Smoke, mirrors and protecting the passer

The Seattle Seahawks allowed zero sacks during a Nov. 7 matchup against the New York Giants last season.

The Seahawks also:

  • Lost the game by 34 points;

  • Managed only 113 yards passing;

  • Got a team-high six receptions for only 5 yards from Deon Butler;

  • Made one third-down conversion;

  • Crossed midfield once in the second half;

  • Possessed the ball for less than 18 minutes.

This game came to mind immediately upon reading an interesting piece on pass protection from Pro Football Focus. Seattle allowed pressure on a league-low 28.3 percent of its pass plays, according to the piece. How could this have happened during a season when the Seahawks felt so bad about their line and they used their first two 2011 draft choices for linemen?

Seattle did what it took from a scheme standpoint to protect the quarterback, even if it meant making significant sacrifices in game planning. The team allowed eight sacks during a nightmarish defeat at Oakland one week before the game against the Giants, losing quarterback Matt Hasselbeck to injury. The scheme used against the Giants kept backup Charlie Whitehurst from getting sacked, but the offense did nothing.

In general, the Seahawks were better at pass protection than at run blocking, but the struggles affected all areas. Seattle used 10 starting combinations on its line. And when Seattle did not draft a quarterback this year, coach Pete Carroll said he didn't think the team could afford to do so, largely because the line needed immediate attention.