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Originally published December 3, 2013 at 6:06 PM | Page modified December 3, 2013 at 10:55 PM

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Healthy line helps Seahawks offense make it look easy

With a healthy offensive line, the Seahawks had no trouble with New Orleans’ pass rush. Quarterback Russell Wilson had time to pick apart the Saints’ defense in a 34-7 victory.

Seattle Times staff reporter


Seahawks @ San Francisco, 1:25 p.m., Ch. 13

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In the second quarter Monday night, something happened that might not have happened earlier this season.

Facing New Orleans, one of the NFL’s most aggressive defenses, the Seahawks were prepared for an assortment of blitzes and pressures, having worked on that all week in practice. On third-and-three, the Saints loaded up defenders at the line of scrimmage and showed blitz. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson quickly recognized it and changed the routes and protection before the snap.

The result: New Orleans sold out and sent eight defenders, Seattle’s offensive line and running backs stonewalled the blitz and Wilson had enough time to sit in the pocket and float a 52-yard pass to Doug Baldwin.

“It was exactly what we hoped would happen when they came after us,” coach Pete Carroll said.

Or, as Wilson put it, “We like the sense of pressure because there is a lot of green grass behind it.”

The play during the Seahawks’ 34-7 victory was a reminder not just of Wilson’s maturity, but also of the rewards that come with a healthy offensive line.

The Seahawks played their second game with their full complement along the line, and for the second game they pieced together a ruthlessly efficient attack. They averaged 14 yards per completion and looked more like the offense that got so hot down the stretch last year.

In his past four games, a stretch where the protection has been much better than before, Wilson is completing 73 percent of his passes, averaging 261 yards a game and has thrown nine touchdowns and been intercepted just twice. In the past two games, behind a fully stocked line, Wilson and the offense have played some of their best football.

“I think that confidence level is just a little bit higher because we have our tackles back,” Baldwin said. “That gives us confidence in the running game and obviously confidence with Russell being able to stand up in the pocket and look downfield to make plays.”

Even as recently as a few weeks ago, Wilson wouldn’t have had the time to sit in the pocket and connect on a big pass play like he did with Baldwin. He was sacked only once against New Orleans and, more often than not, had time to scan the field.

Wilson completed passes of 17 yards or longer to six receivers.

“It really came down to communication all across the board,” offensive tackle Russell Okung said. “Let’s talk, let’s all be on the same page and let Russell do what he does best.”

There was, however, one area where guard J.R. Sweezy thought Seattle’s offensive line struggled. The Seahawks averaged 3.3 yards per carry, and running back Marshawn Lynch had just 45 yards on 16 carries.

It was the second straight week in which Lynch rushed for less than 60 yards.

But Seattle has taken advantage of defenses’ efforts to stop Lynch by countering with explosive pass plays. That doesn’t happen without the line’s ability to give Wilson time.

Big local TV ratings

The Seahawks’ win drew huge TV ratings.

Monday night’s game, available on ESPN and also KONG, had a 47 rating in Seattle (the percentage of TV sets tuned to the game) and a 71 share (the percentage of all sets being watched at the time that were tuned to the game). The Seattle-Niners game on Sept. 15 drew a 44.8 and 66.

Monday’s game also outdrew Seattle’s win at St. Louis in October — the Seahawks’ only other Monday night appearance this year — which had a 36.4 rating locally.

The game was a little down nationally from the usual MNF rating, however, drawing a 10.6.

• To make a bad night worse for the Saints, their plane got stuck in Seattle after the game Monday and they had to spend the night here. They were able to fly out Tuesday morning.

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