The Seahawks expanded their lead to 17-7 when Brandon Coutu kicked a 38-yard field goal on the ninth play of the final quarter.
Coutu got his kick because Reed made a pick – intercepting a Whitehurst pass on the second play of the quarter, after rookie defensive end Michael Bennett sacked the Chargers’ No. 3 on the first play of the quarter.
The next time the Seahawks got the ball, they moved 60 yards – thanks to a 30-yard pass interference penalty against Chargers cornerback Simeon Castille after he grabbed Logan Payne. Coutu stretched the lead to 20-7 with a 38-yard field goal.
The Chargers got on the board again, with 3:42 to play, as Whitehurst hit wide receiver Legedu Naanee at the goal line. The drive also featured Whitehurst passes to Charly Martin (two for 33 yards) and Gary Banks (one for 20).
Devin Moore, a rookie running back from Wyoming, got his chance to state his case in the fourth quarter and had runs of 8, 7 and 6 yards.
The Chargers’ last-ditch effort to steal a win ended at the Seattle 34 when Whitehurst threw three incomplete passes.
As expected – and scripted – the second half was turned over to those players battling for roster spots. Several took advantage of the opportunity.
Rookie QB Mike Teel hooked up with Ben Obomanu on a 21-yard pass play on the Seahawks’ first possession, and defensive ends Nick Reed and Derek Walker teamed up to snuff the Chargers’ first series. Reed, a rookie from Oregon, beat Chargers backup left tackle L.J. Shelton for a second-down sack; while Walker tipped Charlie Whitehurst’s third-down pass incomplete.
On the Seahawks’ third possession, Teel completed passes to tight end Joe Newton (12 yards) and fullback David Kirtman (9 yards), before Chargers linebacker Antwan Applewhite intercepted his next pass – after it was tipped by Obomanu and Chargers cornerback Antoine Cason.
But the Seahawks got the ball right back – with their best field position of the evening – when Walker recovered a fumble at the Chargers’ 39-yard line that was forced by fellow defensive end Baraka Atkins.
Teel then cashed in on the big play by the defense, passing 18 yards to No. 18 – former Oregon State wide receiver Mike Hass, who beat Chargers cornerback Brandon Hughes.
The Seahawks got the ball back again, when Kelly Jennings intercepted a poor throw by Whitehead to give Seattle the ball at the Chargers’ 41.
Reed. Walker. Teel. Newton. Kirtman. Atkins. Hass. All are harboring hopes of landing spots on the 53-man roster.
The Seahawks went to their No. 2 defense early in the quarter, and the Chargers went to the air. Billy Volek, who took over for Rivers, passed 13 yards to Vincent Jackson, 4 yards to Chris Chambers and 32 yards to Kris Wilson, a tight end who got behind cornerback Kevin Hobbs. That put the ball at the Seahawks’ 7-yard line. Two plays, and another Volek pass, later Michael Bennett scored from the 2.
Volek was 4 of 4 for 54 yards on the drive as the Seahawks’ line of ends Baraka Atkins and Darrel Tapp and tackles Craig Terrill and Red Bryant was not able to generate enough pressure on the five-play drive.
But the Seahawks rallied to tie the score on tight end John Owens’ reaching grab of a 3-yard pass from Seneca Wallace with 2:14 to play in the half. The 12-play, 61-yard drive included runs by Duckett and Justin Forestt and passes to Forsett and Courtney Taylor as offensive coordinator Greg Knapp shuttled his backs and wide receivers like a hockey coach uses different lines.
On one play, a 3-yard scramble by Wallace, the Seahawks showed two-tight end personnel in the huddle, only to lineup in a four-receiver alignment – with Owens and fellow tight end Joe Newton on the outside and Taylor and wide receiver Deon Butler in the slots.
The Seahawks appeared to pick up a first down on their second possession of the quarter – until Chargers safety Steve Gregory appeared and put a crushing hit on Butler to separate the rookie wide receiver from Wallace’s third-down pass.
The Chargers missed a chance to take a 10-7 lead, when Nate Kaeding missed a 33-yard field goal with 2 seconds remaining.
Jim Mora had said his defense would play it “vanilla” in the preseason opener. But the Seahawks also played it aggressively on the Chargers’ first possession, as defensive end Cory Redding got to QB Philip Rivers for a sack on the first down and a big hit from middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu broke up Rivers’ third-down pass to wide receiver Malcom Floyd.
The Chargers drove from their own 20-yard line to the Seahawks’ 42 on their second possession, as Philips fed the ball to LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates. Tomlinson, playing in his first preseason game since 2005, carried four times for 19 yards; and Gates, a Pro Bowl tight end, caught three passes for 17 yards. But the drive stalled when Philips’ third-down pass to Gates was incomplete, and covered forcefully by strong safety Deon Grant.
Meanwhile, the Seahawks’ offense came up inches short on its first two possessions. T.J. Duckett failed to pick up the needed yard on a third-down carry to end the first series, while QB Matt Hasselbeck was just wide on a third-down throw to tight end John Carlson on the second.
An overlooked highlight for the Seahawks’ offense, however, was the way Hasselbeck whirled away from Chargers linebacker Shaun Phillips and was able to throw the ball away on the second possession. Remember, it was a first-quarter hit in last year’s preseason opener against the Minnesota Vikings that trigged the back problem that forced Hasselbeck to miss nine games.
For pregame notes and inactives click here