The bus was right there, rolling right behind my question to Russell Wilson. But the Seahawks' quarterback and team leader was not about throw his battered, makeshift offensive line under it.
How much are you noticing the opposing pass rush this season, the issues on the offensive line in front of you -- especially after today's 30-24 escape past winless Oakland in which Wilson was reduced to throwing almost exclusively screen passes to today's Seattle receiving leader Marshawn Lynch because he was ransacked by Raiders almost every time he dropped back to throw?
"I think we’re doing a good job of protecting me. I think the guys are doing a great job, especially with what’s going on in terms of the guys that have to step up. They’re doing an excellent job," Wilson answered.
"I just think that in terms of the passing game, we’re going to pick it up. Things there, and we’re going to hit it, and we’re just going to move on to the next game. We got a huge one today. They played us tough in our own stadium, and we were able to get a huge win."
The offensive line was missing starting left tackle Russell Okung and center Max Unger to injuries from which they may or may not return for this coming Sunday's game at home against the New York Giants (3-4). In the third quarter, left guard James Carpenter sprained his ankle.
At that point. here's what Seattle had on its offensive line: a fourth-string center the team cut and then re-signed three weeks ago (Patrick Lewis), a former defensive tackle at right guard (J.R. Sweezy), an undrafted college tight end at left guard (Garry Gilliam), a second-year fill-in at left tackle (Alvin Bailey) and a rookie at right tackle (Justin Britt).
Uh ... yikes.
This is how bad it was in front of Wilson: Stephen Schilling entered his fourth career game at center -- as a savior.
Coaches didn’t want to use Schilling, the fill-in for Unger, because Schilling had a bad knee. But they had to put him in for Lewis during the second half to, as Carroll put it, “settle it down.”
“That,” Carroll said, “is about as hard as you can get.”
No wonder Wilson was 17 for 35 passing for 179 yards while getting chased around by every Raider back to Lyle Alzado that zoomed through Seattle’s makeshift line. No wonder offensive line coach Tom Cable said today's was the most challenging game he's ever coached in his 26 years in the business, including as a college and NFL head man.
This was the sixth time Wilson had completed less than 50 percent of his throws in a game in his three-season career. Seattle is now 3-3 in those games. This was the seventh time Wilson failed to throw a touchdown pass in his 45 career starts. Seattle is now 4-3 in those games.
The next question to Wilson was along the same lines: Are there limitations in the offense because of the blockers its having to employ?
The answer kept Wilson in team-leader mode.
“No. I thought that Patrick Lewis did a great job of stepping up today. That’s not easy to do. He just got here (three weeks) ago, and now he’s going against the Raiders who have a good front seven," Wilson said. "I thought he did a really good job, and then Schilling stepped in there and just finishing off the game there at the end. That’s good football, and that’s going to pay dividends down the road, as you go throughout the season."
Wilson then echoed what Carroll told me when I asked him if this is just how it's going to be, and what the coach said he's said to his team plenty this season.
"I think back to last year, we had to win a lot of tough games where we had three of our starting offensive linemen, sometimes four of our offensive linemen, out. And guys had to step in and we still found ways to win," Wilson said. "Like I said to you guys last week, we were 3 and 3, and we had 10 games left, and our goal was to go 1 and 0 every week, like I say, every time.
"So, we were able to win last week and we were able to win this week. And, we just look forward to the next opportunity. We’re excited about the win. I’m more excited than anybody else about the win. So, that’s what I look forward to."
Thing is, the offensive line even while whole last month wasn't protecting Wilson with any kind of consistency. The reason Seattle has been at the top of the league in rushing for most of this season was because of Wilson's two 100-yard rushing games while scrambling all over the field out of necessity more than want-to.
The Seahawks and play-caller Darrell Bevell continue to go away from Lynch's running for puzzling -- no, inexplicable -- stretches of games. Today Lynch ran the ball on the first three plays of the game for the first time since Seattle traded with Buffalo for him four games into the 2010 season. Lynch had seven touches on Seattle's crisp, 10-play, 72-yard drive, the first offensive possession of the game. It ended with Lynch carrying half of downtown Seattle across the goal line with him on a three-yard touchdown run, the first of his two rushing scores.
Then: Lynch carried the ball eight times over the Seahawks' next seven drives deep into the third quarter. The offense bogged down, and Oakland rallied from a 24-3 hole to within 24-17.
Even when Unger, Okung and Carpenter return, the pass-protection issues are unlikely to vanish. Sticking with Lynch's bullish rushes -- even, as today, when they result in just 67 yards on 21 carries -- appears to be the 5-3 Seahawks' best chance of running down first-place Arizona (7-1).
In more ways than one.
