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Anatomy of a Failure: Film of Russell Wilson’s pass protection against the Rams

Duane Brown had his worst game as a Seahawk and Luke Joeckel, Justin Britt and Ethan Pocic had trouble coordinating double teams against Los Angeles’s fierce interior

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Ben: The basic numbers show that the Seattle Seahawks’ offensive line got dominated by the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, with their pressure rate allowed being by far the worst of the season:

What went wrong? Below is a cutup of Russell Wilson dropbacks in the first half (I didn’t include the second half because the game was no longer in contention at that point). Following the clip is Kasey’s play-by-play diagnosis and then summary at the end.

The video

Here is the link for the video (with play numbers) to open it in another page:

Kasey: I’m most know enough about Robert Quinn and Aaron Donald that we don’t need to get into how well they always play against the Seahawks, especially with the latter as one of the best defensive players in the league. Suffice it to say that they are great players that always seem to save their best stuff for this game. Beyond that, I’ll let the film speak for itself in this case.

Play by play again provided by Pro Football Reference.

1st quarter, beginning with directions backwards due to the perspective.

Play #1 1st and 10, SEA 16. Russell Wilson for 1 yard (tackle by Connor Barwin)

Play-action with a naked bootleg off of the fake. Interesting note here; notice how the entire line blocks to their left to carry out the fake, while Wilson also turns that way to do his fake handoff. However, Mike Davis initially runs to his right away from the fake and into the bootleg. He also appears to go right to no. 98 Barwin to block him instead of going out for a route. Since this is clearly intended as a pass I’m not sure if this was his assignment (and thus this isn’t a true “naked” bootleg) but it also renders the play-action moot since the running back went in the opposite direction of the fake.

Play #2 3rd and 5, SEA 21. Russell Wilson pass complete short middle to Tanner McEvoy for 19 yards (tackle by Lamarcus Joyner). Tanner McEvoy fumbles (forced by Lamarcus Joyner), recovered by Alec Ogletree at SEA-40 (tackle by Tyler Lockett)

Five on four with a chip block on Barwin by Davis so Germain Ifedi is fine. Luke Joeckel gets lazy lunging while no. 90 Michael Brockers uses a swim move to completely avoid Joeckel’s grasp and get by him. Looks like Joeckel was expecting help from Justin Britt, but he was focusing on helping Ethan Pocic with no. 99 Donald instead. On that note; those two get singled up and Donald straight bull rushes him while pressing his inside. With the help from Britt and the inside slanting of Brockers this becomes a big mess, but thankfully no real pressure. At left tackle, Duane Brown faces off against no. 94 Quinn; he gets upfield in a hurry, essentially dictating the point and angle of engagement between him and Brown. He uses a combination swim and rip move with his inside arm, while also swatting at Brown’s hands with his outside arm, along with great athleticism, to beat Brown and make it around the edge. The swim move is the long arcing motion he makes over his head with his left arm to get inside and under Brown’s arms, while the rip move is the follow up from this motion, with his left hand again going under/across Brown’s torso to get him turned and allow an angle to get to the QB. Ultimately, he doesn’t get there, but this scenario popped up several times throughout the game with Brown struggling.

Play #3 2nd and 12, SEA 23. Russell Wilson pass incomplete deep right intended for Doug Baldwin

A traditional 3-4 look we haven’t seen in a while. Six on five here, with the outside linebacker on the offense’s right, Quinn, dropping into zone coverage. No. 52 Ogletree also blitzes with the other three down linemen and the other OLB Barwin coming as well. Fortunately, the one double team comes against Donald, even if it is just by Pocic and Ifedi. Beyond that it is picked up very well by the remaining line and Davis picks up the blitzer, who has blitzed the gap made by the three down linemen all slanting away, from across the formation wonderfully. While this was almost a very good play, it should be noted this is a “behind schedule” play on 2nd and 12, so it would be nice to have a play in the 5-7 yard range. A very general rule of thumb to go by for such behind schedule plays on 2nd down, which the Seahawks are often in, is to get roughly half of what is needed to get “back on schedule.” 3rd and 5 or 7 is so much easier than the ensuing 3rd and 12.

