By TODD FREDRICKSON
SEATTLE – With his arm and his head, Brock Huard tightened his grip on the Seattle Seahawks’ starting quarterback job Sunday.
It’s his knee that raised questions about whether he’ll keep it.
Huard, making his second NFL start since being promoted from the second string, completed 19 of 26 passes for three touchdowns and one interception in the Seahawks’ 37-24 NFL loss to Indianapolis at Husky Stadium.
The offense had a flow and a crispness not seen all season, and the Seahawks had a least a prayer of victory until Huard threw his only interception with 4:34 remaining.
But Huard injured his knee on the previous series, and former starter Jon Kitna was on the field for Seattle’s final possession.
After the game, Huard walked with a pronounced and painful-looking limp, and while he was confident the injury isn’t season-threatening, he also stopped short of predicting he’ll be ready to go next week when the Seahawks (2-5) play at Oakland.
“I think it’ll be OK,” he said. “I know it’s not anything major, so we’ll just get it (an MRI exam) done and we’ll see.”
If he’s healthy, there’s no question Huard is still the starter after making huge strides over his first start, a 26-3 loss to Carolina in which he was 19-for-34 passing and the Seahawks were 0-for-11 on third-down conversions.
“Brock was the least of our problems today,” guard Pete Kendall said, perhaps thinking of a Seahawks defense that allowed Indianapolis (4-2) to score on its first seven possessions.
“Brock played pretty well today, threw the ball pretty well for the most part,” Kendall said. “He was poised in the pocket. You’ve got to give him credit.”
Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren agreed.
“He did some really good things,” Holmgren said. “I think he is a naturally confident guy. He understands what is going on. It doesn’t surprise me how he is handling this.”
Huard was especially impressive in the second quarter, throwing touchdown passes of 8 yards to Darrell Jackson and 7 yards to Itula Mili and driving Seattle 31 yards in the final 23 seconds to set up a 51-yard field goal by Rian Lindell that made the halftime score 20-17.
He posted his third touchdown pass on a 6-yard completion to Karsten Bailey that made it 37-24 with 5:28 left in the game.
The Seahawks clung to life by recovering an onside kickoff, but Chad Cota’s interception of a Huard pass two plays later sealed the outcome.
Kitna had thrown a total of only four touchdown passes as the starter in Seattle’s first five games, and in 26 career starts he had three TDs only once, in a 37-20 victory over Cincinnati in the eighth game of last season.
Huard’s 226 passing yards Sunday topped Kitna’s total in four of Kitna’s five starts this season.
“He played about as well as you could,” Kitna said of Huard. “He was a warrior out there. He threw the ball on time, on target. He picked the right receivers and really had good command out there.
“I was proud of the way he played, and I hope he’s not hurt too bad,” Kitna said.
Huard, citing the team’s loss, seemed hesitant to say he played well, but he did admit that he felt considerably more comfortable in his second start.
“I don’t think anything about this game is ever easy. I don’t think it’s ever going to be easy,” he said. “But you definitely start to see more things, and today I felt like I was able to see a lot more things happen on the field.”
There’s little doubt that Huard, a 1999 third-round draft choice with a rifle arm out of the University of Washington, offers more upside potential than the smallish, scrappy Kitna, a former free agent out of Central Washington.
Or, as Holmgren put it, “He’s a talented young man who needs to play, and that’s what we’re doing right now.”
That potential sparkled brightly on Sunday.
What’s left to see is how fully it develops – and whether that sore knee puts it back on the shelf for a while.
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