Over the past two weeks the Seattle Seahawks have squeaked out an overtime victory over the San Francisco 49ers and won a cold-weather, early game against the Philadelphia Eagles that was a pretty ugly affair all around. The Hawks came away victorious, but as has been pointed out elsewhere, the biggest victors on the day was the management in charge the decision flexing the Seattle-Philadelphia game out of primetime.
In a game that would see just 13 combined points scored in each half, both quarterbacks struggled. Russell Wilson has been widely considered by many observers and fans to be one of the top choices for NFL MVP this season, but he had a rough go of it against an Eagles defense that pressured and harassed him for much of the day. While the hope for the Seahawks coming into the season had been that the offensive line could have a breakthrough season, those hopes have withered, and Sunday was yet another example.
This represents a change of tide for the Hawks, as things had started to improve for the Seattle offensive line after an extremely poor start to the season. After Wilson was sacked 12 times in the opening four games of the season, defenders took him down just five times in the three games prior to the Week 8 game against the Atlanta Falcons in which Justin Britt suffered a season-ending torn ACL. However, since that game things have been rough at times for Wilson, taking 14 sacks in the three games Joey Hunt has started at center. That includes an astounding 11 sacks between the win over the Niners in Week 10 and the win over the Eagles in Week 12.
That is not to place the blame for the large increase in sacks solely on the shoulders of Hunt. The defenses Wilson has faced off against in the past two games are both very good at producing sacks, with both in the top ten in the league in sacks. That said, in each of the last two games one of the sacks surrendered has been a highlight-reel type of play in which a larger defensive lineman simply bullrushes and goes right through Hunt on his way to recording the sack.
Against the 49ers it was D.J. Jones.
The 49ers sideline on Joey Hunt: "He's too little!" pic.twitter.com/IReZFzy1qk— Parker Lewis (@ParkerLewisJR) November 14, 2019
And for the Eagles it was Fletcher Cox.
Joey Hunt is a fantastic example of how even perfect technique can't help a player who is physically outmatched.— John P. Gilbert (@JohnPGilbertNFL) November 25, 2019
On this play Hunt (6'3", 299 pounds, 30" arms) was simply pushed backwards by 2018 1st team All Pro, 4x Pro Bowler Fletcher Cox (6'4", 310 pounds, 34-1/2" arms). pic.twitter.com/eSY1kbOA9K
Unfortunately for Russell Wilson, the schedule the rest of the way does not let up much in terms of the pressure that opponents are able to face. In the five remaining games on the schedule, the Hawks will face zero opponents who are in the bottom half of the league in terms of creating sacks. The upcoming opponents and where they rank in generating sacks are as follows:
- Week 13: Minnesota Vikings, 11th
- Week 14: Los Angeles Rams, 14th
- Week 15: Carolina Panthers, 2nd
- Week 16: Arizona Cardinals, 15th
- Week 17: San Francisco 49ers, 1st
So, with five games remaining on the schedule, Wilson is in danger of possibly setting a career high in sacks for the second straight season. In 2018 he was taken down by defenses an astounding 51 times, which was more than 10% greater than his prior career high of 45 sacks taken during the 2015 season.
In any case, in spite of all the pressure, the 33 sacks and the 72 hits Wilson has taken, the Seahawks are sitting pretty at 9-2, with a trip to the playoffs all but secured. The only questions that remain are whether Seattle can sneak by the 49ers in order to potentially grab one of the two available bye weeks, or whether they will need to turn into road warriors in order to make noise in the postseason.