By Gregg Bell The News Tribune
OAKLAND, Calif. — Good thing for the Seattle Seahawks the only thing this one counts for is individual roster spots — and not the team’s defense of its Super Bowl title.
That begins in exactly one week.
Russell Wilson looked great. Again. The defense, starters and second-teamers alike, did not. And quarterback Terrelle Pryor was a little bit of both in his final bid to make Seattle’s roster, as the Seahawks lost 41-31 to the Oakland Raiders Thursday night in the exhibition finale at O.co Coliseum.
Wilson and the starting offense were electric again at the start. They scored a touchdown in four, wowing plays and stayed in lethal form during their only drive seven days before the games get real with the NFL opening-night showcase game against Green Bay at CenturyLink Field.
But the defense got shredded by Raiders rookie backup quarterback Derek Carr while allowing 35 points and 262 yards in the video game-like first half.
“This game is not indicative — I hope — of a whole lot of how we are going to play,” this season, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said.
He pointed out Wilson and the starting offense scored on 11 of their final 12 drives this preseason, with the miss a long, Steven Hauschka field goal that banged off the upright last week against Chicago.
“We have advanced,” Carroll said of his offense from a season ago that then relied on rugged running by Marshawn Lynch and field position. “We have moved ahead. We are better than we were in the past.
“We are ready to go. I really feel that.”
Former Raiders starter Pryor looked outstanding at times in his return following the offseason trade to Seattle for a seventh-round draft choice. He completed 11 of 17 passes for 134 yards with one touchdown and a quarterback rating of 108.5 in his final bid to convince Carroll to keep three quarterbacks on the initial regular-season roster for only the second time in five seasons leading the Seahawks.
“He battled,” was Carroll’s rather generalized assessment of Pryor.
Pryor was sterling in a 2-minute drill that became an 87-yard touchdown drive to end the first half. But, true to his wild-card nature this month, he alternating missing basic throws and making tough ones in the second half of his final
Wilson completed all three of his throws on the game’s opening drive, the first play 44 yards down the right sideline to wide-open Jermaine Kearse on a one-on-one go route. Kearse started while Percy Harvin did not make the trip. Harvin, who has looked supersonic all month, was away from the team for a third consecutive day with what the Seahawks say is a “personal matter.”
The starting offense went from its own 20 to the Raiders 28 in two plays. The fourth play Wilson’s lofted pass found No. 2 tight end Luke Willson in stride alone past a linebacker and 10 yards ahead of the safety for a 25-yard touchdown.
But the starting defense, missing starting end Michael Bennett (hamstring), tackle Tony McDaniel (knee) and pass-rush linebacker Bruce Irvin (still not back from spring hip surgery), allowed the Raiders to go 68 yards and 12 plays to tie the game at 7. The defensive front got no pressure on Carr, whom the Seahawks helped immensely in his candidate to pass Matt Schaub to the Oakland’s starter. Defensive linemen got moved out of holes on runs while the linebackers “scraped” over-aggressively and the Raiders ran inside them.
Latavius Murray ran the final 5 yards to tie the game early.
“It’s preseason. You haven’t seen everyone together at the same time,” said middle linebacker Bobby Wagner.
He missed most of August with a hamstring injury, and knows starting defensive tackle Tony McDaniel was home with a sore knee and that Kam Chancellor just got back from hip surgery.
Bryan Walters, trying to win a special-teams job, took the following kickoff at the goal line and made two good moves to get to the 36. But as he was getting hit on his left side Oakland’s Keith McGill swiped down on the ball, knocked it out and recovered the fumble at the Seahawks 36.
“First time that’s ever happened to me — ever,” said Walters, who gained 137 yards on five kickoff returns and another 13 on two punt returns with two fair catches. The native of Kirkland and Ivy League career punt-return leader at Cornell took all of Seattle’s return work in a final effort to win a roster spot.
On the next play, with about half Seattle’s defense now second-teamers, Carr saw Denarius Moore run past roster hopeful Phillip Adams in the right corner of the end zone. That easy pitch and catch made it 14-7 Raiders.
Tarvaris Jackson fumbled a snap on the next series from backup center Lemuel Jeanpierre but scrambled beneath 300-pound linemen to recover. That 3-and-out drive ended with a net of minus-7 yards. TJ Carrie returned Jon Ryan’s punt 45 yards to the Seahawks 20. One play later, linebacker Malcolm Smith ran back to the 5 in deep zone coverage and tipped Carr’s pass. But he tipped it back — and into the arms of wide receiver Mychal Rivera, whom Adams had guarded well as both fell into the end zone. That quirky TD made it 21-7 Oakland with 5 minutes left in the first quarter.
The period ended with Seattle’s first- and second-team defense allowing Oakland 175 yards.
Garry Gilliam, in as an extra tackle on left end next to left tackle Russell Okung, allowed a sack of Jackson to end the next three-and-out Seahawks drive. Okung, who made his exhibition-season debut last week after offseason toe surgery, played the entire first half in an effort to get him the plays he needs to accelerate into playing shape for the regular season.
“I felt good. I felt strong,” Okung said, adding he was in far better game shape than last week when he had to leave after one drive against Chicago.
Asked how ready he is for Thursday against Green Bay, Okung smiled and said: “As ready as I’ll ever be. I am looking forward to Green Bay.”
Jackson, seemingly entrenched as Wilson’s trusted, veteran backup again this season, completed 2 of 4 passes for 19 yards.
When Carr ended the Raiders’ next drive with a touchdown pass of 11 yards on third down to Moore on a back-shoulder throw that beat Akeem Auguste, Oakland led 28-7.
The Seahawks may have helped Carr win the starting quarterback job from injured Matt Schaub. The former Fresno State star completed 11 of 13 passes for 143 yards, three touchdowns, a quarterback rating of 152 (158.3 is perfect) — and numerous index fingers shooting into the Oakland twilight.
Adams made one of his first plays of the month when he tipped backup Mike McGloin’s pass into the arms of Seahawks teammate DeShawn Shead. Shead made a rolling interception, then got up and ran 54 yards for the touchdown to make it 28-14 in the Arena Football-like first half.
The total yardage was Oakland 268 and Seattle 103 Oakland with 1:45 left in the half when Pryor began a 2-minute drill at the Seattle 13. Pryor was sharp rolling out and finding receivers and rookie WR Paul Richardson made a fantastic, toe-on-the-sideline catch while stretching to convert a third down. Then Pryor looked the safety off left and threw into the right corner of the end zone to wide open Phil Bates, who like Pryor is trying to take one of Seattle’s last roster spots. That made it 35-21 at halftime.
Thursday mirrored Pryor’s up-and-down month. After that brilliant flash to end first half in 2-minute drill, he was wildly off high and wide to Walters on a basic, 5-yard in route on fourth and three in the third quarter.