CLEVELAND—Playing an NFL game without two starting offensive linemen, one of them a Pro-Bowl left tackle, could spell trouble for an offense, particularly when playing against an opponent that features an elite edge rusher.
But in the Seahawks’ 32-28 victory over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, the story of the offensive line’s day might best be illustrated by pointing out what didn’t happen.
Myles Garrett, he of 13.5 sacks last season and seven in the Browns’ first five games in 2019, didn’t wreck Seattle’s offense. Russell Wilson wasn’t constantly under duress, which means his season-long run of brilliant play wasn’t snapped. And Chris Carson wasn’t stymied or denied a third straight 100-yard game.
In other words, the Seahawks offense functioned just fine, even without left tackle Duane Brown and right guard D.J. Fluker. Starting for Brown was George Fant, who finished the 2016 season as Seattle’s starting left tackle, but who had not started a game there since. At right guard was Jamarco Jones, a tackle by trade who saw his first game action at guard—at any level—just last week when he replaced an injured Fluker.
“We love those guys,” Carroll said of Brown and Fluker. “We wish they were with us, but it didn’t really faze us. We didn’t do anything different at all. We counted on George to come through at left tackle. We counted on Jamarco to play like he did. We just went through the game plan and did exactly what we wanted to do. No restrictions at all. It was a fantastic job by those guys. George at left tackle, against a really good rusher a lot of the time over there. It was a terrific job by those guys. I think we rushed for 170 or something like that. That’s beautiful. That’s right where we should be.”
It wouldn’t be fair to say the Seahawks took Garrett out of the game—he still had two of the Browns’ three sacks—but there wasn’t the kind of play-after-play dominance from the former No. 1 overall pick that could have ruined Seattle’s offensive game plan. Wilson was still able to complete 23 of 33 passes for 295 yards, two touchdowns and a 117.6 passer rating, Carson was still able to rush 124 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries, and the Seahawks still put up 32 points and 454 yards of total offense.
“I thought our offensive line played tremendously,” Wilson said. “To go against big Myles on the edge, he's a pretty big player and I think George did a tremendous job stepping in for Duane. Duane is one of the best left tackles in the game and losing him is tough. George was prepared. He was ready. He’s been working hard. He’s experienced, and it was great having him out there. Jamarco for his first start, he played tremendous too. We saw that last week, and it transferred over to this week. I thought we had a tremendous effort there.”
Further complicating matters was the fact the Seahawks lost Will Dissly, their best blocking tight end, to an Achilles injury in the second quarter. But with Luke Willson and the recently-promoted Jacob Hollister holding it down at tight end, and with Joey Hunt taking over Fant’s usual tackle-eligible role, and most significantly with Fant and Jones stepping up, Seattle’s offense more than held its own.
“They were ready, they didn’t blink,” Ifedi said. “We knew Duane and D.J. needed some time, so we put those guys in there and we didn’t blink. That’s the cool thing about our group. We talked in the preseason about our depth, but now you really get to see it, you get to see how these guys step in and don’t miss a beat. The play calling doesn’t change, we just run our offense and stay on schedule and do our thing. We think this is a heck of an offensive line, one through the last guy. There’s nobody we’re afraid to put out there. Joey and Jordan (Roos) were both ready to step in if they needed to today. That’s awesome, it just speaks to everyone’s preparation and the standard that we hold ourselves to.”
Said Fant, “We’ve got a deep room, man. I’m very confident in our room. Duane made sure I was really prepared. I’m just happy I have him in my corner, he makes me a lot better.”
And it wasn’t just the two new starters who had to step up for the Seahawks on Sunday. In addition to being two of their top linemen, Brown and Fluker are also veteran leaders who help everyone around them. With those two being replaced by younger, less experienced players, particularly in Jones’ case, it fell to Justin Britt, Ifedi and Mike Iupati to take on more of a leadership role.
“The guys up front did an exceptional job, from Germain all the way to George,” Britt said. “George seized the opportunity at left tackle, and I think you saw Jamarco grow in his first start. He’s a tremendous player, and so is George, so we didn’t miss a beat. Germain picked it up, I picked it up, Mike picked it up, our leadership missing Duane out there. I love this group up front, the whole room. It’s special, and we’ve just got to keep working and preparing like it’s the last opportunity we’ve got, like we have been, and things will go the way we want them to.”
Carroll mentioned that he made a point of talking to Ifedi this week about stepping up as a veteran with those two out. Ifedi not only did that, but he was part of the effort that kept the Browns’ pass rush in check, particularly on Wilson’s second touchdown pass to Jaron Brown on which Ifedi blocked Garrett one-on-one for several seconds while Wilson bought time before finding Brown.
“I think Germain is doing a really good job,” Carroll said. “He has been steady and playing good football for us. He’s tough. I was leaning on him this week about, ‘OK we’re losing a couple guys here, you’ve got to send a message and stand for the message of what we’re about this week and take a step forward in that regard.’ He was excited to do that. I think he has done really well.”
In the end, Sunday’s game wasn’t about how two notable absences affected Seattle’s offense, but rather about how the offensive line made sure those injuries didn’t change thing.
“It wasn’t different at all,” Carson said. “We have a next man up mentality, and Jamarco and George are great players, so we know that with the other two being down, we knew they would fill in and do a great job.”
Game action photos from the Seattle Seahawks' Week 6 matchup against the Cleveland Browns.