As an aside, for a penalty on first down that must be repeated generally getting the penalty yardage back is the goal, which is why holding calls pretty much always end drives since making up that yardage typically requires all three plays of that series to be a success. These ideas obviously likely vary quite a bit team to team, but the point remains; an incomplete pass on this play essentially guaranteed a punt, while a crossing route to Lockett, for instance, that gains 7 yards puts them right back in position to convert.

Play #4 3rd and 12, SEA 23. Russell Wilson sacked by Aaron Donald for -8 yards. Penalty on Duane Brown: Offensive Holding (Declined)

Five on four with very wide alignment by defensive line. Quinn pulls the same move on Brown again, this time drawing a holding call with Brown doing his best Ifedi impression and completely opening his hips completely as Quinn explodes around the corner on the very nice move. We’re four plays in and already Brown has as many awful whiffs in this game as he did the entire game against Jacksonville. Britt and Joeckel double team Brockers well enough, while Pocic and Ifedi are initially doubling Donald who ends up getting the sack here. Interesting wrinkle by Wade Phillips for the Rams; there is no way Donald, one of the best defensive linemen in the league, would intentionally work himself into a double team when he doesn’t have to; he works straight upfield into that B gap between Ifedi and Pocic, which opens up the giant A gap between Pocic and Britt. Then notice Barwin, lined up extremely wide, work upfield and then cut inside to stunt behind Donald parallel to the line of scrimmage right into that gap.

This might not look like much, but A) this was an unexpected call because stunts are not often run out of such a wide alignment since the goal is to quickly confuse and they already take longer to develop than standard rushes without a guy like Donald, and B) Ifedi and Pocic fail to coordinate completely. It is rendered moot since Pocic is obliterated by Donald anyway, but in his mind he had a double team, not a single block, so he is clearly unprepared. Ifedi needs to pick up Donald (admittedly no small task since even the double team hadn’t secured him yet) and Pocic needs to be aware of the stunter attacking his inside. With Brown allowing pressure, Pocic getting destroyed and Barwin going unblocked Wilson has nowhere to step up, nowhere to back up, nowhere to slide and gets sacked. His only hope was to scramble almost immediately to his left in the B gap opening between Joeckel and Brown.

Play #5 1st and 10, SEA 20. Russell Wilson middle for 5 yards (tackle by John Johnson). Penalty on Duane Brown: Offensive Holding, 10 yards (no play)

(Starts at :19) Five on four. Ifedi does well even if he does get pushed back quite a bit; he keeps his hands locked on Barwin and holds his position without opening up the corner by turning his hips. Pocic here gets singled up on Donald which is obviously the biggest mismatch on the line, and more than likely the biggest mismatch on these teams; Donald swipes away his initial jab but he is able to recover and quickly get his hands on Donald. He doesn’t have control though, with Donald swiping underneath to get his hands inside Pocic’s, allowing him to stack up on Pocic and shed easily to either side should he need to. Since Ifedi and Britt/Joeckel have pinched either side this is about the peak of what Donald can accomplish here, so an okay job by Pocic is enough here to render that side of the line a wash. Britt looks to help so Donald doesn’t attack inside; instead Brockers can use his stack/shed/swim classic rush combo to attack Joeckel inside to the side where Britt looks to help.

This is a very well designed line play by the defense; it gives Donald inside/outside option on rookie Pocic, which is pretty much guaranteed pressure, if Britt doesn’t help, and if he does help he draws a solo block for Brockers on his inside rush that opens up the giant lane for Quinn to execute his inside move on Brown, a counter to his earlier moves with his inside move instead acting as a springboard to Brown’s right shoulder with an outside swim move, drawing another holding call which was quite questionable from this angle. Just five plays in and it is clear this line was adept at attacking the weaknesses of their opponent, consistently setting up opportunistic situations for their best rushers and presenting a variety of basic yet unique principles in their rushes.

