DENVER — The new era of Seattle Seahawks football arrived Sunday afternoon.
The first victory of said era will have to wait until another day.
A much-changed Seattle team underwent some growing pains in its season opener against the Denver Broncos, falling 27-24 at Mile High Stadium.
Seattle, which was outplayed much of the game, briefly grabbed the lead early in the fourth quarter courtesy of quarterback Russell Wilson’s 51-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Lockett that made it 24-20. However, the Broncos responded with a drive that concluded with Case Keenum threading a 4-yard touchdown pass to DeMaryius Thomas toeing the sideline, and the Seahawks were unable to conjure up any fourth-quarter magic.
“We were sloppy across the board,” Seahawks receiver and former Broncos star Brandon Marshall said. “The good thing about that is you can fix that, you can correct it. We played pretty sharp all through the preseason, all through camp. It was tough to put that on tape and put that performance out there, but at the same time it’s correctable.”
Seattle underwent substantial roster turnover during the offseason, including the dismantling of a defense that dominated the NFL from 2012-16. The Seahawks are hoping the infusion of new blood will serve as a jolt for a team that was dealing with aging stars and declining performances.
However, the team’s youthfulness was evident Sunday. The Broncos out-gained the Seahawks 470-306 and sacked Wilson six times, while Seattle’s defense made the type of tackling and coverage mistakes that were rare in recent years. The Seahawks also never got their running game going, rushing the ball just 16 times for 64 yards.
“It’s not a very clean game for us, but after all of that we feel like we could have won that game, and we really had a great chance to do that, so it’s really frustrating,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “I can see the newness of us, we got in trouble in some stuff on defense because me made some mistakes on things that can easily be cleaned up, but they happened and were problems for us. We have a lot of work to do, but we have a lot of fight, we competed like crazy and had guys making plays.”
Seattle kept itself in the game by intercepting Keenum three times, twice when the Broncos were in position to score.
Seattle had a difficult task in its season opener. The Broncos may have finished 5-11 last season, but a trip to Denver meant the Seahawks had to open the season dealing with both the heat and the altitude — there’s a reason the Broncos have won seven straight season openers. The good news for the Seahawks is that they didn’t lose any ground in the NFC West as the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals also dropped their openers Sunday. The Los Angeles Rams play Monday night.
After Seattle took its 24-20 lead, Denver had a drive that looked like it was going to stall out at the Seattle 31. But on third-and-10 Keenum kept the play alive and hit tight end Jake Butt for a 22-yard gain, supplemented by Dion Jordan’s roughing-the-passer penalty. One play later, Thomas scored his touchdown — a play that was originally ruled incomplete, changed on the field, then upheld upon video review. Instead of settling for a field goal and remaining behind by a point, the Broncos took the lead and forced Seattle to play from behind.
Von Miller, Denver. The Broncos’ star defensive end terrorized Wilson all game, finishing with three sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
Case Keenum, Denver. Went 25-for-39 for 329 yards and three touchdowns, though he also had bad moments by throwing three picks.
Emmanuel Sanders, Denver. Caught 10 passes for 135 yards and a touchdown, taking advantage of inexperience in Seattle’s secondary.
Russell Wilson, Seattle. Went 19-for-33 for 298 yards and three touchdowns. He also threw two interceptions, though one was on a desperation heave on the game’s final play.
Will Dissly, Seattle. The rookie tight end out of Washington was a shock offensive weapon, catching three passes for 105 yards and a touchdown.
Bradley McDougald, Seattle. Had two interceptions, both coming when Denver was within range of the Seahawks’ end zone.
Michael Dickson, Seattle. Lived up to the hype in his debut as the rookie punter averaged 59.0 yards on six punts, had a 57.5 net, and dropped four inside the 20.
Seattle played without two starters in linebacker K.J. Wright (knee) and guard D.J. Fluker (hamstring), who were ruled out before the game. No. 1 receiver Doug Baldwin suffered a sprained MCL in his right knee, which is the opposite knee from the one that kept him out of the preseason, and though he returned briefly he was held out during the second half. Safety Earl Thomas, who returned this week from his holdout, had brief moments where he was held out of the game as the Seahawks tried to limit his playing time.
The Seahawks get an early chance in the national spotlight as they head to Chicago next week to face the Bears on Monday night.