That’s not a term a coach wants to apply to the conditions under which his quarterback operates.
That’s what the Seahawks’ Pete Carroll said about the situations Russell Wilson faced Sunday in the win against Arizona.
“I thought he played a really good football game under extreme duress,” Carroll said of Wilson after a game in which the quarterback was sacked seven times, was hit 11 times, and probably half his 10 rushes (for 73 yards) were on scrambles away from pursuing Cardinals.
On Monday afternoon, after viewing the film, Carroll offered a more specific explanation of what created the extreme duress.
“We got sacked seven times this game and we had all kinds of problems: We got beat one-on-one, we had some scheme issues, we held the ball too long,” Carroll said. “To have that kind of onslaught, it took a lot of stuff.”
Yes, “onslaught” is right next to “extreme duress” on that list of descriptions Carroll would like to avoid.
The Cardinals traditionally cause the Seahawks offense to look out of sync and awkward. It’s the scheme and some very physical players in the front seven.
But the reality is obvious: When your No. 1 most valuable commodity is your franchise quarterback, you simply can’t allow him to face that kind of pressure every week.
It’s more than just the physical toll on Wilson. How much of the playbook is rendered useless when the quarterback doesn’t get time to plant his feet and read his progressions?
Twelve of Wilson’s 17 completions went to backs and tight ends on short routes. Why? Who’s got time to do a drop deep enough to allow the receivers to get downfield?
Some of the issues related to manpower, certainly, as Patrick Lewis was starting at center with Pro Bowler Max Unger sidelined and Alvin Bailey got the call at left guard with James Carpenter out. And right tackle is manned by rookie Justin Britt, who is still climbing the learning curve.
Forgotten, too, in the question of protection, is the loss of great blocking tight end Zach Miller.
Unger had been having one of his best seasons. He was brilliant at Kansas City before his injury last week.
One play against the Chiefs proved his versatility. The left guard blocked down on the defensive tackle while Unger looped around behind him and blocked the linebacker who had been over the guard.
He is agile and fast enough to flatten the linebacker with a cross-body block, but also strong enough to neutralize 340-pound nose tackles. Those are the rare talents that you just can’t replace with the next guy on the depth chart.
Right guard J.R. Sweezy has been having his best season, but he struggled with everybody else on the line Sunday.
“A couple times they sent too many people to pick up,” Sweezy said Monday at his locker. “That’s part of their game, and they’re really good at it. That’s one reason for so many sacks. But we could always play better. There shouldn’t have been that many. We’ll learn from it and clean it up.”
Carroll cited Wilson’s poise and the way the team overcame some of its problems to claim a crucial 19-3 win over the division-leading Cardinals.
As elusive as Wilson has been, and as smart as he is about avoiding big hits, it’s just logical to worry that prolonged exposure to extreme duress is not healthy for quarterbacks.
The line, regardless of who is manning the spots, has to be assignment-correct and highly motivated for Thursday’s game at San Francisco.
“It’s hugely important,” Carroll said. “We can’t survive those kinds of games game in and game out. We’ve got to find a way to get the ball out and make sure we’re not getting hit.”
Asked about making corrections and getting focused on protecting Wilson, Sweezy looked at the clock on the wall.
“That’s what we’re going to do,” he said. “We’ve got meetings starting in about 15 minutes and we’re going to get to work figuring it out.”