Play #6 1st and 20, SEA 10. Russell Wilson pass complete deep middle to Jimmy Graham for 23 yards (tackle by John Johnson). LAR challenged the pass completion ruling, and the play was overturned. Russell Wilson pass incomplete deep middle intended for Jimmy Graham (defended by John Johnson)

Five on four standard rush. Ifedi does enough to slow Brockers even though he allows some movement inside since he allows Brockers to get his hand inside and up on his shoulder. Pocic and Britt get the double team on no. 95 Tyrunn Walker and do great on the run stuffer. Joeckel gets the solo on Donald, gets bull rushed quickly while letting Donald have control of his arms, and getting shed to the outside. The sole positive to take from this is Joeckel prevents the hit on Wilson on this quick throw by recovering, made easier by only having to pivot since he is already deep in the pocket. Impeccable timing by Donald and Quinn; Brown is set waiting to see if those two will stunt, and Donald commits to his rush just a beat before Quinn counters inside again to get Brown unbalanced, allow slight pressure, and almost draw the hold again.

Play #7 2nd and 20, SEA 10. Russell Wilson sacked by Michael Brockers and Matt Longacre for -4 yards

Five on four. Brown gets no. 96 Longacre for a change and is able to get his hands under control enough to protect the edge. Joeckel gets pushed back again and lets Brockers control him by never locking in with his hands and always resetting his positioning, allowing an easy disengage. Brown also suffers from not locking in completely despite not getting beaten in the same fashion; the scramble from Wilson leads him right into the arms of both players. That scramble is the result of Donald splitting the double team of Britt/Pocic by beginning outside Pocic and slanting hard inside on a swim move with Britt a little late. Sad to say but pretty much a typical Donald play, especially against the Seahawks. Barwin gives up on his rush against Ifedi when he sees the scramble.

Play #8 3rd and 24, SEA 6. Russell Wilson pass complete short right to Tyler Lockett for 4 yards (tackle by Nickell Robey-Coleman and Connor Barwin)

Screen pass. Ifedi has the one good block here squared up on Barwin and drives him down the line a bit. Cut blocks by Pocic and Brown fail to get their guys down but slow them down enough for this to work. Joeckel is victimized by his man, well, moving out of the way ahead of time, and lunges the wrong way prior to one of the most embarrassing cut blocks you’ll ever see.

Play #9 2nd and 6, SEA 40. Russell Wilson pass complete short right to Jimmy Graham for -1 yards (tackle by Cory Littleton)

Play-action that is played very well by Donald and Quinn to hurry the throw and delay Graham, as well as a good play by no. 58 Littleton.

Play #10 3rd and 7, SEA 39. Russell Wilson pass complete short right to J.D. McKissic for 9 yards (tackle by John Johnson and Cory Littleton)

(Starts at :46) Five on five with Ogletree blitzing, but he gives up and tries to defend the pass. Barwin and Donald both attack outside on Ifedi and Pocic; Ifedi doesn’t latch on and control Barwin but is able to stay in position and remain in front of him, while Pocic has his hands swatted away by Donald with a rip move added on underneath to get by. Pocic actually does better than before to drive Donald upfield after getting beat right off the snap, but this is still and very poor rep here. Joeckel does much better to actually be competitive in hand fighting and keep Brockers at bay, while Brown absorbs the rush by Quinn much better and finally neutralizes him. Shocking that passable protection leads to the first good pass play of the day for the offense.

