By John Boyle Herald Writer
SEATTLE — Seattle’s defense was deservedly in the spotlight last season as the Seahawks marched to a championship, but if the past two preseason games are any indication, the Seahawks’ offense will be a force to be reckoned with in 2014 as well.
No these games don’t count, and no, these teams aren’t game-planning for each other in the preseason, but the performance by Seattle’s offense these two most recent games, and by quarterback Russell Wilson in particular, has to be an encouraging sign for the Seahawks.
In the Seahawks’ 34-6 victory over the Chicago Bears Friday night, the first-team offense scored on all five of its first-half possessions on the way to a 31-point halftime lead. By the time Wilson left the game early in the third quarter, he had completed 15 of 20 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns, and going back to the previous game, he led the offense to nine scores in nine possessions. The Seahawks were also 7-for-7 on third down conversions in the first half.
If Wilson doesn’t play next week — it’s not unusual for a team to sit its top players in the final preseason game — he will finish his preseason 30-for-39 for 360 yards and two touchdowns, along with three rushing touchdowns.
“Explosive,” safety Earl Thomas said of his team’s offense. “They’re great. It’s fun to see, man. They’re growing up right before our eyes, and they’re just as good as us.”
If there has been any negative for the Seahawks over the past two weeks, other than injuries, it’s that punter Jon Ryan might be a little rusty when the regular season rolls around. Before coming in to punt in the fourth quarter, Ryan had gone seven-plus quarters without punting dating back to the fourth quarter of Seattle’s preseason opener in Denver. At least Ryan’s holding skills should be sharp, however.
“Let’s be real, he’s got one of the best jobs in the world right now,” receiver Doug Baldwin joked. “He gets to sit on the sidelines and watch football and not have to do anything.”
In addition to another strong performance by Wilson, Friday’s game served as a reminder of just how dangerous a healthy Percy Harvin can be for Seattle. Harvin gave the Seahawks a short field to start the game with a 46-yard kick return, and he also gained 61 yards on just three catches as receiver. Just as importantly, he consistently required coverage help from a safety, meaning one-on-one matchups for his fellow receivers and one less defender in the box against the run.
This game also saw Marshawn Lynch carry the ball for the first time in the preseason — he played two snaps last week and did not touch the ball. Lynch only played on Seattle’s opening drive, but had three carries for 16 yards, including a 7-yard touchdown.
Once Lynch left the game, Robert Turbin was next in line, but it was Christine Michael who enjoyed a much-needed strong, and fumble-free, performance. Turbin has pretty clearly out-played Michael, last year’s second-round pick, and the third-year back out of Utah State was solid again. However, Michael rushed for 28 yards on eight carries and had three catches for 36 yards Friday, including a 7-yard touchdown. More importantly, Michael held onto the ball after fumbling in each of the last two games.
“We’ve been doing well, we’ve been executing pretty well, but at the same time it’s preseason,” Baldwin said. “The teams that we’re facing, they’re not scouting us and we’re not scouting them, so right now it’s just guys flying around making plays, and we’ve always been able to do that because of the effort and enthusiasm we have with this team, so I’m not surprised.”
Seattle’s defense, of course, was plenty good as well, especially in the first half when both teams had their starters on the field. The Bears gained 163 yards in the first half, but 81 of those came on the half’s final drive after the Seahawks had a four-touchdown lead. Aside from that last drive, which ended on a Jeremy Lane interception, Chicago’s best scoring chance was thwarted by Byron Maxwell, who broke up a pass that momentarily looked like it might end up in Alshon Jeffery’s hands for a 47-yard touchdown.
Combine those offensive and defensive performances with a game that saw Seattle commit just six penalties and make several big plays on special teams, both in the return game and on kick coverage, and Pete Carroll was a happy coach Friday night.
“I don’t know what jumps out at you individually,” Carroll said. “I just thought it was a really good across-the-board night of playing football.”
Linebacker Brock Coyle left the game with a foot injury but returned late in the game following a groin injury to fellow middle linebacker Heath Farwell. Tight end Cooper Helfet suffered shoulder and knee injuries after being upended on an 8-yard catch and did not return to the game. Safety Jeron Johnson also left the game early with a foot injury, though Carroll said it wasn’t serious … Thomas strengthened his bid to earn the punt-return job, returning a second-quarter punt 59 yards, though he was tackled by the punter. Cornerback Philip Adams handled punt-return duty in the second half… Malcolm Smith, making his first appearance of the preseason, started at linebacker along with KJ Wright with the Seahawks opening in their nickel defense… Steven Hauschka hit a 59-yard field goal to end the first half.
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org