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Seahawks sacked in preseason opener, losing 21-16 to Denver

Pass protection was a recurring issue during Seattle's 21-16 preseason loss to Denver. (AP)

DENVER – The weather delay seemed interminable, the penalties threatened to make the game unwatchable and pass protection wasn’t just a problem for Seattle, but an oxymoron at times against the Broncos.

In other words: It was like any other preseason game with plenty of room for improvement after Seattle lost to Denver 21-16.

It was the Seahawks’ first preseason loss since 2011, a defeat Seattle was 3 yards away from avoiding only to have Terrelle Pryor picked off on third down when he tried to thread a pass to Ricardo Lockette between three defenders.

But there was no pressure for Seattle on Thursday. Not in a preseason game. That lack of pressure was actually part of the problem, the Seahawks defense being held at bay by Denver’s starting offensive line.

The bigger worry might be the pressure that was placed on Seattle. Not in terms of scrutiny, either, but big men with bad intentions bearing down on Russell Wilson in the two series he played. Wilson was pressured on each of his first two pass attempts and was sacked in the second quarter. Backup Tarvaris Jackson wasn’t much more comfortable, and he was sacked in the third quarter.

Now, Seattle was missing three starters on its offensive line, including a pair of former Pro Bowlers. Left tackle Russell Okung stayed in Seattle after returning to practice just this week and center Max Unger and guard James Carpenter missed the game.

Seattle’s only touchdown drive was aided by four penalties against Denver’s defense, all of which resulted in first downs. That included a pass-interference penalty that set up Christine Michael’s 1-yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter.

That drive began after a 45-minute delay caused by lightning that struck within an eight-mile radius of the stadium.

Lightning did not strike twice, however. At least not when it came to a Seattle thunderstorm wiping out the Broncos. This time, the Broncos ran an offensive play without scoring points for Seattle, an improvement over the Super Bowl, and Peyton Manning led the Broncos to as many touchdowns in the one quarter he played Thursday night as he did in last February’s championship game.

Manning is the consummate technician, and he was remarkably efficient in the two possessions he played, completing 10 of 13 passes for 78 yards. That was only half as good as he was last year against Seattle in the preseason, though, when he threw for 163 yards in four first-half possessions. The Broncos scored only one touchdown, but that was largely because the Broncos turned the ball over twice in Seattle’s half of the field.

Michael scored Seattle’s only touchdown, but it was Pryor who led the team in rushing with 28 yards on seven carries. Marshawn Lynch was absent, staying in Seattle with most of the other players who did not appear in the game.

INT-eresting debut

Cornerback A.J. Jefferson intercepted a third-quarter pass from Denver’s Brock Osweiler. He suffered an ankle injury after the play and did not return.

Flag football

Officials called eight penalties in the first quarter, four for each team. That set the tone for a game that featured 20 flags in the first three quarters, including five straight penalties in one torturous five-play sequence in the third quarter.

For all the talk about the officiating emphasis on illegal contact and defensive holding, it was the Broncos who were flagged for those infractions in the first half, not Seattle. Denver was penalized twice for defensive holding, once for illegal contact. Each is a 5-yard penalty and an automatic first down.

Personal matters

The Seahawks were assessed three personal-foul penalties in the game, including a third-quarter foul on cornerback Tharold Simon for striking an opposing player in the helmet. That resulted in an ejection. Linebacker K.J. Wright was penalized for shoving an opponent after the play following Denver’s first touchdown, and Jeremy Lane was flagged for taunting on the ensuing kickoff.

Personnel matters

Percy Harvin appeared in his first exhibition for the Seahawks. Barely. He was on the field for Seattle’s first play from scrimmage, lining up outside on a handoff to Robert Turbin. He didn’t play again.

Safety Earl Thomas got first crack at returning punts for Seattle, a role previously filled by Golden Tate. Thomas was tackled for no gain on his first-quarter return at the Seattle 15.