Play #11 1st and 10, SEA 48. Russell Wilson pass incomplete short middle intended for Luke Willson (defended by Tyrunn Walker)

No Donald, Quinn or Barwin so almost not even worth noting that this five on four protection is actually good at first. An issue between Pocic and Britt though, with Pocic looking to help out Ifedi while Britt believes he is able to hand off his rusher to Pocic, leading to an opening had Wilson had to hold the ball. Even against backups and with everyone winning their blocks they find a way to almost screw it up; the universe thus corrected itself by having that soon-to-be free rusher defend the pass. Ifedi gets latched on to Brockers but gets walked back a bit with a powerful rush, while Brown against Longacre is another solid if unspectacular win that should be expected. Credit where credit is due, as Joeckel has his block of the day against… hang on Google is still loading… no. 92… Tanzel Smart? Okaaaaay then…

Play #12 3rd and 8, 50 Russell Wilson pass incomplete short middle intended for Paul Richardson

Five on four standard rush. Refreshing to see a trio of solo blocks executed perfectly. This is what we need to see more of from Ifedi; he is mildly threatened with an inside/outside move before getting a bull rush, but stays squat to position himself with leverage under Barwin with his hands perfectly positioned on Barwin’s shoulder pads before popping up in his stance to extend and lock down. He gives up a step but looks confident when he isn’t attacked too aggressively upfield. Pocic also has one of his better plays, maintaining what power he has with good feet movement to keep a wide base and his hips square on Brockers. He locks in well and adjusts to Brocker’s attempts to shed his block very well to remain engaged and, similar to Ifedi, only gives up a few feet of space and precludes his man from disengaging. By simply getting his hands on Quinn more actively he is able to stifle another violent rush of his with good positioning/leverage and absorb his momentum. Britt is left stranded looking to help, but Joeckel against Donald…ugh. Now, to be fair to Joeckel, I believe it is possible Donald gets away with illegal hands to the face here, and possibly even a facemask; if the latter in particular is true then this is almost entirely not Joeckel’s fault, since it certainly looks like Donald jams his left hand up on his face to force him backwards, followed by grabbing his facemask to “shed” the block by pulling him downwards. If this is what happens, then just a bad miss by the officials that should’ve put them in field goal… well they would’ve been closer at least. Now if this ISN’T what happens… I’m not sure how to even describe getting beat this badly other than the fact that Donald just simply slips off of hands of Joeckel and tosses him aside. As much as it might pain me to say, I sincerely hope in this case the refs made a mistake.

2nd quarter, directions are normal now

Play #13 2nd and 15, SEA 8. Russell Wilson pass incomplete deep middle intended for Doug Baldwin

Five on four standard rush. Quinn’s rush doesn’t have quite the same juice to it as the first few plays, but he still gets upfield in a hurry and gets off a rip move under Brown’s grasp to turn the corner on him. Brown does a decent job of extending to hold his grip and force Quinn just deep enough to keep him away from Wilson with the help of him stepping up in the pocket. Joeckel holds up well against Brockers while facing a few attempts to shed his block, and even though he gives up the outside a bit in the process he is also helped by Wilson here. Ifedi gets his hips turned quickly again but Barwin merely tries to set the edge by shoving his right arm up into Ifedi; it almost looks like, on a number of plays, Barwin is playing contain as if this were a run play and not actually rushing. Tough to see but suffice it to say if Ifedi were going up against the moves Quinn was handing Brown he’d likely have given up a few sacks already. Pocic does a decent job recovering from the initial swipe move by Donald, but it sets him up a bit far upfield while also turning his hips just enough to set up Donald’s counter swim move back inside that completely tosses him aside. Britt is there to clean up, and he is also given good positioning by Wilson stepping up in the pocket; his is the least needed probably, but Donald is able to squeeze through the smallest cracks when he has leverage so who knows what would’ve ended up happening.

Play #14 3rd and 15, SEA 8. Russell Wilson pass incomplete deep middle intended for Paul Richardson (defended by Troy Hill)

Technically five on four, but with a few twists. McKissic gives a huge chip on the left side that forces Brown completely across the formation to keep on Quinn, who ends up rolling up on Ifedi in what could’ve been a terrible injury. Luckily Graham helps out on Barwin on that side, so Ifedi falling down doesn’t lead to much of a disaster. More intrigue comes from the interior, as the Rams clearly felt that Donald wasn’t impacting the game enough yet, so they have him run a stunt behind Brockers slanting inside across both A gaps with Donald looping all the way behind Joeckel on the other side.

