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Seahawks Replay Booth: A salute to protection

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Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Russell Wilson finished his 2015 season with a flourish on Sunday, completing 19 of 27 passes for 197 yards and three touchdowns in three quarters of action. With the Week 17 performance, Wilson finished out the season's final seven games with a cool 132.8 rating, 24 touchdowns to one pick, while completing 71% of his passes at 8.78 YPA (!!!). Much of Wilson's turnaround down the homestretch can be attributed to a shift in offensive strategy, a stronger focus on getting the ball out quickly, and simply, a more confident and aggressive attitude by Wilson himself.

However, a large amount of credit is obviously due to the Seahawks' offensive line, who cleaned up a lot of their communication and protection issues and started creating some real, viable pockets for Wilson to throw from.

That was evident on a few key plays for the Seahawks on Sunday.

3-11-SEA 19 (11:07 2nd Quarter) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass deep middle to T.Lockett to ARZ 45 for 36 yards (J.Bethel).

The Cardinals threaten with five rushers here, and you can see the offensive line making adjustments based on that before the snap. However, in a 3rd and 11, Arizona decides to rush just three while spying with a fourth. Seattle's offensive line does as well against a 3-man rush as you could hope (which is to say, they completely stone it).

Above, watch Tyler Lockett's route. He gets the cornerback in coverage to "open the gates" and flip his hips outside, and at that moment, it's all over. Doug Baldwin's route up the middle of the field draws the deep safety in and makes it a one-on-one for Lockett. He goes up and makes the catch.

Wilson's going to make some big throws if he's given this kind of protection.

It's 36 yards, eazy peezy. Now, this is a seven-man protection (with two chips on the outside) against a three-man rush, so this is a case where you expect the offensive line to pick this up, but I still love the fact that Wilson has the chance to sit in there and take two hitches before throwing in rhythm. Even against three-man rushes in the past, we've seen him have to scramble.

This next play was just a few snaps later.

1-10-ARZ 34 (8:34 2nd Quarter) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass short middle to D.Baldwin to ARZ 19 for 15 yards (R.Johnson) [A.Okafor].

I remember seeing this play on the TV broadcast and being impressed with Wilson's decision to stick with the viable pocket.

I genuinely believe that in past years, Wilson would've looked to run almost immediately when seeing the right side of the pocket start to collapse. Instead, you can see him accept the fact that this is a workable pocket and if he hangs tough in it, step up, and deliver a throw, something big could happen. I remember thinking during the play that you could almost see Wilson physically fighting the urge to take off and scramble.

Instead, he hitches up, keeps his eyes downfield, and makes a catchable throw (though it was a great catch by Doug Baldwin).

Mark Glowinski falls off his block, which eventually leads to Wilson getting pressure in his face, but otherwise, what I like about his play is that the offensive line provides Wilson a pocket to pass from, and he uses it. You're not going to get pretty, flawless pockets most of the time. All of the elite passers can throw from a "muddied pocket" and that's what happens here.

The big thing is that Wilson demonstrates a lot of trust here in his guys, and it's something they've earned over the past two months. That's huge, and it's a big reason that his numbers have exploded.

3-7-ARZ 24 (2:15 2nd Quarter) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass deep left to J.Kearse for 24 yards, TOUCHDOWN

Ok, so we've broken down a play where protection was perfect, but expected, we've talked about a play where the offensive line provided Russell Wilson just enough time to make the play, and now let's take a look at a textbook piece of pass pro.

Late in the second quarter, the Seahawks faced a 3rd and 7 from the Cardinals' 24-yard line. Based on the way the Cardinals set up their coverage -- I'm not sure how he knew this, but you can tell by his body language that he did --  Wilson knew that Jermaine was going to be isolated on the outside. Sure enough, as the snap came, the Cardinals rotated in coverage into a zone blitz, dropping out of what looked like a Cover-2 into a single-high look, with five blitzing from the offensive right side. This, I imagine, was what Wilson was expecting -- for that safety to rotate into the deep middle.

Wilson threw an absolute dime. Look at where Kearse is when Wilson throws. Just about the 17-yard line. Drops it into a bucket between the oncoming safety and over the corner.

Here's the key -- look at the protection against this four-man front. It's picked. Up. Perfectly.

This play pretty perfect illustrates why it can be so tough to pass block against a blitz. Watch how everyone on the OL has to slide to their right and take an oncoming defender from out of their main zone.

1. Patrick Lewis moves to his right, picking up the defensive tackle/defensive end rushing from his right.

2. Fred Jackson, like a pro, picks up the blitzing linebacker that's coming through Lewis' left A-Gap.

3. Glowinski combos with Garry Gilliam to pick up the outside linebacker/defensive end that is rushing from the wide-9 spot. This is weird -- a guard picking up a nine-technique rusher. But it works, because Gilliam passes him off before taking the blitzing defensive back on the far right. It's textbook.


All in all, great protection, and while the glitzy stuff comes from Russell Wilson's throw and Jermaine Kearse's catch, it all started up front with the Seahawks picking up a pretty crafty Cardinals' zone blitz.


Leading up to Super Bowl 50, Gillette Fusion ProShield - which features lubrication strips before and after the blades to shield from irritation while you shave - is partnering with select NFL offensive linemen to celebrate the importance of protection.

They're calling all current, former and future offensive linemen and coaches - whether you play for fun, as part of an official team, or during your glory days - to submit a dance move that celebrates protection. To see the latest and share your signature dance move for fun perks in the lead-up to Super Bowl 50, check out and use the hashtag #ShieldMove on Twitter.