By Danny O’Neil
Highlights from the Seahawks’ 31-10 win over the Chargers in Thursday night’s preseason opener:
The storyline: The Chargers outgained the Seahawks 167 yards to 82 in the first half. San Diego had 13 first downs in the first two quarters while Seattle didn’t cross midfield on any of its first three possessions. Yet the Seahawks led 7-3 at halftime for the very simple reason the Chargers committed two turnovers, former Seahawk Charlie Whitehurst getting intercepted twice, setting up not only Seattle’s only touchdown of the first half but nearly allowing the Seahawks to sneak in a field goal on the final play of the first half. Seattle’s depth took over in the second half as the Seahawks not only outscored San Diego 24-7 over the final two quarters, but had three sacks.
The significance: Seattle won its sixth consecutive preseason game going back to the 2011 finale, and the Seahawks have now won seven straight preseason openers.
Depth charge: The most significant positional comparison came at quarterback, where Seattle’s Tarvaris Jackson completed eight of nine passes for two touchdowns. Brady Quinn, who was Seattle’s second quarterback to play Thursday, completed six of his 11 throws for 59 yards and a touchdown.
Truning point : Whitehurst tried to throw a fastball outside at the end of the first half. Just one problem: He didn’t use enough mustard, allowing Seattle cornerback Byron Maxwell time to drive on the ball, cut in front of Chargers receiver Robert Meachem to not only intercept Whitehurst’s throw but return it 28 yards to the San Diego 14 with 2:12 left in the half. Three plays later, Quinn threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Jermaine Kearse and the Seahawks never trailed again.
Postcard from San Diego: Admit it, midway through the first half you were wondering why we’d spent half a year waiting anxiously for this Seahawks’ season.
More than half a year had passed since the Seahawks’ playoff loss in Atlanta, 207 days to be exact, and the excitement for this season was a tidal wave of anticipation over the return of not only quarterback Russell Wilson but this Seahawks defense that allowed the fewest points of any team in the league.
And after all that build-up, Seattle’s preseason started Thursday not with a bang, but a thud. The Seahawks defense backpedaled its way through the first 7 minutes, 29 seconds, allowing Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers to complete his first five passes during a 74-yard drive to a field goal.
Meanwhile, Seattle’s offense failed to cross midfield on any of its first three possessions and right about the time you began to worry about the fact that Seattle was looking rather toothless against a San Diego franchise that is rebuilding under first-year coach Mike McCoy, two realizations set in:
- It’s a preseason game, the result of which won’t have a single thing to do with how far Seattle will go this season.
- There was a lot of football left to play not only this year, but this game.
And sure enough, order was restored to the Seahawks’ universe. Seattle’s secondary showed its depth, Maxwell cutting in front of a Chargers receiver to intercept a pass from Whitehurst, who looked every bit as frazzled and harried as he did in his two seasons as a Seahawk.
Maxwell returned the pick to the San Diego 14, and three plays later, Seattle scored on a pass from backup Brady Quinn to former Husky Jermaine Kearse, who was wide open in the end zone. Seattle safety Chris Maragos intercepted a deflection to end San Diego’s next possession. Steven Hauschka attempted a 61-yard field goal on the final play of the half, coming inches from making a kick that was not only improbably long but exactly matching the 61-yard game-winning attempt against Atlanta in 2011.
The Seahawks added a field goal after Walter Thurmond’s third-quarter punt return and Spencer Ware scored on a 6-yard run, which was set up by Tarvaris Jackson’s 41-yard pass to Stephen Williams later in the period. The Seahawks outscored San Diego 24-7 in the second half as Jackson was nearly perfect.
Players of the game:
QB Tarvaris Jackson’s first completion of the game was a 41-yard throw to receiver Stephen Williams, setting up Seattle’s second touchdown. His third completion of the game was a 42-yard throw to Williams for the Seahawks’ third touchdown. Jackson was 8-for-9 passing for 128 yards and two touchdowns.
WR Stephen Williams needs to be a heck of a receiving threat to make the roster given that he’s probably not going to contribute on special teams. He was a heck of a receiving threat in this game, catching two passes for 83 yards and a touchdown.
DE Benson Mayowa had two sacks in the third quarter as the undrafted rookie out of Idaho continued what has been an impressive exhibition season.
The good: Russell Wilson isn’t any easier to tackle in the preseason. In fact, he might be tougher. He had a pair of first-quarter scrambles, including one that improbably converted a third-and-6 to show that he’s about the furthest thing from a sitting duck when he’s in the pocket.
Seattle’s run defense yielded ground early, allowing an average of 4.8 yards per carry on the Chargers’ first possession. The Seahawks gave up an average of 2.9 yards on the 14 carries in the rest of the half.
The bad: Wilson completed only two of the six passes he attempted in the game and Seattle didn’t cross midfield on either of the two series he played.
Seattle’s defense was without starting middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and defensive end Cliff Avril, and the Chargers’ Philip Rivers completed his first five passes. San Diego drove 74 yards on the opening possession and took a 3-0 lead on Nick Novak’s 28-yard field goal.
The ugly: The Seahawks were one of the most penalized teams in the league last year, accumulating the sixth-most with 110. They were penalized six times in the first half alone, costing them 45 yards.