheers in the sport’s final moments: Wilson’s final drive ended when Broncos Coach Nathaniel Hackett opted to send out kicker Brandon McManus for a 64-yard field goal attempt with 20 seconds on the clock. With Wilson watching from the sideline, his night over, McManus missed the kick, allowing the Seahawks to flee with a 17-16 victory.

“They might cheer for you, they could boo you, they could love you sooner or later and hate you the following,” the relentlessly upbeat Wilson said, attempting to put a positive spin on the loss. “That’s sports.”

Wilson very nearly silenced his doubters, passing for 340 yards and a touchdown and repeatedly connecting along with his recent receivers, Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton, for large gains.

Playing from behind within the third quarter, Wilson led the Broncos on back-to-back drives into the red zone. However the Broncos got here away with no points because his running backs, Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams, fumbled on goal-line stands to assist the Seahawks maintain a 17-13 lead. The heralded Denver defense also did Wilson few favors. Denver had 12 penalties overall, for 106 yards, but several by the defense allowed the Seahawks to increase drives.

But Wilson said he had no problem with Hackett’s decision to go to McManus to attempt to win the sport.

“I don’t think it was the flawed decision; I feel he could make it,” Wilson said. “Obviously in hindsight, we didn’t make it, but when we were in that situation again, I wouldn’t doubt whatever he decided.”

Many great quarterbacks, in fact, have returned to their first homes in recent colours. Brett Favre to Green Bay. Peyton Manning to Indianapolis. Tom Brady to Recent England. Normally, fans often put aside their tribal loyalties — briefly — to understand their former favorites before jeering them once the sport begins.

Wilson didn’t even enjoy that much in his return to Seattle. He was sacked twice and hit quite a few times, much to the delight of the sellout crowd at Lumen Field. Fans held signs that said “Show Russ the Boom,” a reference to Seattle’s famed Legion of Boom defense, and “12 > 3,” a nod to the Seahawks’ nickname for his or her fans — the twelfth Man — and Wilson’s No. 3 jersey.

“I didn’t wear my Wilson jersey because he’s not a Seahawk anymore,” said Sean Reay, a longtime season-ticket holder who as a substitute arrived in a Brian Blades jersey in honor of the Seahawks receiver from the Nineties. “Sooner or later, Wilson will come back to have his number retired and other people will go crazy. I’ll wear it then.”

Seahawks fans seemed to be so over Wilson that they treated his former understudy, Geno Smith, as Seattle’s recent savior. Smith threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to tight end Will Dissly on the Seahawks’ first drive, prompting the gang to chant “Ge-no! Ge-no!” as if he was an M.V.P. contender.

“Within the N.F.L., you never know when the momentum goes to shift,” Smith said. “Any time you’re at home, any time, you ought to start that first drive and go down and rating.”

After nine well-traveled but lackluster seasons, including two as a backup to Wilson, Smith — now playing for his fourth N.F.L. team — said he finally felt vindicated.

“They wrote me off, but I ain’t write back,” he said of his critics.

Smith accomplished his first 13 passes, 23 of 28 overall, and finished with 195 yards and two touchdowns. Unlike Wilson, he left the sphere to cheers.

Despite the cool reception he received in Seattle, Wilson appears to have regained a measure of control in Denver, where he now plays for a defensively sound team considered one franchise quarterback away from contending.

The booing “didn’t trouble me,” Wilson said. “This can be a hostile environment. At all times has been. I gave the whole lot I had here day-after-day.”

Known for his attention to detail, Wilson appears just as focused in Colorado. When he enters the lobby of the Denver Broncos’ facility, he touches the glass that protects the team’s three Lombardi Trophies, taking a moment in front of them to reflect.

Presumably, Wilson ponders how determined he’s to win one other Super Bowl. Indeed, in July, Wilson posted a video of his training in orange and blue cleats decked with a Lombardi Trophy on the back. Beside the trophy were the words “4th Coming Soon.”

The Broncos’ recent owners, the Walton family, were so confident in Wilson’s potential that they rewarded him this month with a five-year contract extension value $245 million.

In Seattle, the ambitions are more modest. The Seahawks should not expected to compete for the playoffs within the N.F.C. as they overhaul the remaining of their roster beyond quarterback. But in beating Wilson, Seattle took its first step toward a recent era.

Ben Shpigel contributed reporting from Englewood, Colo.

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