For some reason, there is a wide perception that the Seahawks’ offensive line played horribly against Arizona’s aggressive defense and quarterback Russell Wilson was under duress all game Sunday. A review of the game video shows that is simply not true.
Yes, the blitz-happy Cardinals sacked Wilson three times and hit him a few more. Yes, there were breakdowns in communication a few times. Yes, left tackle Russell Okung had a horrible game with three false starts and then compounded that with a knee injury.
The one place where the line did not fare well was on first downs. The Seahawks were in second-and-8 or longer 13 times in 28 sets of downs. Too many short runs and incompletions.
But to put it all on the line is not at all accurate.
If you want to blame someone, blame the coaches for not coming up with a good game plan. Blame them for playing a rookie quarterback who was sure to be flustered at times (and was). Blame them for making the rookie try to beat the blitz by himself all game.
Many of the so-called breakdowns were completely scheme related, with Arizona blitzing a man that Wilson had to account for. And the coaches rarely moved him out of the pocket to keep him a moving target; the Cardinals obviously were focused on containing him.
The coaches also failed to take advantage of the middle of the field, which often was vacated by blitzers. Tight ends Zach Miller and Anthony McCoy should have been much bigger factors.
The Cardinals blitzed on about 20 of Seattle’s 37 pass plays, and two of the three sacks came on the final 18-play drive on which Arizona blitzed 12 times.
The first sack, on the third drive, was a delayed blitz by Paris Lenon on a rollout by Wilson. Can’t blame that one on the line; Lenon was Wilson’s responsibility.
Later in that drive, Marshawn Lynch was called for holding as Wilson chose to leave the pocket. Then rookie J.R. Sweezy and center Max Unger failed to block Darnell Dockett, who flushed Wilson into a 1-yard scramble.
On the fourth possession, the line picked up a blitz and Wilson hit Sidney Rice on third down for a first. They blocked well again on third-and-6 with about two minutes left in the half, but Wilson panicked. Rather than stepping up into a great pocket, he ran back to his right and then threw incomplete out of bounds to the left side. It was one of the rookie’s worst plays.
On the fifth drive, with time winding down, Okung false-started at midfield on first down and then Wilson threw a pick to end the half.
On the first drive of the third quarter, the play calling hurt Seattle. On third-and-1, they ran a designed bootleg and Wilson could not find anyone as he was being chased; he managed to get two yards for the first down.
The next play was a running back screen in the flat, but left guard Paul McQuistan let Calais Campbell through too quickly, causing Wilson to rush his pass to Lynch, who was covered by Sam Acho. It turned out to be a lateral that was recovered by Arizona, which took possession after review overturned the incorrect ruling of an incompletion. This was a poorly conceived play against this aggressive defense.
On the seventh drive, set up by Leon Washington’s 83-yard kick return, Wilson had a second-down pass batted down by Campbell but then hit Rice on third-and-9 for a touchdown. That pass came against four-man pressure, which Wilson did well against for most of the game.
On the eighth possession, Wilson had tons of time against a four-man rush frozen briefly by play action and stonewalled by the O-line. But the QB couldn’t find a receiver and ended up running for one yard.
After Wilson was called for delay of game on third down, making it third-and-10, he was flushed from the pocket by a corner blitz and ended up running for five yards to set up a 47-yard field goal by Steven Hauschka.
On the ninth drive, Wilson had time against a four-man rush on third down but missed Braylon Edwards over the middle.
On the 10th possession, Wilson hit Edwards for a 16-yard completion against a four-man rush on second-and-11. On second-and-10 on the next series, he was blitzed and just missed Rice for a first down.
On third down, he had a good pocket despite a delayed blitz, but he panicked, started running around and finally dumped the ball to Robert Turbin for just a couple of yards. That was another rookie play where Wilson just didn’t look comfortable despite good time.
On the 11th drive, on second-and-9, McCoy missed a block on Quentin Groves on a play-action play; Groves buried Wilson as he threw the ball out of bounds, and Wilson was called for intentional grounding. A false start by Okung put the Hawks in third-and-26, but Lynch got 11 yards back to set up a 39-yard field goal.
The final drive is the one most people remember and probably why everyone thinks the line did such a bad job. But they did as well as could be expected considering Arizona blitzed on 12 of the 18 plays.
On the first play, Lynch picked up a blitz and Wilson hit Edwards for 11 yards.
Lynch ran for four yards and, on second down, right tackle Breno Giacomini whiffed on Dockett, who forced Wilson right into the rush of Lenon, the sixth rusher on the play.
On third-and-14, the Cards brought six again, but Wilson stood in and delivered to Charly Martin for 15 yards. Wilson was hammered by Dockett after the throw.
After another first down, the Cardinals rushed six and buried Wilson as he hurried an incomplete pass. On second-and-10, Wilson found Edwards for eight yards against a four-man rush. On third-and-2, Arizona brought seven men and Wilson got the first down with his feet.
On the next down, the Hawks kept seven blockers for five rushers and created a good, wide pocket, but Wilson felt harried anyway and threw incomplete to Doug Baldwin downfield. On second, Arizona rushed four and Wilson hit Lynch for five yards. On third-and-5, Arizona rushed six against six blockers and Campbell flushed Wilson for a sack by Daryl Washington. On fourth-and-6, Arizona again sent six, but Wilson got it off before Campbell nailed him again. Patrick Peterson interfered with Rice twice on the play, so the Hawks got the ball at the 13.
Arizona brought six again, but Wilson threw a nice ball to Edwards in the back corner. Michael Adams made a good play to knock it away just in time. On second down, facing a four-man rush and a nice pocket that parted down the middle, Wilson fired a dart to Baldwin, who couldn’t quite haul in a diving catch in the end zone. On third down, Arizona got a rare edge on Seattle with a four-man rush as left tackle Frank Omiyale, in for the injured Okung, let his man hit Wilson as he threw it. But, Arizona committed interference again.
That set up first-and-goal at the 6-yard line. After Lynch ran for two yards and the replacement officials spent about 10 minutes trying to figure out why they gave Seattle a fourth timeout with 30 seconds left, it came down to three passes. The Cardinals rushed six players on every play.
On second down, Wilson hurried a throw to the wrong side of Rice, and it was nearly picked by Peterson. On third down, Wilson just missed Martin in the back corner and got drilled again. And on the final play, Wilson just missed Edwards over the middle.
Those last three plays basically summed up this game. Seattle’s coaches made a rookie quarterback face a blitzing defense and try to throw to receivers he has barely worked with. It didn’t work for most of the game. And you can’t blame that on the offensive line.