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3 Takeaways from Seahawks’ 27-24 loss to Broncos

Seahawks' QB Russell Wilson was sacked six times Sunday. (AP)

The Seahawks opened the season with a 27-24 loss to the Denver Broncos. There were a few positives, including a 105-yard game from rookie tight end Will Dissly and a highlight-reel hurdle from running back Chris Carson. But Seattle struggled to apply a consistent pass rush – and a few questionable calls by officials didn’t help matters, either.

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Here are three quick takeaways from Sunday’s Week 1 contest.

Seahawks pass rush struggles to get started

The Seahawks lost major pass rushers Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Sheldon Richardson this offseason. The hope was that defensive end Frank Clark would be able to pick up the slack, along with Dion Jordan (who returned to action against the Broncos after spending the preseason on the PUP list). A few additions also looked promising in the preseason, notably rookies Rasheem Green and Jacob Martin and linebacker Barkevious Mingo.

But the pressure was mostly absent in Seattle’s first half against the Broncos, and quarterback Case Keenum took advantage of it. Denver racked up nearly all of their 297 yards in the first half through the air, and top target Emmanuel Sanders finished the night with 135 yards on 10 receptions. The pass rush showed marked improvement in the third quarter, though, holding the Broncos to just 31 yards and a field goal.

A focus on finishing falls short

Seattle’s offense didn’t fare much better, but like the defense, there were some promising flashes.

Let’s start with what hurt the Seahawks. Quarterback Russell Wilson was sacked six times for a net loss of 56 yards. Some of that is on Wilson, who in at least one instance held on to the ball too long in an attempt to scramble his way out of pressure deep in the backfield. But the offensive line lost a few battles to Denver’s top-tier pass rush headed by linebacker Von Miller, who racked up three sacks on his own.

Seattle made it a point in the preseason to focus on finishing drives after they struggled with third down and red zone conversions against the Chargers in August. But the issue reared its head again in the season opener – the Seahawks were 0 for 5 on third downs by the end of the first half and finished the game 2 of 12 (17 percent). The two issues are, obviously, connected.

“Third downs were lousy,” coach Pete Carroll said. “We didn’t run the ball as well as we wanted to and we wound up getting sacked a bunch of times. Those are just similar issues and I’m disappointed on the offensive side.”

Don’t worry Seahawks fans, there’s definitely a bright side

The Seahawks may not be leaving Denver with the win, but there were some encouraging performances from Week 1.

Free safety Earl Thomas announced his return with a bang, picking off a pass from Keenum to set up a Seattle touchdown in the first quarter. The team rested him throughout the game, and he should be able to build up his playing time next week away from the mile-high altitude in Denver.

Fellow safety Bradley McDougald nabbed two interceptions, in addition to his five tackles and two passes defended.

Wilson connected with Dissly for a few explosive plays. Dissly finished the night with 105 yards and a touchdown on three catches.

The running game may not have had the performance Carroll was expecting, but second-year pro Chris Carson had the play of the night: a 24-yard run that included a hurdle over Broncos cornerback Bradley Roby.

It’s also fair to acknowledge that Seattle is playing with a host of new faces, both on the team and on the coaching staff.

With cornerback Byron Maxwell on the injured reserve, Dontae Johnson was slated to be Seattle’s starter at right corner. But the team placed Johnson on IR Saturday, forcing a start for rookie Tre Flowers, who is making the transition to the position after playing safety his entire college career. Likewise, with longtime veteran K.J. Wright sidelined (knee), it was rookie linebacker Shaquem Griffin who got the call to start at weakside linebacker.

Learning curves are to be expected with any team in Week 1. With Seattle, those learning curves will be part of a season-long focus as they enter their most trying season yet.

It’s petty to blame Wilson for Hawks not becoming a dynasty