Coach Pete Carroll said Monday that the pass protection was good enough for Wilson to avoid the sacks he took against the Chargers.
If Pete Carroll’s willingness to publicly criticize Russell Wilson has sometimes been questioned throughout their seven-year partnership, the Seattle coach didn’t dance around it following Sunday’s 25-17 loss to the Chargers.
During his Monday press conference reviewing the game, Carroll said Wilson could have done more to avoid the four sacks that he took, three of which loomed pivotal in killing Seattle drives.
“Yeah, he could have a couple times and he’ll tell you that he needed to step up and escape and try to avoid the rush a little bit a couple of times,’’ Carroll said. “A couple of times, he was ready to go (and) ready to unload the football, and a guy got in trouble on a route downfield and so he had to take off. We really had enough protection to avoid the sacks yesterday, but some of those plays were Russ moving around, doing some great stuff as always. But yeah, he would tell you that he needed to step up a couple of times and get the ball out.”
The four sacks were the most since the second game of the season — Seattle allowed six in each of the first two but then no more than two in the next five games — and helped contribute to what were a lot of third-and-long situations for the Seahawks in a disjointed offensive performance all the way around.
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That compelled me to more closely examine each sack, and while assessing blame is always tricky from the outside, I attempted to assess what Wilson could have done differently on each play. I also consulted with Pro Football Focus to get their thoughts on Wilson’s game and who they gave the blame for on each sack.
Wilson was sacked just once in the first half, on Seattle’s first drive of the second quarter after the Chargers had scored to cut the Seahawks’ lead to 7-6.
This was the only one of the four sacks in which the Chargers rushed more than four — Los Angeles is not an overly aggressive team in that regard and wasn’t on this day, largely staying in its base zone defense.
The blitzer on this on a second-and-five play from the Seattle 27 was safety Jahleel Addae, who also made another big play later in the game, coming from the right side.
Wilson appeared to sniff this out at the line and tailback Mike Davis was held in to pick up Addae. But Addae got quickly past Davis and forced Wilson to retreat. Wilson appeared to be waiting for Doug Baldwin to come open over the middle, and Baldwin indeed appears pretty wide open — Carroll referred to missing Baldwin on a crossing pattern and this might have been it. It was going to be hard for Wilson to get it to Baldwin once he started backtracking, but Carroll likely hoped Wilson could have stepped up and gotten rid of the ball, which he maybe could have done instead of retreating once he saw Addae break free of Davis.
Doing so would have at least kept Seattle in a manageable third down. Instead, the sack made it third-and-18 and Seattle handed it to Davis on the next play and punted. The Chargers then drove from their own 17 for a TD to take the lead for good.
The real culprit here is the missed block by Davis — PFF gave up the credit for giving up the sack. But this was also a time when Wilson probably would have been best served to cut his losses and live to fight the next down.
The second sack was also a real killer, a 13-yard loss that turned a second-and-nine at the Chargers 47 (with 3:46 to go in the third quarter) into third-and-22 at the Seattle 40.
The Chargers rushed four with the Seahawks — who were in an empty backfield, having sent four receivers out — having tight end Nick Vannett chip before also running a route.
Wilson appeared to be looking toward Vannett initially but held on to the ball as the pocket collapsed around him, with Uchenna Nwosu getting around Duane Brown for the initial pressure and Isaac Rochell then cleaning up to get the sack.
This appears another where Wilson should have taken an earlier option — maybe just the short toss to Vannett — instead of risking the sack. He certainly had some time to at least get rid of it. PFF didn’t credit anyone for the sack but did downgrade Brown on the play.
This was a tough series all around for Seattle as the Seahawks appeared to have the ball with a first down at midfield before a penalty on Justin Britt moved them back 15 yards. Then after getting another first down, the Wilson sack killed the drive. This was one of just two drives in the third quarter, the other ending on the failed third down when Wilson misfired to an open Jaron Brown.
The third sack came on a first-and-20 play from the Seattle 23 with 13:56 left. As the distance makes evident, the Seahawks were already up against it — they had been moved back due to a holding penalty on J.R. Sweezy against Corey Liuget, a penalty Carroll on Monday said he couldn’t argue.
Wilson appeared initially to be looking to his left where Tyler Lockett appears briefly open. But Wilson hung onto it — also appearing to glance at Baldwin over the middle — before being sacked by Melvin Ingram.
But pressure was not the issue on this play, which could be judged as a coverage sack but which PFF put squarely on Wilson for not throwing it when he had plenty of time.
Simply not getting rid of the ball was a killer here. Not only did Seattle move back another four yards, but the clock also went from the 13:56 mark when the play was snapped on the Wilson sack, to 13:13 before the ball was snapped again. This also set up the second-and-24 run to Davis that drew much criticism. Wilson was dealing with a bloody arm on that play, thanks to the sack from Ingram. He threw a short completion on third down and the upshot of that drive was Seattle used 2:55 to get one first down but only moved seven total yards. The Chargers then took four minutes off the clock and Seattle didn’t get it back until the 7:51 mark, the drive that resulted in the Wilson-thrown pick six.
The fourth sack occurred with 4:04 left and Seattle facing a first-and-10 at the Chargers 22, Seattle making a desperate attempt to get back in the game, down 25-10.
The Chargers again just rushed four and tackle Damion Squire beat right guard Joey Hunt — playing for an injured D.J. Fluker — on an inside move.
PFF puts this one squarely on Hunt. But Wilson had enough time to try to step up and initially cock his arm before pulling the ball back. This is probably another one where Carroll wishes Wilson might have been able to at least throw it away, or just dump it off to Davis, who was close by at about the 20. The clock wound down to 3:38 before Seattle snapped it again.
As might be expected, PFF gave Wilson one of his lowest grades of the season — actually, his third-lowest ahead of only each of the first two games — a week after he had gotten his best.
As noted, the Chargers rushed more than four on only the first of the four sacks.
But they did bring some pressure throughout and that also got to Wilson — he was 2-5 for 27 yards and a 57.9 passer rating when blitzed, compared to 19-27 for 179 yards, two touchdowns and the one interception when kept clean, according to PFF, and 7-12 for 56 yards and no TDs or picks and a 70.1 passer rating when under pressure.