RENTON, Wash. -- The Seattle Seahawks' performance against the blitz is not a topic coaches seem to want to talk a lot about these days.
"We’re getting better," coach Pete Carroll said. "We’re getting better."
Of the 32 questions he answered Wednesday, the one about the blitz produced the shortest response.
It's a touchy subject for a reason: Russell Wilson and the passing game have produced disastrous results when opposing defenses have sent pressure this season. That's a major storyline this week with the Arizona Cardinals coming to town. The Cardinals have blitzed on 44 percent of pass plays, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That's second-most in the NFL.
Wilson likes to point out that blitzing leaves a lot of green grass on the back end. But the problem this season has been that the Seahawks have failed to capitalize on those opportunities, and Wilson is being sacked at an alarming rate. When opponents have blitzed the Seahawks, they've produced sacks 17.8 percent of the time, the highest rate in the NFL. That number was 10.7 percent last year (sixth) and 10.1 percent in 2013 (12th).
"I don't think very good yet," said offensive line coach Tom Cable when asked about the team's performance against the blitz. "But that's something that we're targeting, trying to improve. So we'll see."
This is easily the worst Wilson has performed against the blitz in the past three seasons. He's averaging 5.03 yards per dropback against pressure, which ranks 26th. Last season, Wilson was eighth. And in 2013, he was second.
The Cardinals' blitzing hasn't always led to sacks, but they've produced 17 takeaways this season.
"They really cause problems for you, and they’ve been very effective in creating big plays and stuff," Carroll said. "It doesn’t always interpret in terms of the pass rush. Their numbers aren’t great pass rush-wise, but they still cause so many problems. It’s almost worse that it happens when guys get rid of the football. Bad things happen. They’re right there."
Overall, the blitz has been Wilson's kryptonite this season. He's 21st in completion percentage, 16th in yards per attempt and 27th in passer rating when defenses send pressure.
Compare those numbers to how Wilson's performed when teams rush four or fewer defenders: first in completion percentage (74.1 percent), seventh in YPA (8.39) and fifth in passer rating (105.3).
But obviously, the issues aren't all on him. The Seahawks are shuffling their offensive line once again, going back to Patrick Lewis at center. And offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell knows the Seahawks need to be sharper in several phases Sunday night to deal with the Cardinals' blitz.
"Protection is obviously real key for us," Bevell said. "Hot answers will be one. Russell and the offensive line having great communication, being very clear with where we’re going with our protection, and then his answers versus whatever pressures that they bring."