Wilson slides to the left somewhat needlessly due to the chip on Quinn throwing him across the formation, so when Donald loops around and continues laterally to cover McKissic for a moment he has an excellent angle around Joeckel to get to Wilson, and of course he takes advantage by slipping right past Joeckel to hit Wilson.

Play #15 1st and 10, SEA 40. Russell Wilson pass complete short left to Mike Davis for 11 yards (tackle by Trumaine Johnson and Alec Ogletree)

(Starts at 1:08) Play-action screen pass. Joeckel and Britt slip out right away while Pocic and Brown still look to get in position to block for the screen, so it is difficult to judge their blocks. Ifedi has a nice block sliding along the line and holding off his man long enough.

Play #16 1st and 10, RAM 49. Russell Wilson sacked by Robert Quinn for -13 yards. Russell Wilson fumbles (forced by Robert Quinn), recovered by Morgan Fox at SEA-39 (tackle by Luke Joeckel)

Play-action pass again. Barwin is left unblocked, probably by design of the play, so Wilson will have a hard time here to maneuver around from pressure, but Quinn’s little jab and rip move gets by Brown a bit too easily to cause Wilson to stumble.

Play #17 1st and 10, SEA 20. Russell Wilson pass incomplete short right intended for Tyler Lockett (defended by Trumaine Johnson)

Five on four with a very quick throw and Barwin delaying his rush to shove Graham. Pocic gets bull rushed hard by Brockers until Ifedi comes in to knock them down while Donald gets doubled by Joeckel and Britt. Quinn sees the quick throw and doesn’t engage Brown, so not very much goes on here.

Play #18 2nd and 10, SEA 20. Russell Wilson pass complete deep left to J.D. McKissic for 26 yards (tackle by Lamarcus Joyner)

Five on four, but the one blitzer appears to just be spying on Wilson, but stills draws the attention of Ifedi so for our purposes a five on five even though it ends up as a four on four. They run the same stunt with Donald, but this time with a pair of interior linemen slanting underneath as Donald goes from Joeckel’s outside all the way over to Pocic’s outside.

Britt fails to pick up the man slanting across Pocic, so there is nobody there to pick up Donald. Quinn tries to rip underneath Brown again and even though he turns the corner on him Brown forces him upfield enough to avoid Wilson.

Play #19 1st and 10, SEA 46. Russell Wilson sacked by Aaron Donald for -16 yards. Russell Wilson fumbles (forced by Aaron Donald), ball out of bounds at SEA-23

Five on four with an additional check and releases by McKissic. Ifedi forces Barwin upfield but doesn’t get his hands locked in so Barwin is able to counter with a spin back inside. This forces a stumble and clogs a potential scramble lane. Pocic gets walked back but stays decently in control to prevent Brockers from disengaging when Wilson scrambles despite never really stopping the rush. Donald stacks up Joeckel to shove him before swimming by him inside before Britt can react to help, letting him straight upfield for pressure. Brown doesn’t let Quinn set up any moves and forces him upfield until he gives up on his rush to play contain. Wilson just can’t get away from both Barwin and Donald up until the violent hit by Donald.

Play #20 2nd and 33, SEA 23. Russell Wilson pass complete short right to Amara Darboh for 8 yards (tackle by Nickell Robey-Coleman)

(Starts at 1:37) McKissic stays in but eventually releases into a route without helping, so ends up as a five on four. Barwin and Brockers try to perform a stunt with the former knocking Pocic down, though Ifedi us able to take care of Brockers, so the poorly executed stunt doesn’t do much. Donald works Joeckel upfield, though he is actually able to get his hands on Donald to keep him from disengaging and does a fine enough job with Donald admittedly looking like he doesn’t really care about this play. Same story for Brown on Quinn, allowing the former to completely absorb him and forming a good pocket they are fine with giving up on second and 33.

