Minnesota hands Seahawks their first loss of preseason

Seattle’s offense couldn’t muster a touchdown drive as the team fell 25-19 in Minneapolis

By Gregg Bell / The News Tribune

MINNEAPOLIS — For starters, that’ll work.

For DeShawn Shead, welcome back.

Russell Wilson made his preseason debut Sunday night and led two effective drives by the starting offense against Minnesota’s talented starting defense. Wilson completed 6 of 9 passes for 82 yards (a passer rating of 95.6) in two drives. The second one ended with a field goal by Jason Myers.

Shead celebrated the second game of his second go-round with Seattle by intercepting a pass in the second quarter. He showed his reconstructed knee that led to his exit from the Seahawks in early 2018 is all the way back to strength on his 88-yard sprint for a touchdown.

Those were Seattle’s high points in a 25-19 loss at Minnesota in its second preseason game.

The biggest negative of the night was a significant one: Rookie wide receiver DK Metcalf, a star this spring and summer, needs knee surgery.

Coach Pete Carroll said following the game Metcalf is scheduled to have surgery on his knee Tuesday, and that doctors have a clear idea what to fix, though Carroll would not specify the injury late Sunday. The Seahawks are optimistic Metcalf, who missed most of his last college season at Mississippi with a neck injury before Seattle drafted the physical marvel in the second round in April, can make a relatively quick recovery.

“Disappointed for him, because he is off to a fantastic start,” Carroll said. “But I don’t think this is going to derail him for long.

“But he does have to get some work done.”

Plus, rookie safety Marquise Blair, a candidate to start this season, was carted off the field early in the fourth quarter with a back injury. Carroll said Blair, the second-round draft choice who debuted so impressively last week in the preseason opener, had back spasms. So that doesn’t sound as serious as Metcalf’s injury.

That leaves Seattle’s top three rookie draft choices now injured: First-round pick L.J. Collier is out indefinitely with an ankle sprain.

Running back Chris Carson, left tackle Duane Brown, right guard D.J. Fluker and wide receiver Tyler Lockett joined Wilson in playing after sitting out last week’s preseason opener healthy. The starting offense gained 116 yards on 17 plays over two drives. The second one was a 12-play, 60-yard march to the field goal. Seattle’s starters gained five first downs, went 2 for 4 on third down and punted once.

Most encouraging: The starting line’s pass protection was solid. Center Justin Britt and his four linemates picked up Vikings’ blitzes, such as by star safety Harrison Smith in the second quarter. And they controlled Minnesota’s front four that was without starting tackles Shamar Stephen and Linval Joseph.

Pass-protection issues this time last year was why Seattle led the NFL in rushing attempts en route to becoming the top running game in the NFL. Wilson threw it fewer times than any other full-time starting quarterback in the league, and still had his most efficient season passing of his career with 35 touchdowns and a career-high passer rating of 110.9.

On defense, most of those starters also played the first two drives. The safety pairing again was Bradley McDougald at strong safety and Tedric Thompson at free. Seattle stayed in base defense for the first six plays, with linebackers Cody Barton, who started in the middle because All-Pro Bobby Wagner is not yet back from knee therapy two weeks ago, flanked by Mychal Kendricks and Austin Calitro (starting for resting 30-year-old K.J. Wright).

On the seventh play, Minnesota’s third-and-2, Jamar Taylor was the new nickel defensive back. The seventh-year veteran and full-time starter for Cleveland in 2016 and ‘17 earned that role by being the best cover man in training-camp practices this month.

Taylor was late getting over to Brandon Zylstra on the Minnesota wide receiver’s inside-then-outside route at the goal line late in the third quarter. The 4-yard touchdown pass from Kyle Sloter put the Seahawks behind 17-13.

The Seahawks used six defensive backs (dime package) about a half-dozen times in the first half. That continues a trend defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. started in the latter half of last season. Taylor was the fifth defensive back and Shead the sixth.

Shead’s place on the team shouldn’t be in much doubt, not with the speed he’s shown in his return, his experience playing every position in Seattle’s secondary and being a special-teams captain for this team three years ago. Plus, coach Pete Carroll loves his former undrafted rookie decathlete from Portland State for coming up through his Seahawks system the long way to become a Super Bowl winner.

There was no one from here to Milwaukee once Shead caught an errant throw outside from Sean Mannion, whose receiver Chad Beebe stopped his route to create the interception. Shead out-ran every Viking with no one closing on him over the entirety of his 88-yard return for the score. That showed what he told Carroll at Cliff Avril’s retirement party in the spring to get a Seahawks tryout: His surgically repaired knee is fully healhy, and that he is actually faster than before the surgery in January 2017 affected his 2018 with the Detroit Lions.

After Shead reached the end zone to put Seattle ahead 10-3, he went to one knee. The entire Seahawks defense, plus Wilson, joined him to pose for cameras in a group end-zone celebration of his return to prominence in Seattle.

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