"We didn't get off to a good start," Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said Friday. "... We'll see if we can get moving on them."
How does 33 first-half points sound, coach?
A week after a sluggish start gave way to an eventual blowout, the Seahawks dominated from the get-go this time around, beating the Broncos 40-10 in front of 67,635 at CenturyLink Field. It was not just on the strength of their depth, which was the case last week in San Diego, but with a strong performance by their front-line players on offense, defense and special teams.
"It was good on the first drive to go down and score, and the next time we got a field goal," Carroll said. "It felt like we were doing things like we'd like to do it."
Seattle's starting offense played only two series last week, and managed three first downs, punting on both possessions. And in its only look at the Chargers' first-team offense, the Seahawks defense gave up a long drive before eventually holding San Diego to a field goal. On Saturday, however, the defense forced a quick three-and-out for the Peyton Manning-led Broncos, and Seattle's offense followed with a 10-play, 65-yard drive that ended with a 12-yard touchdown from Russell Wilson to Jermaine Kearse.
Oh, and speaking of the former University of Washington receiver, he's having himself quite a preseason to build off of a strong first couple weeks of training camp. Kearse, who had a touchdown catch last week, returned a kickoff 107 yards for a touchdown that put the Seahawks up 17-7 late in the first quarter after Manning had led the Broncos on an 80-yard scoring drive. Even more impressive was the fact that Kearse never returned kicks in college, and had not been discussed as a return option before this week.
"I was actually pretty good at it in high school, but that was the last time I did it," Kearse said. "They came to me earlier this week and asked if I could return, and I wasn't going to say no. I got some reps during the week, and on Friday coach Carroll told me I was going to get the first one. So that was definitely a blessing and I just made the most of my opportunity."
Even better, Kearse apparently called his shot.
"He told me a couple weeks ago, he was like, 'Man, Russell, if I get a chance at a kickoff return, I'm going to take it back,'" Wilson said. "He got one today, and I was like 'Kearse, you going to take this one back?' He's like, 'Yeah, I'm going to bring it back.' Sure enough, he did."
Oddly enough, that wasn't the only 100-plus yard score for the Seahawks Saturday. Just when it looked like the Broncos were headed for their second-straight touchdown, linebacker Heath Farwell forced a fumble at the goal line as Ronnie Hillman tried to dive into the end zone. Cornerback Brandon Browner, who had earlier forced a fumble, scooped up the loose ball and returned it 106 yards for a touchdown. Browner said he didn't really consider taking a knee in the end zone for a touchback.
"When I looked up I saw nothing but green in front of me," he said. "I only saw offensive linemen, and I'll always take my chances against offensive linemen."
Wilson, who was just 2 for 6 in his preseason opener, played the entire first half and completed 8 of 12 passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns, good for a quarterback rating of 141.3.
"Our biggest thing as an offense was having great tempo today, getting back in the rhythm of everything," Wilson said. "Obviously when you play your first preseason game, you don't get too many plays, so it's hard to get in a rhythm. It's hard to figure out, OK, are we doing things right, are we not doing things right? But today we were really clicking."
In addition to the starters showing up, Carroll was also hoping to see young players who flashed last week back it up in this game, and many did. Stephen Williams, who had two catches for 83 yards in San Diego, caught a 39-yard touchdown pass from Tarvaris Jackson, who, by the way, looked sharp again. Linebacker Allen Bradford was all over the place again, as was rookie linebacker John Lotulelei, and rookie running back Spencer Ware showed some big-play ability. Undrafted rookie Benson Mayowa, who had 1.5 sacks last week, added another one Saturday and got the start with Seattle opening the game in its nickel defense.
"We're looking for consistency from guys who made plays in the first game, can they come back and do it again?" Carroll said. "(Mayowa) did that, Stephen Williams did that again too. It's exciting to see those young guys make a real bid for trying to make the team."
Despite many of positives, the Seahawks will still have plenty to work on between now and the start of the regular season. While they were able to generate a decent pass rush against Denver's backups, the Seahawks first-unit defense very much looked like it missed Chris Clemons, Cliff Avril and Bruce Ivrin, all of whom were out because of injuries. Manning is notoriously tough to sack, but other than one hard hit by blitzing linebacker Bobby Wagner, he was under almost no pressure in the first half.
The Seahawks also struggled to run the ball, particularly with their starters in the game, when they gained just 47 yards on 14 carries, one of which was a 10-yard scramble by Wilson.
Also sure to drive a coaching staff nuts, the Seahawks were flagged for 12 penalties for 107 yards.
"There were some garbage things with the penalty situation, and we'll continue to work on that," Carroll said before praising the good things his team did. "... We just have to get better there. It's lousy to play football like that. I don't like it at all."
Receiver Phil Bates, whom the Seahawks started experimenting with at fullback this week, was on the field for one play at his new position and caught a pass — the play was negated by a penalty—before leaving with an injury. Bates limped off the field on his own, then was carted into the locker room. Carroll said Bates turned his ankle but would be OK, and that there were no other injuries that came out of the game. Bates was, however, wearing a walking boot in the locker room.
There was scary moment early in the game when Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe took a blow to the head from Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson. Wolfe stayed down for several minutes and eventually was strapped to a backboard and taken off the field in an ambulance. The Broncos announced that Wolfe had movement in all his extremities as was going to the hospital to be evaluated for a cervical spine injury. During a TV interview at halftime, Broncos coach John Fox said, "So far the reports we have gotten are positive."
Even more encouraging, the Broncos announced after the game that Wolfe would fly back to Denver with the team.
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org
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