Play #21 3rd and 25, SEA 31. Russell Wilson left end for 1 yard (tackle by Trumaine Johnson). Penalty on Russell Wilson: Illegal Forward Pass, 5 yards, Penalty on Tanner McEvoy: Illegal Touch Pass (Declined)

First thing to note; clearly this is a typo on the play by play; Wilson scrambles to the right side, not the left. Anyway, chips by McEvoy and McKissic on either side of this five on four. Barwin and Brockers do the same stunt as before, essentially, with the difference being this time Ifedi doesn’t recognize it and Brockers has a free run. McKissic’s chip forces Quinn and Donald both into the same B gap between Brown and Joeckel, with Donald working upfield against the latter once again. Pressure doesn’t really develop with the scramble coming, but it cuts off that side from a scramble an would’ve likely became pressure had Wilson stayed put.

Play #22 1st and 10, SEA 17. Russell Wilson pass complete short middle to Mike Davis for 9 yards (tackle by Lamarcus Joyner and Alec Ogletree)

Screen pass. Ifedi and Brown hold the edges well enough to stall their rushers but it is still tough to know what a standard rush would’ve looked like. Donald has a ton of space and a solo block by Joeckel, and he both wins with his hands inside to stack up on him to disengage if needed and bull rushes him back into Wilson just as the pass goes out.

  • Brown had his worst day. By far. It is a shame that it was really only early in the game that his losses impacted the play since it somewhat set the tone for the line’s performance, but he really struggled overall against Quinn the majority of the afternoon. Quinn also looks like the first pass rusher to really challenge Brown without just letting him have total control of the engagements.
  • Joeckel similarly struggled quite a bit when there wasn’t a double team, and even then him and Britt combined had a tough time against Donald on a few occasions. Joeckel seemed to lose in a variety of ways and just seemed out of place. He has already been addressed this week for how he poorly he played. I will say his worst play, as I highlighted, was possibly due to a missed penalty, but that was just one whiff of several.
  • Britt was late helping a few times, and that won’t cut it against someone as freakishly athletic and fantastic as Donald. Not many head to head blocks to judge him on, but he also seemed a little bit more uncomfortable than usual in terms of play recognition. He wasn’t quite his normal self but still wasn’t one of the main issues.
  • Pocic wasn’t as terrible as he could have been, but against Donald “not terrible” is not good enough. Pocic is usually in good enough position and technically sound, which can be seen with his hand placement especially, but he is too often overpowered or just a beat late when he isn’t double teaming with Britt. I continue to have hope for him, but he has been a liability this year.
  • Ifedi was decent, but Barwin doesn’t present as big of a challenge as Quinn and it often appeared as though he was playing contain instead of cutting loose as a pass rusher. Impossible to judge on that account, and Ifedi got a bit more help from running backs and tight ends than usual, but overall actually wasn’t one of the main culprits on the day. He had some coordination issues with Pocic, but it ironically looked performance-wise as if Brown and Ifedi switched places for the day, even if Ifedi wasn’t as dominant as Brown usually is.

It was bad.

Even just seeing this half of football it was bad. Consistently having multiple defensive linemen win their battles will make that happen, but even against such a great couple of players this was demoralizing. I have a sneaking suspicion the second half was probably worse too. Hopefully over the next couple of weeks we can see Brown recover from this performance to feel good about that position going into the offseason. Joeckel will be the one to watch since his offseason journey will be the most interesting of the linemen as the one free agent. I honestly have no idea what in the world the team’s plans might be for him or what his market might look like. Personally he is far too inconsistent for me, even when cutting him a break for his injury issue. Pocic is a rookie so passing judgement is tricky, and I continue to be an optimist with him, but it sure would be nice to see him wrap up on a good note like Brown to feel good about that spot. For Ifedi I’m not sure what I’d like to see from him beyond just not falling apart should his frustrations get the best of him. And no penalties in at least one of these games. Please.