The Seattle Seahawks took the field Sunday afternoon to face off against the Houston Texans in a game billed by some as a matchup of two exciting young quarterbacks, each playing behind an offensive line with serious question marks. Heading into the game today the Seahawks offensive line had allowed 14 sacks and 50 hits of QB Russell Wilson, while the line for the Texans had allowed 21 sacks and 41 hits on their QBs.
The result fans saw on the field, however, was almost as if the Hawks had borrowed another team’s offensive line at times. Yes, Russell was pressured on occasion and hit six times, but he was sacked just twice while attempting 41 passes. This is, for the second straight game, a sack rate below 5%, which is far below the career best full season sack rate for Russell of 7.0%. So, while the line continued to struggle mightily in the run game, its performance in keeping Russell Wilson upright was impressive. In particular, on the last drive of the game with the Texans knowing Russell would have no choice but to throw, he had more than enough time on all three of his dropbacks to survey the field and dice apart the Houston secondary with laser precision.
Interestingly, while Wilson was sacked twice during the game, in an official scoring quirk that fans do not get to witness often, Seattle actually gained a first down on one of the sacks of Wilson. This came as a result of the strip sack of Wilson by Jadeveon Clowney in the first quarter. Rather than offer a long winded explanation, I’ll simply insert the description of what happened on the play from the play by play of the game and then give a quick breakdown:
3-2-HOU 31(3:15) (Shotgun) 3-R.Wilson pass incomplete short right to 82-L.Willson (90-J.Clowney) [98-D.Reader]. Seattle challenged the incomplete pass ruling, and the play was REVERSED. (Shotgun) 3-R.Wilson sacked at HOU 41 for -10 yards (90-J.Clowney). FUMBLES (90-J.Clowney) [98-D.Reader], recovered by SEA-82-L.Willson at HOU 20. 82-L.Willson to HOU 20 for no gain (29-A.Hal).
In short, anytime the QB fumbles the ball as a result of a defensive player poking it out, it is considered a sack. Therefore, Clowney “sacked” Russell Wilson at the 41 for a loss of ten yards, however, because the sack was of the strip sack fumble variety, the fumble was a live ball recovered 21 yards down the field by Luke Willson for no gain and first down. If only all sacks were so beneficial. In what is another incredible quirk on that play, because Clowney never actually made contact with Russell on the play, even though he was credited with one of the two sacks the Texans recorded on the day, he did not get credit for a hit on Wilson. He did get credit for a later hit on Wilson, but not on the strip-sack-for-a-first-down play.
On the other side, the Seahawks harassed Deshaun Watson enough that in spite of his 402 yards and 4 TDs, he increased his season interception total by 60%. Coming into today Watson had been sacked 14 times and tossed five interceptions, however the Seattle defense chased, battered and pressured Watson as much as it could, finishing with 5 sacks and 9 pressures. In addition, the pressure also contributed to 3 interceptions by the Seattle defense, including the first quarter pick six by Earl Thomas.
Thus, while the offensive line still has a lot of work to do in the run game, the progress the unit has made since the opening week of the season is impressive. Britt continues to show why he was a Pro Bowl alternate last season, and several of the younger guys on the line are showing why the team has put their faith in them. Odhiambo had some rough moments, but even these seem more rare than they were just a few weeks ago, and for the second straight game Pocic showed why the team valued him enough to use a second round pick to secure his services.
No, it once again was not perfect, but I cannot remember a game where Russell Wilson had so much time to throw on so many of his dropbacks. With the kind of protection and time in the pocket he was provided today, it may be hard for Russell Wilson to keep his name out of the MVP discussion because as much as many members of the media may not realize it, Russell is deadly from the pocket. And now the line is starting to give him pockets on a somewhat consistent basis.