Seattle Seahawks

Feeling the heat: The effects of all the sacks and pressure on Russell Wilson

His position coach says he must be affected. Logic says he absolutely should be. Anyone chased, hit and harassed as much as he’s been should be affected.

Yet Russell Wilson himself isn’t admitting that getting sacked and pressured more than any other NFL quarterback is affecting him during games.

“It hopefully doesn’t affect at all,” Seattle’s $87.6 million franchise player said after suffering 22 sacks in five games.

Sunday’s crucial home game pits the Seahawks (2-3) against the Carolina Panthers (4-0).

“I think that the key is standing in there and taking some hits. That’s just kind of part of the game, you know? … A good thing really for me is that I can move around and extend plays. And it makes it tough on the defense when they do bring pressure and that happens.”

And, boy, have they brought pressure on Wilson.

The 22 sacks are the most in the NFC, tied with Kansas City for most in the NFL. The Seahawks and their remade offensive line have allowed the highest rate of sacks per pass plays in the league; Seattle (150 passes through five games) has thrown the ball 23 fewer times than the Chiefs.

Word is out across the league that the way to disrupt the Seahawks’ offense is to flood running lanes and blitz everyone but the equipment guys on passing downs. Seattle’s struggling line has starters in three new spots.

Pro Football Focus says Wilson has been pressured on 45.6 percent of his drop backs this season. That the highest rate in the league.

Wait, it’s only 45.6 percent?

“I mean, hits kind of take their toll definitely on a quarterback,” Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said.

During last weekend’s overtime loss at Cincinnati, part of the reason Seattle punted on each of its final six drives was because Wilson, on one third down, ducked at pressure that wasn’t there — he doubled over waiting for a hit that eventually came. On another third down he took off early, aborting a pass play, and ran up the middle — into a pack of Bengals.

Bevell and coach Pete Carroll have been careful not to say that Wilson is spooked by all the heat he’s been getting in his face and chest this season.

“It is a challenge at times, and there are a couple plays a game when he may have been able to hang in there (in the pocket). But he saw something that made him go,” Carroll said.

“That is part of what comes along with Russell. He makes those marvelous plays because he does have the instincts. … He’s by far, in our opinion, the best he’s been in the pocket. Really solid, and really accurate and hanging in there fine.”

That’s the thing. Wilson is completing 70.7 percent of his passes this season. Only Tom Brady and Philip Rivers have been more accurate throwing. Wilson’s rate is more than 6.5 percent higher than his previous highest completion percentage in his four-year career (64.1 percent in his rookie season, 2012).

Wilson’s three highest-percentage passing games in the last two seasons have been when he’s been dumped most. He was sacked six times in this season’s opener at St. Louis, and was 32 of 41 passing, both career highs, for 78 percent. He was sacked seven times last year against Arizona, and was 17 for 22 passing (77.3 percent), and he was sacked six times two weeks ago against Detroit while completing 20 of 26 throws (76.9 percent).

How’s that happening?

“Oh, man, I don’t know about all that,” Wilson said, laughing, when presented those facts. “That’s a research project.

“I think just getting the ball to the right guy at the right time. Every year my goal is to continue to get better.”

Wilson said he’s talked to Steve Young and Donovan McNabb, who were both throwing and running quarterbacks, about when to stand in the pocket longer and when to take off.

“You just trust,” Wilson said. “You go through your reads and if it’s not there, you just try to extend the play and make something positive out of it and salvage the play, throw it away if you have to.

“My thing is I always try to keep my eyes downfield. I’m not trying to run. I just try to run away.”

No one is questioning whether Wilson can take a hit. He’s the most sacked and pressured quarterback in the league, yet he hasn’t missed a practice — let alone a play or a game in his four seasons.

“There’s no question that Russ has unbelievable toughness,” Bevell said.

Still, the Seahawks play caller and former University of Wisconsin QB — from 1992-95, long before Wilson’s 2011 season with the Badgers — acknowledged: “The accumulation of the hits will make you look at it a little bit.”

Bevell says that while the pressure is causing Wilson to duck or take off perhaps prematurely as games wear on, there is no carryover to the next game. Wilson enters each one with a fresh mind.

“One thing about Russell is, I think, from game to game there’s really no issue. It’s kind of really as the game continues to go on,” Bevell said.

“You’ve got to continually trust those (line) guys. You really can’t say, ‘OK, I got hit on this last time, I’m going to get hit again.’ You just have to say, ‘I trust them.’ So you have to continually remind yourself that that’s not happening every play.”

Bevell, Carroll and offensive line coach Tom Cable said they saw improvement in the play of the remade line last weekend. Bevell said Cincinnati was the best game yet for the new blockers: center Drew Nowak, right tackle Garry Gilliam and left guard Justin Britt.

Now what they, left tackle Russell Okung and right guard J.R. Sweezy need is consistency. First throughout a complete game. Eventually that consistency must grow from one game to the next.

Only then will this offense, and this Seahawks team, take off.

And only then will Wilson become truly free and unaffected.

SUNDAY: Carolina (4-0) at Seattle (2-3), 1:25 p.m., Ch. 13, 710-AM, 97.3-FM, 1030-AM

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