On Sunday, the Seahawks offensive line allowed seven sacks. Russell has never been sacked more times in a game, and was sacked as many times only once. Since Russell has come into the league in 2012, there have been only 12 games where a QB was sacked more than 7 times in the entire NFL.
Needless to say, this was not a banner day for the Seahawks offensive line. However, Seahawks fans have become well versed in all of the different components of a team's pass protection. While the offensive line may be the biggest factor in protecting the quarterback, the quarterback shares in the responsibility of keeping himself off of his back. Line calls, identifying pre-snap pass rushers, reading the post-snap defense, getting the ball out quickly, and the quarterback's mobility are all critical in avoiding pressure and sacks.
So, with that said, let's take a look at each of the seven sacks Arizona racked up against Seattle and see if we can't get an idea of where the Seahawks' pass protection fell apart.
The Cardinals have a single high safety who, right before the snap, comes down into the box. Russ' first read is to his right, but both Turbin and Moeaki are covered so he flips to read the left. Just as he does, Paul Richardson begins to separate from Jerraud Powers.
I don't know why Russ doesn't give Preach a shot here. Powers is beaten and has no help, and Richardson has a lot of end zone to work with. Maybe Russ felt he was late and didn't want to force it, or maybe he doesn't trust Richardson yet to make those plays. Either way it's disappointing, as Russell eats a sack instead of giving his receiver a chance to make a play.
Same drive, two plays later. The Cardinals show six blitzers pre-snap, and bring all six rushers against Seattle's five blockers. The free rusher is to Russ' blindside, but Russ is reading the rub route on the left and sees Bucannon coming unblocked.
With both defenders turned to the sideline, I think Turbin should get the ball on the slant, but Russ has already made the decision to bail. I have a hard time blaming him for tucking the ball for a couple reasons. First, Russ has extremely little time to read the defenders. It's a risky throw, and if he tries to put the ball in a place where the defender won't have a shot at a pick it likely won't be where Turbo could catch it in stride.
Second, this is really a fantastic play by Bucannon to bring Wilson down in the open field. Wilson is probably confident in his ability to make Bucannon miss, and rightfully so. We saw Russ do something similar to JPP in the Giants game a few weeks ago, it just didn't happen this time.
Arizona sends five and Seattle keeps five to protect, with Britt getting help from a chip by Willson. Arizona is playing cover 1 man, and against a single deep route they're able to cover this play up pretty well. Britt and Sweezy get tangled up and end up blocking the same guy, allowing Calais Campbell to come free and get a pretty quick sackon Russell.
The offensive line does a poor job here, but I think the play design deserves a share of the blame as well. It starts off pretty interesting, with Seattle breaking the huddle with all three tight ends, Marshawn, and Kevin Norwood. This is a run heavy personnel group, but instead of lining up in a heavy formation they split the tight ends out to the right.
I like everything to this point. Teams have to respect Seattle when they load up to run the ball, but the Seattle tight ends are dangerous as receivers. The problem I have is when they motion Marshawn wide. You can see the Cardinals adjusting their defense in response to splitting Lynch out. They appear to rotate out of a cover three look and into cover 1 man, with the linebacker and corner switching and the safety shading to the other side of the field.
The Seahawks are punting on the left side of the field and they've telegraphed it, allowing the Cardinals to shift coverage onto a group of weaker receivers. Instead of deception, Seattle has only succeeded in handicapping themselves.
This was just a disaster. Everyone but Russell runs a screen play, leading to a sack when Bailey releases his defender to slip out in front of Marshawn. It's so weird for this to happen that I almost want to give Russell the benefit of the doubt, but this one is on him.
I've watched this play several times, and I'm still not sure what coverage the Cardinals ran. The off corners and safety get deep and look like they're playing cover three, with the two linebackers dropping back in zones. However, the two flat defenders carry the TEs, who break towards the flat before running fly routes, all the way down the field.
Whatever the scheme, the Cardinals cover this up very well. In this still you can see Russell deciding the scramble, and you can also see the safety reading the pressure on Russ and breaking under Kearse's route. Russ could maybe have given Willson a chance, he's singled up at the bottom of the picture, but he's not open by any stretch.
Before Wilson can slip out of the pocket, Tommy Kelly and Alex Okafor collapse on him for the sack.
Before the snap, the Cardinals walk a safety and linebacker up to the line over the center. Seattle reads this as a potential blitz, and adjusts the line accordingly. Justin Britt blocks down on Tommy Kelly, allowing both the guard and center to pick up the possible defenders.
By doing this, Seattle leaves Alex Okafor, the left end, completely unaccounted for. Wilson sees this and looks for Marshawn but is unable to get him the ball with Okafor in the passing lane. Instead, Wilson tries reverse course and scramble out to his left. Just before he's able to throw the ball away, Okafor trips him up and his knee hits the turf before he gets the ball out.
I don't know who to fault here. The offensive line handled the blocks they were assigned, and adjusting the line call to prioritize the A gap blitzers is the right decision. Should Russ have audibled to keep Marshawn in, or should Marshawn have chipped on Okafor? Possibly, but I think this is really just a case where you tip your cap to Todd Bowles and move on to the next play.
Off play action, Seattle sends two receivers on deep routes and Turbin leaks out underneath. The offensive line doesn't do a great job blocking here, but the Cardinals simply stay over the top of the receivers and smother the play.
Russell does make this play worse by rolling to his right, away from his receivers, but it's not like he much of a choice. He tries to get Turbin to stop and come back to him, but for whatever reason Turbo doesn't break off his route.
I think you'd probably like Wilson get rid of this ball instead of taking a sack, but he only loses a yard on the play. It's a sack in name only.
After looking at each of the sacks that Russell took, it seems like there is plenty of blame to go around. There are plays where the offensive line could simply block better, there are plays where Russell could do a better job reading the field and giving his receivers a chance to make a play, there are plays where the calls could have been better, and then there are plays where you simply have to accept that the Cardinals are pretty good at rushing the passer. Giving up seven sacks was a team effort, and everyone owns some responsibility for improving the pass protection.