Pete Carroll: Constant pressure left Russell Wilson unsettled in Seahawks’ loss to Bucs
Russell Wilson was sacked for a 5-yard loss on his first dropback Sunday, taken down by one pass rusher who went through right guard Germain Ifedi and another who beat left tackle George Fant off the edge. On the next play, Wilson was flushed out of the pocket and had to throw the ball away after Seattle failed to pick up a defensive-line stunt, a tactic that coach Pete Carroll said the Seahawks were expecting but still struggled with during their 14-5 loss to Tampa Bay.
Seattle’s offensive line got off to a poor start in pass protection Sunday and struggled for much of the game, which was as big of a reason as any for the Seahawks’ clunker of an offensive performance. Wilson was sacked a season-high six times. According to Pro Football Focus, he was pressured on 51.1 percent of his dropbacks while ESPN Stats & Information had it at 60 percent. Either way, it was the highest rate for any quarterback in Week 12.
“We had trouble with their games, we had trouble with their edge rushes and it affected Russ,” Carroll told “Brock and Salk” on Monday. “He started moving and ducking and dodging and it was just hard on him, which has always happened before. You see it happen because he’s adapting to the rush on the day and then he gets back on track, and he did, but it took us a while.
“In the middle of the game, we protected pretty well, but we still weren’t functioning very well. It still had affected us. What I wish we would have done is just kept running the football. The running game was fine. Russ was doing great, he was reading things beautifully, we were getting the yardage like we like. I just wish we would have stayed with it and not got caught up in trying to solve the problems in the passing game, is kind of what it felt like. Since we were struggling with it, it didn’t turn out like we wanted it to. Tough game.”
Wilson was as mobile as he’s been all season while running for 80 yards on eight carries, but he had – at least statistically – one of his worst passing performances in some time. He finished 17 of 33 for 151 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions, which matched his total from the first 10 games. His 151 yards and 51.5 percent completion rate were both season-lows, barely topping his numbers from Seattle’s wild-card win over Minnesota last January. His 38.8 passer rating was the second-worst mark of his career.
Asked about Wilson’s accuracy issues, Carroll said: “He was ready to move, really, and you guys have seen him over the years. This is how he gets when the rush is on and they’re coming hot. He’s gonna get ready to play ball and do what he has to do, and in that, sometimes it’s a little bit of an unsettled time. Is it now (time) to run it or now (time) to throw it? And your feet get a little whacked and that happened a little bit to him early and then he calmed down.
“But it still just wasn’t a sharp enough game for us, and it wasn’t just Russell and it wasn’t just pass protection. We need to run our routes better, we need to clean some stuff up, we weren’t as sharp as we needed to be. They did a very nice job.”
The absence of center Justin Britt would be an easy explanation for why the Seahawks’ offensive line struggled in pass protection Sunday after seemingly beginning to turn a corner there. But that wouldn’t be entirely true based on how Carroll assessed the play of rookie Joey Hunt, who made his first career start. Carroll described the pressure Seattle allowed as more of a matter of fundamental and technical mistakes as opposed to Hunt not getting the group on the same page. Hunt was flagged for an illegal chop block, a 15-yard penalty.
“He did OK. He really did alright,” Carroll said. “I can’t tell you how it all mixed for him as far as the guys all counting on him because they’ve been really tuned into Justin and he’s done a great job. But Joey is smart, he made his calls, we were accurate with the guys we were supposed to be blocking. We did that part well. He got on the second level really well a couple times, he looked very athletic and he held up pretty well. I think he did like we had hoped. He can come in the game and play the game, finish the game for us, no problem.”
But Carroll, responding to a question about the importance of continuity along an offensive line, did say that Britt’s absence may have been a factor in Ifedi’s issues on Sunday. The Seahawks also benched right tackle Garry Gilliam in favor of Bradley Sowell after going three-and-out on their opening possession. Sowell, who began the season as Seattle’s starter at left tackle, played the remainder of the game.
“Without really good continuity, it’s hard to be really good,” Carroll said. “These guys have to really rely on one another and there’s a lot of communication that’s nonverbal and there’s a lot of stuff going on there, trust and feel. If you’re not quite sure if the guy’s going to do what he’s supposed to do, then you may go a little bit to far and then you get vulnerable and that stuff does happen right there. Unfortunately, that can be a real problem for you if you’re having issues.
“Justin is a big deal to us. He’s done a great job in there, and all the sudden he’s not there. I can’t tell you how that helped or hurt Germain. It might have affected him a little bit. That was a new thing that had to happen and we had to see if we could make it through it. So we learned some stuff.”