The Seahawks allowed at least four sacks in six of their first seven games. They haven’t allowed more than two sacks in any of their six games since.
BALTIMORE — The stat, the one about the offensive line, was met with shock and satisfaction. And not just by the offensive line.
The stat? In the first quarter Sunday against the Ravens, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson had 4.9 seconds from the snap of the ball until he released his touchdown pass to Tyler Lockett. The Fox TV broadcast crew timed the play, and Wilson still didn’t have anyone close when he let the ball go; 4.9 seconds and still no one got to him.
“Wow,” guard J.R. Sweezy said. “That’s pretty awesome.”
“That’s legit,” tackle Garry Gilliam said.
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“Five seconds?” cornerback Richard Sherman said. “Wow. That’s hard. I mean, that’s a testament to our O-line, to (offensive-line coach) Tom Cable, to his patience and diligence.”
“Really?” center Patrick Lewis said. “Sounds like (Wilson) had ample enough time to make a touchdown throw. You give him that much time, and he’s going to do wonderful things.”
The offensive line, the same one that was allowing sacks at a troubling rate, is now giving Wilson enough time to tie his shoe and throw a pass.
It has been a shocking reversal. The Seahawks led the NFL in sacks allowed not long ago. Of all the problems they had, the offensive line usually was at the top of the list.
“We took it to heart,” Lewis said.
But in the past two games, Wilson has been sacked just two times. The Seahawks allowed at least four sacks in six of their first seven games. They haven’t allowed more than two sacks in any of their six games since. They still rank 27th in sacks allowed, but their average of 1.2 sacks over the past six games would lead the NFL.
Wilson scrambled only once against the Ravens, and even then he scrambled because he saw open field, not because of pressure. By rough estimation, he had at least three seconds to throw on four of his five touchdown passes and barely had to move on all five of them.
The Baltimore game was an interesting example of the line’s improvement. The Ravens used a defender to spy Wilson and keep him from taking off. They also played a lot of man coverage, meaning receivers were working against defenders one-on-one.
If it looked easy, that’s sort of because it was.
“It’s almost like playing 7-on-7 football,” backup quarterback Tarvaris Jackson said. “If Russ is able to get back there and just see it clearly and get time to see it, man, it’s hard to stop the quarterback when he has time. If you’ve got time and the defense is playing man coverage, there’s nothing they can do.”
Wilson played his part in the line’s struggles and in the group’s resurgence.
With veteran center Max Unger gone before the season, the Seahawks placed more responsibility on Wilson before the snap. He had to direct traffic and anticipate what was coming. He had to set the protection, identify blitzing defenders and make sure the line operated in unison. He did those things with Unger, but Unger was so experienced that Wilson could lean on him.
Wilson is still young, and that part of the position comes with time. But he has been better at putting the line in position, which is another way of saying he struggled with it earlier.
The result of those pieces fitting together is an offense that has scored 29 or more points in five consecutive games, a quarterback who is setting statistical standards and a line that no longer is an issue.
“Not too many people have given them a lot of credit, but they deserve a lot of the credit,” Lockett said of the line. “I don’t know the last time Russell got sacked, and that says a lot. It shows that he trusts his linemen, and we trust the linemen. Receivers can’t be successful unless the line blocks, which is allowing Russ to be at his very best and allowing us to be at our very best.”