Road has not been kind to Seahawks’ young QB

RENTON — There’s an old saying in football that, in order to win on the road, you’ve got to pack your defense and special teams.

Well for the Seahawks, the defense, and for the most part the special teams, have traveled just fine. Seattle’s passing game, however, has often performed like it was lost by baggage handlers back at Sea-Tac.

Quarterback Russell Wilson is far from being the only reason the Seahawks have struggled to throw the ball away from home. His pass protection hasn’t been as good outside of Seattle, the play calling has been very conservative and last week in San Francisco, drops were a big problem. But extenuating circumstances aside, the quarterback has been part of the issue when it comes to Seattle’s road struggles.

“He’s played particularly well at home, not as well on the road, and we noticed that the numbers are quite a bit different there,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said.

Just how different are the numbers?

Well, if you go by passer rating, Wilson goes from being one of the best quarterbacks in the league at home to being one of the worst on the road. And before you get all worked up, nobody is saying passer rating is a perfect stat, or that it tells the whole story — or even most of it — but it is still one way to measure the efficiency of a quarterback, and the difference between Wilson at home and on the road is staggering.

At CenturyLink Field, where the Seahawks are 3-0, Wilson has thrown six touchdowns and no interceptions, is averaging 8.4 yards per attempt and has a passer rating of 116.9, which is the highest of any NFL quarterback at home. In four road games, the Seahawks have just one win, and Wilson has two touchdowns, seven interceptions, is averaging 6.1 yards per attempt and has a rating of 55.7, which ranks 31st in the league.

Wilson is convinced that improvement isn’t too far away, and that no drastic changes are needed. If a few more passes had been caught last week, or if Wilson hadn’t forced a ball into triple coverage, the passing-game numbers would look drastically different.

“We just have to make a few more plays here and there,” he said. “That’s really what it comes down to. In all the games we’ve lost, we’ve had an opportunity to win the game at the very end and we just fell short for whatever reason. We’ve also won one as well on the road, and we’ve made those plays when we needed to. I think that’s the only difference. There’s no need to go searching for an exact answer, that is the answer: just making the plays when we need to make them.”

But even if Wilson and the passing game have struggled on the road, Sunday’s game in Detroit is hardly a lost cause. For starters, the opponents have had a lot to do with the Seahawks’ poor offensive numbers away from home. San Francisco, Arizona and St. Louis all have defenses ranked in the top 10 in total defense and scoring defense. The 49ers and Cardinals also rank in the top four in passing defense and opponent passer rating.

In Seattle’s only road victory, Wilson played very well against Carolina, save for one poor throw that was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. Not coincidentally, the Panthers have the worst defense Seattle has played on the road. And like Carolina, the Lions hardly possess an elite pass defense. Yes, the Lions rank sixth in passing yards allowed, but their secondary has been depleted by injuries, and their two interceptions are tied for the fewest in the league, part of the reason opposing quarterback have a 91.9 passer rating against Detroit.

The Lions have a formidable pass rush — just ask Chicago QB Jay Cutler, who is probably still picking grass out of his teeth after being violently slammed to the ground by Ndamukong Suh on Monday night — but if the Seahawks can manage to give Wilson time to throw, there is reason to think the Seahawks will be significantly better in the passing game this week than they were in San Francisco.

“We just have to play a little bit better,” Wilson said. “We’ve lost some very, very close games on the road, so we just need to finish those games. That’s what it really comes down to, just focusing on executing and finishing especially in the second half, third quarters and fourth quarters. We just have to make the plays when we need them.”

Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com.

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