On a couple of occasions during the Seahawks' Week 3 game against the Cowboys, J.R. Sweezy walked into the huddle to the right of center Joey Hunt. Problem was, Sweezy was playing left guard for the first time in his life on Sunday, which meant he was in the wrong place.
But because of how the offensive line played in a 24-13 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, Sweezy's confusion in the huddle wasn't something that foreshadowed what went wrong, but rather a humorous anecdote from what was a very positive day for Seattle's line.
"I kept going in the huddle on the right side," Sweezy said. "I'd go in there, 'Oh God,' then I'd have to walk back to (the other side)."
On paper, Sunday's game could have been a rough one for the offensive line. Hunt was making his second career start, playing in place of an injured Justin Britt, Sweezy, a career right guard, was playing on the left side for the first time in a game, and D.J. Fluker, back from a hamstring injury, was seeing his first regular-season game action since the middle of last season. Basically, it was an entirely different interior line than what the Seahawks had used, not just in the first two regular-season games, but pretty much throughout training camp and the preseason.
But instead of struggling, the offensive line was a key factor in the Seahawks having their best offensive performance of the season. Russell Wilson, who was sacked 12 times in the first two games, didn't take a sack until midway through the third quarter, and was sacked twice in the game, the second one being a 0-yard "sack" after he scrambled. The line also helped pave the way for Chris Carson's 102-yard rushing performance, a big deal for a team that had struggled to get the running game going in the first two games.
"It was huge," left tackle Duane Brown said. "To be able to have a balanced attack, be able to run the ball effectively, cut down on the hits on the quarterback, have a decisive victory, it meant a lot. We've still got a lot to clean up, but it's a step in the right direction."
Added offensive line coach Mike Solari, "It was good. Guys were moving in, J.R. going to left guard. It was nice to see them come together as a unit and perform at the level that they did. Joey did a beautiful job going in there with the communication. Your center kind of leads it, and he did a great job communicating and making sure everybody was on the same page."
By not allowing a sack until the second half, and by staying out of penalty trouble—there was just one penalty called on the offensive line—the line helped Seattle's offense stay on schedule, which in turn allowed Seattle's offense to find the balance that was missing in previous weeks when it was too often facing unfavorable down-and-distance situations.
"They did a nice job," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "It was obvious how Fluke plays, his presence out there. And I thought JR—the two of them playing together—showed up. It was a nice combination. All the guys did a solid job, but it was really the fact that we did not take the negative plays that set you back against the sticks that really was the factor. We were on schedule throughout that game. That's huge, that means you're not getting the major penalties that make you first-and-20 or second-and-20, and you don't have the sacks that cause those same kinds of situations. That was really the biggest difference that allowed us to stay on schedule. We've wanted to run the football in every game we've played; we didn't allow ourselves by the way we functioned. It's really obvious the difference obviously from week one, two and three."
The Seahawks are expecting to get Britt back this week—he was a full participant in practice Wednesday—while Pocic's status is still uncertain. Carroll said that because they like what they saw from Sweezy, he's likely to stay at that spot this week when the Seahawks face the Cardinals rather than rushing Pocic back from an ankle injury, but regardless of who is on the field on Sunday, the Seahawks feel good about the direction that group is heading and about the depth that showed itself against Dallas.
"(The Cowboys) were a big stunting team and they really believe it's part of their fundamental philosophy," Carroll said. "Part of it was the experience that Fluke has—he has played against those guys a lot. He helped us some, just that he was really on it. All of the guys worked together in preparation. Mike did a really nice job of getting everybody right so we didn't allow for the penetration that happens when you cut guys loose. We just didn't have the negative plays. That keeps you on schedule and allows you to get 3- and 4-yard runs, which are really valuable and now you're going third-and-2s and 3s and 4s. Those are a lot easier to convert than the third-and-long. That all fits together."
Brown, a veteran leader on Seattle's offense, said playing through those changes to the line and playing well will be good for the line going forward.
"That was great," Brown said. "O-line is all about continuity, and to lose our center and have Joey come in, Fluker come in his first game, Sweezy never played left guard before, the communication was still there, guys didn't miss a beat, and that means a lot. That lets us know that whatever happens, guys can plug in and still get the job done."
Photos from Wednesday's practice at Virginia Mason Athletic Center in preparation for Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals.