Numbers misleading in Seahawks' protection of Russell Wilson

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The Seahawks are off the schneid, and a good amount of the credit is due to the guys up front, at least according to the numbers. But were the Seahawks a model of excellence at protecting the passer last week?

Let's go Behind The O-Line to see how Seattle found success in Week 3.

Russell Wilson was pressured only three times Sunday, according to Next Gen Stats, his lowest pressured rate since 2016.

Part of Seattle's approach to Week 3 was a commitment to running the ball, even if it didn't produce all that much. The Seahawks ran the ball 37 times, with 32 carries going to Chris Carson for an average of 3.2 yards per attempt.

Another more important factor in Seattle's offense: Quick passes. Wilson's average time to throw in Week 3 was 2.58 seconds, two-tenths of a second faster than his season average.

Take this play, for example. On third-and-6, Dallas rushes four, and Jaylon Smith attempts to bend around the left tackle. He never gets close, because Wilson gets the ball out in 2.47 seconds for a completion and a fresh set of downs.

Later in the drive, Seattle handles a six-man pinching rush well while Wilson fires the ball in 1.74 seconds to Carson on a swing pass for a gain of 19.

Later in the quarter, Seattle's six-man advantage proves to be successful when the interior teams up to handle two rushers, tight end Will Dissly does enough to block Taco Charlton and Wilson takes advantage of a peeking safety to connect with Tyler Lockett for a long touchdown.

Seattle succeeded largely thanks to quick strikes and Dallas rushing four on most passing downs. The Next Gen Stats make the Seahawks look excellent in pass protection. When he's sacked less than two times, Wilson's rating is 104.

Oddly enough, Pro Football Focus gave Seattle's offensive line its worst grade of the season in Week 3, a mark of 63.8 with a total of nine pressures, accounting for hurried throws and QB hits. On the year, Seattle ranks 17th in pass protection grades with a three-week average of 72.

When looking at the tape, I agree with their grade. The Seahawks weren't horrible, but they certainly weren't remarkable. When Dallas brought more than four rushers, the Seahawks struggled more often than not. They avoided sacks because Wilson slipped their grasp, or because he hurried throws that ended up as incompletions. And when he wasn't pressured, it was largely because of quick decision making.

But the bigger question is why didn't Dallas bring more heat? The Cowboys have rushed five or more defenders on just 24 of a possible 116 dropbacks through three weeks. For the season, the Cowboys rank 14th in pass rushing, per Pro Football Focus. Dallas has registered a pressure on 11.8 percent of opponent dropbacks through three weeks, according to PFF.

Seattle kept the Cowboys honest with quick throws, bringing their pressure percentage from 14th in the league coming into Sunday, to 30th after it, per Next Gen Stats. Dallas was forced into bringing only minimal heat and rely on its defensive backs as a result. It seems this has been the case for the season, as the Cowboys have brought five or more on just 20.6 percent of dropbacks through three weeks. Even on Wilson's touchdown pass to Jaron Brown, the Cowboys rushed four and dropped into Cover 3, which Wilson exploited by firing a pass down the seam in less than three seconds.

More quick throws from the Seahawks should be expected Sunday against an Arizona Cardinals team that is better at getting to the quarterback. The Cardinals are fourth in the league in pressuring the QB with a rate of 32.4 percent, and should bring more heat, rushing five or more 48 times. The number looks bigger, but the percentage is actually less than Dallas at 20.3.

Perhaps they'll rush more than four on most passing downs after seeing the tape from Week 3.

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