--Here is all what Wilson said following the game:
QB RUSSELL WILSON
(On having an 0-7 team coming to Seattle and giving the Seahawks a battle…) “They’ve kind of given everybody a battle. They’ve had a lot of games that have come down to the wire. Offensively, we know that we can better, I know that I can play better. That’s what it really comes down to. I think that the defense played spectacular today, they made a lot of plays, they got some turnovers, and offensively we just have to click better. We just have to do our thing to get the ball in the end zone and find ways to make plays. The positive thing is that you look at all of the guys that had to step up. I know that a lot of young guys had to step up and play line for us today and you think about Marshawn’s game. He had an unbelievable game today, Marshawn Lynch. Then, Robert Turbin had a really good game, as well. ”
(On evaluating his own play…) “I didn’t think I played well at all, for whatever reason. And usually I’d know why. Usually I know why if something is off, footwork wise, or whatever. That’s usually something I try to find out, throughout the game, so I can adjust. I felt like I was in it. For whatever I was trying to do, it just wasn’t working. But, I think the thing is, we won the game, and that’s the exciting part. I know that I can play better, I know that I will play better. I know that our offense will play better, and so that’s what I look forward to. ”
(On how much he is noticing the opposing pass rush this season… ) “I think we’re doing a good job of protecting me. I think the guys are doing a great job, especially with what’s going on in terms of the guys that have to step up. They’re doing an excellent job. I just think that in terms of the passing game, we’re going to pick it up. Things there, and we’re going to hit it, and we’re just going to move on to the next game. We got a huge one today. They played us tough in our own stadium, and we were able to get a huge in. ”
(On whether there were limitations because of the offensive line personnel…) “No. I thought that Patrick Lewis did a great job of stepping up today. That’s not easy to do. He just got here a week and half ago, and now he’s going against the Raiders who have a good front 7. I thought he did a really good job, and then Schilling stepped in there and just finishing off the game there at the end. That’s good football, and that’s going to pay dividends down the road, as you go throughout the season. I think back to last year, we had to win a lot of tough games where we had three of our starting offensive linemen, sometimes four of our offensive linemen, out. And guys had to step in and we still found ways to win. Like I said to you guys last week, we were 3 and 3, and we had 10 games left, and our goal was to go 1 and 0 every week, like I say, every time. So, we were able to win last week and we were able to win this week. And, we just look forward to the next opportunity. We’re excited about the win. I’m more excited than anybody else about the win. So, that’s what I look forward to. ”
(On the importance of Marshawn Lynch… ) “Marshawn was exceptional today. The things that he was doing out in the field, it’s one of a kind. He had a great football game. I thought the line did a really good job of run blocking for him, too, as well. The tight ends did a good job of blocking for him. He made some things happen. He caught the ball really well, too, as well. Robert Turbin came in the game and had some huge runs, as you guys saw. I think one of the things offensively, is we have to stop getting penalties. For whatever reason, we’re getting penalties on big plays. And that really brings us back. So, that’s something that we have to pay a little bit more attention to, and I have to a better job of communicating, if that’s the case, or whatever it takes. Whatever it takes to win, whatever it takes to be successful.“
(On the throw to Kearse that Hayden almost intercepted…) “I was trying to fit it in the seam, and the slot defender did a good job of trying to grab on to Kearse, and I was just trying to get it in there. We hit that 9 times out of 10, 10 times out of 10 usually. Luckily, it hit the ground. That’s something that we do all the time.”
(On the throw to Luke Willson in the back of the end zone…) “I was trying to hit him in the back corner, and it got away from me a little bit.”
(On Doug Baldwin’s big punt return…) “We have so many guys step up, and so many guys show up and find ways to make plays. Doug Baldwin’s punt return, to bring that ball back across the 50 to the 40 or 30 or so, that was a huge play. You think about Paul Richardson’s kickoff returns. He’s doing a great job back there. His ability to step up; he did a great job kickoff returning last week, and has done a great job this week. I thought our defense was lights out, too, the way that they made plays. We had a lot of guys come in and start. You think about Brock Coyle and DeShawn Shead having to step up and make plays for us. We have a lot of talent, and we just have to put it together. We’re still finding ways to win games, and we’re not playing our best. We’re far from playing our best. So, when we put it together, it’s going to be hard to stop us. I think that’s the exciting part. ”
(On how long it will take to get to that point…) “I don’t think it’s going to take a while. I think that we’re going to play great next week. I think that to be able to come back home; we do play a good team in the Giants. So, I don’t think it’s going to take a while. I think we have the right guys. I think we have the right system. I think we’re calling the right plays. I just have to make a throw here and there, and keep the tempo up and stay on schedule and then things will click for us.”
“Go Hawks. Pass the Peace.”