By Greg Bell The News Tribune
DENVER — It wasn’t really a lightning-like start to the Seattle Seahawks’ preseason.
Then again, literally, it was.
The offensive line, with four fill-ins for injured or sitting-out starters, allowed Russell Wilson to get sacked twice in his two-drive night. He got hit at least four other times and ran for his life far more than a quarterback of his elite, Super Bowl-champion stature should. Especially in the first week of August.
Then came a 45-minute delay Thursday caused by lightning strikes all around Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Officials ordered both teams back to the locker room while the local fans were left in the stands to watch the ongoing sky show. After that the patchwork of reserve linemen gave Wilson enough time to find his only rhythm of his short appearance. The starters’ second drive ended with Christine Michael’s 1-yard touchdown, the only one in Seattle’s 21-16 loss to the Broncos in the not-quite-rematch of February’s Super Bowl.
The real one comes next month in Week 3 of the regular season, at CenturyLink Field.
For what it’s worth (not much): Seattle lost for the first time in 10 preseason games dating to 2011.
Because of the real rematch next month, the Seahawks’ starting defense stayed plain and mostly kept its pressure packages out of sight in its three drives. That left Peyton Manning more time than he got in the Meadowlands six months ago, far more than he’ll get next month in Seattle. The Seahawks dropped seven and sometimes eight into coverage, and Manning completed 10 of 13 throws for 78 yards in front of that zone coverage.
Wilson finished 4-for-6 for 37 yards passing. He ran once for seven yards — plus too many more times just trying to avoid a loss or more hits.
Tarvaris Jackson and Terrelle Pryor, in that order, played the final 32:40. Jackson, the veteran incumbent with the $1.25 million guaranteed contract, completed five of six passes to end the half with a crisp drive to the first of Steven Hauschka’s three field goals. That made it 10-7 Seahawks after the delayed, nearly two-hour first half.
Jackson played one drive after halftime, missing on the only pass he threw. He finished 5-of-7 for 47 yards. He was sacked once.
Pryor entered game 5 minutes into the third quarter. He immediately showed the athleticism and improvisation that prompted Oakland to make him its starting quarterback for 10 games over three seasons, ending with his trade to Seattle in April for a seventh-round draft choice.
Pryor’s most impressive throw was a cool dart down the middle— from the pocket he reputedly disdains— to wide receiver Brian Walters for a 28-yard gain. Twice Pryor escaped what would have been 10-plus-yard sacks and scrambled for gains. The second one, on a Wilson-like spin away from trouble and reverse-field sprint for 4 yards, kept Hauschka in easy range to make a 40-yard field goal. That cut Denver’s lead to 14-13 midway through the third quarter.
Pryor, playing in the same stadium where he beat the Broncos while starting for the Raiders in 2012, completed nine of 16 for 137 yards and an interception that shouldn’t have been.
With four-fifths of the Seahawks’ starting offensive line out — that’s assuming recently acquired veteran Eric Winston becomes the starting right tackle over rookie second-round draft choice Justin Britt, no sure thing— the Broncos got pressure early and often on Wilson.
Right guard J.R. Sweezy was the only starter on the offensive line — and it showed. Wilson ran away from trouble before being sacked for a 1-yard loss on his second play. His third play, he got hit after he threw high and incomplete downfield. On his fourth play, he read a Broncos blitz and threw to his “hot” receiver, Zach Miller. Wilson’s zipping throw went through the starting tight end’s hands for what was originally ruled a scooping interception.
It didn’t help the Seahawks that Denver’s starters, who played most of the first half, were blitzing the fill-in line as if this was Super Bowl Redemption Night.
The Seahawks gained 75 yards and scored seven points on the 23 plays Wilson triggered. They gained 25 yards and scored three points on the 12 plays with Jackson at quarterback. With Pryor playing the final 25 minutes, they gained 198 yards and scored six points on 26 plays.
Pryor would have had a touchdown pass late, when he deftly flicked the ball into the right flat to Demitrius Bronson, who was free in open field to the goal line from 10. But the running back from Eastern Washington allowed the pass to go through his hands for an incompletion. On the next play, Pryor scrambled away from trouble to the right and threw into traffic at the goal line for Ricardo Lockette. The Broncos tipped the pass for an interception that ended Seattle’s preseason winning streak.
Seattle had 13 of the plodding game’s 25 penalties, for 131 yards.
The better news: No apparent injuries. The only injury announced by the Seahawks was to reserve cornerback A.J. Jefferson. He was helped off the field in the third quarter with an ankle injury.
The Seahawks’ next exhibition is next Friday at home against San Diego.