SEATTLE — Matt Hasselbeck barely had time to hear his name announced as the Tennessee Titans starting quarterback before he was watching his former team headed the other way for a touchdown.
On the first play of the game.
“I was just like ‘No, you’ve got to be kidding me!’” Hasselbeck said.
Hasselbeck had a rocky return to the stadium where he created so many memories wearing a Seahawks uniform, throwing a pair of interceptions in his limited appearance, while Seattle rookie Russell Wilson dazzled with touchdowns running and throwing in the second half to help the Seahawks open the preseason with a 27-17 victory Saturday night.
Hasselbeck, who was Seattle’s anchor at quarterback for nearly a decade, saw the first play of the game — a pass intended for Nate Washington — get deflected into the arms of Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner and returned 23 yards for a touchdown. Seattle (No. 22 APPro32) went ahead 17-3 on the first drive of the second half when Wilson, in a three-way competition for the Seahawks’ QB job, threw a 39-yard scoring pass to Braylon Edwards. Wilson added a 32-yard bootleg touchdown run with 1:51 left to cap an impressive debut by the third-round pick.
“I felt like I did a really good job, especially for the first time being out there,” Wilson said. “I was really, really calm (and) just trusted what I saw.”
Matt Flynn got the start at quarterback for Seattle while incumbent Tarvaris Jackson was left to watch this week. Coach Pete Carroll gave no indication afterward how the rotation will be next week when Seattle travels to Denver.
“The quarterbacks did a really nice job,” Carroll said. “Nothing but good stuff came out of this game.”
Hasselbeck was greeted with cheers and signs before the game with plenty of fans still donning No. 8 Seahawks jerseys. Hasselbeck said he got choked up speaking before the game.
“It means a lot to me to see someone wearing my jersey especially when I’m gone,” Hasselbeck said.
Hasselbeck threw a quick out for Washington on the first play from scrimmage. But Hasselbeck’s throw was poor — low and too far behind Washington. The receiver tried to pull in the pass, but instead knocked it off the arm of safety Earl Thomas and into Browner’s arms. The 23-yard interception return gave Seattle a 7-0 lead just 9 seconds into the preseason.
“It was kind of a freak thing,” Hasselbeck said. “It reminded me of my first pass the last time I was in this stadium which was intercepted against the Saints. … It was disappointing it started that way, not at all how I envisioned it.”
That came in the NFC wild card game when Hasselbeck was engineering an upset of the defending Super Bowl champions. Seattle opted to go a different direction at quarterback before the start of the 2011 season and Hasselbeck ended up in Tennessee (No. 21 APPro32), where he finds himself this preseason battling Jake Locker for the starting job.
In terms of appearance, Locker, who played his college ball across town at Washington, got the better of Saturday night albeit against the Seahawks’ backups. Titans coach Mike Munchak saw it that way as well, saying the gap between the QBs has closed.
“I think overall, as the season progressed last year, Jake was coming on real strong last year. He kind of picked up where he left off in training camp. That’s why there’s a competition,” Munchak said. “If he didn’t close the gap, there wouldn’t be a competition and Matt obviously would be starting. I think he’s closed the gap.”
Hasselbeck ended up with 15 snaps, right about what Munchak had hoped. He finished 5 of 9 passes for 45 yards and two interceptions, his second a glorified punt that Richard Sherman hauled in along the sideline at the Seattle 6.
Locker got 18 snaps, playing the rest of the first half before giving way to Rusty Smith in the second half. Locker was decisive and confident in the pocket, although against Seattle’s second-team defense. Locker completed 7 of 13 passes for 80 yards and led the Titans to Rob Bironas’ 32-yard field goal in the closing seconds of the first half. Locker completed his first five passes on the Titans’ final drive for 60 yards.
“That’s not for me to decide, for both Matt and I. It’s up to us to go out and play as well as we can and put our team in the best situation to win games,” Locker said. “At the end of the day, neither of us are going to make that decision, so I’m probably the wrong guy to ask.”
Flynn played the entire first half, but was highly conservative with his throws. He finished 11 of 13 for 71 yards, but never once challenged the Titans’ secondary downfield. His longest completion was a 16-yard throw to Zach Miller, but five of his completions were for 5 yards or less.
While he didn’t take chances, Flynn mostly didn’t make mistakes either. He was sacked twice — once holding the ball too long — and his biggest miscue came on his 10th pass attempt when his slant pass to Ben Obomanu was intercepted by linebacker Colin McCarthy dropping into coverage.
“I’m always going to want more reps and more of everything,” Flynn said. “But just like the other two guys they’re going to want the same thing. As an offense, the No. 1 offense as a whole it was a really good start. “
Wilson wasn’t without his own blunder throwing an interception in the end zone. Overall, Seattle was more aggressive in its play calling with Wilson, who was 12 for 16 passes for 124 yards. He added 59 yards rushing.
Will Batson missed a 36-yard field goal with 4:46 left for Tennessee that would have tied the game at 20. Titans’ backup running back Darius Reynaud scored on a 21-yard TD run midway through the third quarter, and returned a punt 85 yards for a touchdown.