A recap of the Seahawks’ 20-14 victory over the San Diego Chargers in their preseason opener Saturday night:
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Jon Ryan. The punter? Selecting the punter usually means no one else did anything. But not on this night, when there were plenty of other candidates. It’s just that Ryan kicked the Seahawks out of one hole after another, in a game where field position proved to be paramount. He averaged 52.4 yards on eight punts, including a 77-yarder in the fourth quarter. His net average of 41.1 yards would have been even better if two of his punt hadn’t skipped into the end zone for touchbacks.
PLAYS OF THE GAME
Offense: Facing a first down from the Chargers’ 18-yard line late in the third quarter, rookie quarterback Mike Teel went to wide receiver Mike Hass for a touchdown that put the Seahawks ahead to stay 14-7. The throw was nice and the catch was even better.
Defense: Any time a defensive end intercepts a pass, it’s noteworthy. When that interception comes on a screen pass, well, it’s the defensive play of the game. That’s what rookie Nick Reed did on the second play of the fourth quarter. Reed’s pick ended a Chargers’ drive that had reached midfield, and set up the first of two 38-yard field goals by Brandon Coutu.
Special teams: The best of Ryan’s punts – that booming 77-yarder. It came on the series after the Chargers had scored to cut the lead to 20-14. It forced the Chargers to drive the long field on their final possession, which reached the Seahawks’ 34-yard line before No. 3 QB Charlie Whitehurst threw a trio of incompletions.
HIT OF THE GAME
Deon Butler, the Seahawks’ speedy, but small rookie wide receiver, got his “welcome to the NFL” moment in the second quarter on a jarring hit by Chargers strong safety Steve Gregory. Butler momentarily had the ball, and a first down, before Gregory separated the two.
There were no serious injuries reported.
Five Seahawks did not play in the game, including Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones, who just returned to practice Thursday after missing almost two weeks of training camp because of back spasms. Also out: cornerback Marcus Trufant (back) and offensive linemen Mansfield Wrotto (leg), Grey Ruegamer (elbow) and Cory Withrow (knee).
YOU DON’T SAY
“Leading up to the game, I was real nervous. My hands were shaking. My stomach felt empty, even though I ate. But once I got out there for pre-game and I found out the field was still 100 yards, I felt very comfortable.” – linebacker Aaron Curry, the team’s first-round draft choice, on his NFL debut
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
Greeting from, well, paradise.
Actually, it’s Qualcomm Stadium, the site of the Seahawks’ preseason opener against the San Diego Chargers.
But it is a grand and glorious day/night for some football.
The Seahawks players are beginning to take the field – Jack Murphy Field – for their pre-game stretching and warm-ups.
Coach Jim Mora already has said that Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones, cornerback Marcus Trufant and offensive linemen Mansfield Wrotto and Grey Ruegamer will not play tonight.
With Wrotto out, second-round draft choice Max Unger will start at right guard. Unger also is slated to play center in the second half. With Jones out, Sean Locklear will be at left tackle, and be replaced at right tackle by Ray Willis. With Trufant out, Josh Wilson will start at left cornerback.
Update: Add Cory Withrow, the offensive lineman from Washington State, to the list of Seahawks who will not play tonight.
Other than that, everyone else took part in pre-game warm-ups – including defensive end Patrick Kerney and middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu, who had been held out of recent practices.
But with three O-linemen down, the other 11 are in for a busy night.