Twenty-two sacks in five games. More hits and sacks per pass play than anyone else in the league.
Yeah, that’s enough to affect Russell Wilson.
“I mean, hits kind of take their toll definitely on a quarterback,” Seahawks offensive coordinator and play caller Darrell Bevell said Wednesday.
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 -- and on another third down he took off early aborting a pass play and ran up the middle into a pack of Bengals.
Which is another way of saying Wilson is human.
Bevell and coach Pete Carroll have been careful not to say Wilson is spooked by all the sprinting, 260-pound linebackers, 300-plus-pound defensive linemen and blitzing-free defensive backs he’s been getting in his face and chest this season. It’s the most pressure in the NFL; Pro Football Focus measures Wilson getting pressured on 45.6 percent of his dropbacks this season, the highest of any quarterback in the league.
To which you and I say-- and even Wilson might say -- “Is it only 45.6 percent?”
“I think there might have been one play for sure, where he started to dart up the middle and then he backed up, that play,” Bevell said of a failed third down late in Sunday’s 27-24 loss to the Bengals.
“But he usually sees really well, and usually moves around with merit. But there’s times where something flashes in front of him and he started to move, thought he could go, and then he ended up backing up and you saw what happened. So it does happen, but I think for the most part – there’s no question that Russ has unbelievable toughness. He’s willing to stand back there, he’ll take hits, he’ll stand in there and make the big throw, he’ll run around, and he plays really smart. When he’s out there on the edges and he needs to get down, he’ll get down. He’ll make good decisions with the ball, run out of bounds, those kinds of things. So it’s not an issue, but the accumulation of the hits will make you look at it a little bit. But I think he’s doing a really nice job of standing in there and taking the stuff that’s there.”
Yet here’s the thing: Wilson is completing 70.7 percent of his passes this season. That’s third in the NFL behind Tom Brady and Philip Rivers. And it’s more than 6 1/2 percent higher than his highest completion rate for a season in his four-year career (64.1 percent in his rookie season of 2012).
Wilson’s three highest-percentage passing games the last two seasons have been when he was sacked six times in this season’s opener at St. Louis (32 of 41, both career highs, for 78 percent), seven times last year against Arizona (17 for 22, 77.3 percent) and six times two weeks ago against Detroit (20 for 26, 76.9 percent).
Still, Bevell said Wilson is affected by pressure as he gets deeper into a game, after the defense has been swarming him for hours.
“But 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. “Early in the game (at Cincinnati) we were protecting him pretty well. It doesn’t mean he wasn’t taking some hits. He took a big shot on the ball that he threw to Doug (Baldwin) down the seam.
“It’s just continually communicating to him to go through the progressions, go through the read, and make sure that you’re seeing the things that we need to see. You’ve got to continually trust those 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.’ Because the one time that you decide I’m not going to trust them or start to do something, that’s the time – you know it’s like a brick wall and you have throws down the field.
“So you have to continually remind yourself that that’s not happening every play. And it’s just communicating and talking about it.”
The upside of all this heat: Bevell, Carroll and offensive line coach Tom Cable said they saw improvement in the play of the remade offensive line last weekend. Bevell said it was the best game yet for the line with starters in three new positions.
Now what those five blockers need is consistency. First inside one game. Eventually from game to game. Only then will this offense, and this Seahawks team, take off.