PLAYER OF THE GAME
Kyle Orton. On a day when Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck threw three interceptions – including two that were picked off inside the Broncos’ 10-yard line – his Denver counterpart was spot on for most of the game. Orton completed 25 of 35 passes for 307 yards, with two touchdown passes and no interceptions.
Those numbers created a 117.2 passer rating, but didn’t tell the entire story about just how efficient Orton was. He went to rookie wide receiver Demaryrius Thomas (eight for 97) and wide receiver Eddie Royal (five for 65) for big plays, and scoring plays. He went to running back Knowshon Moreno (four for 67) and wide receiver Brandon Lloyd (three for 53) for drive-sustaining plays.
The Broncos needed each and every one of Orton’s plays because their running game contributed only 65 yards on 38 carries – or a 1.7-yard average.
PLAYS OF THE GAME
Offense: The Broncos didn’t score on the play, but their flee-flicker on third-and-5 early in the second quarter setup a score. Orton gave the ball to Moreno, who threw back to Orton, who then passed to Royal. The Broncos’ wide receiver would have scored, if Seahawks strong safety Lawyer Milloy hadn’t tripped him up just short of the goal line. Still, it was a 34-yard play that led to the Broncos’ second touchdown.
Defense: The Seahawks came out rolling, moving from their own 20 to the Broncos’ 1 on the first series of the game. After penalties against right guard Stacy Andrews (false start) and right tackle Sean Locklear (holding) turned a first-and-goal from the 1 into a first-and-goal from the 16, the drive ended when Pro Bowl Champ Bailey intercepted Hasselbeck’s third-down pass that was intended for Deion Branch.
Special teams: After being inactive last week, rookie Golden Tate was hyperactive on Sunday. His biggest play was a 63-yard punt return early in the third quarter. Tate’s grab-and-go return set up the Seahawks’ first touchdown.
Pre-game: The heat was on. Literally. The temperature at kickoff was 91 degrees, making this the hottest home game in Broncos’ history. But it ranked only No. 5 in terms of the Seahawks’ hottest road games.
In-game: It was a reoccurring nightmare for the Seahawks, as the Broncos converted 14 of 20 third-down situations. That after holding the 49ers to one of 15 on third downs in their opener.
Post-game: The crowd surrounding Tate in what was a very quiet Seahawks’ locker room. To his credit, the team’s second-round draft choice dismissed his personnel accomplishments because they came in a disappointing loss.
In his 200th regular-season start, Milloy led the Seahawks with eight tackles (seven solo) and forced a fumble.
After not scoring a rushing touchdown since 2005, Hasselbeck now has one in each of the first two games this season.
The Seahawks converted seven of 11 third-down situations.
The Seahawks ran for 109 yards on 20 carries, a 5.5-yard average – including Hasselbeck’s 20-yarder for their second TD.
Punter Jon Ryan averaged 53.5 yards on two punts, with a net of 52.5, in the thin Denver air.
Six of the eight kickoffs in the game went for touchbacks, as the kickers also took advantage of the altitude.
The Broncos have won 11 consecutive home openers, and are 21-5 all-time against the Seahawks in Denver.
The Seahawks went with an all ex-Bronco left side on their offensive line, as Tyler Polumbus was at tackle and Ben Hamilton at guard.
Linebacker Leroy Hill strained a calf muscle early in the game, after injuring a heel late in the week. It was understandable, as coach Pete Carroll pointed out, because Hill missed time during training camp and the preseason with a sprained knee and then was serving a one-game suspension last week.
YOU DON’T SAY
“We made it really hard on ourselves today.” – Carroll, after the Seahawks turned the ball over four times and couldn’t get off the field on defense because the Broncos’ converted 70 percent of their third-down situations
Peephole perspective: The Seahawks got on the board again, on Matt Hasselbeck’s 21-yard run. But so did the third-down converting Broncos. Denver 31-14.
Player of the quarter: Hasselbeck. On the scoring drive, he not only scored, he was 4 of 4 for 56 yards.
Play of the quarter: Hasselbeck’s run. Sure it came with the Broncos already leading 31-7. But at least it came, as the Seahawks spread out the Broncos’ defense with a three-receiver set, leaving the middle of the field open for Hasselbeck.
Stat of the quarter: 11. Denver’s consecutive victories in their home opener.
The bigger picture: Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but a drive that began in the previous quarter ended in this quarter with a Broncos’ TD – this time on a 21-yard pass from Orton to rookie WR Demaryrius Thomas. This 14-play, 80-yard drive consumed almost eight minutes. Oh, and the TD pass came on – what else? – third down.
The Seahawks answered, however, when Hasselbeck’s 21-yard run up the middle of the Broncos’ spread defense capped an 80-yard drive. Just before Hasselbeck scored, he passed for 19 yards to WR Ben Obomanu and 22 yards to TE John Carlson. The eight-play drive made it 31-14 with 5:59 to play.
Peephole perspective: The Seahawks got on the board, thanks to a 63-yard punt return by rookie Golden Tate. But the Broncos answered with an 80-yard TD drive. Denver, 24-7.
Player of the quarter: Tate. After being inactive last week, the Seahawks’ second-round draft choice made up for lost time. In addition to the 63-yard punt return, he also had a 52-yard reception.
Play of the quarter: What was that? Facing a fourth-and-2 from the Broncos’ 20, Matt Hasselbeck threw into the end zone to WR Deion Butler. It was one of those plays that would have been brilliant if the pass had been completed. But it wasn’t.
Stat of the quarter: 11 of 14 for 79 percent. That was the Broncos’ third-down conversion rate through the first three quarters.
The bigger picture: The Seahawks forced a Broncos’ punt to open the half, and Tate made the most of it – and then some. He returned Britton Colquitt’s 63-yard punt for 63 yards to the Broncos’ 22. And, the Seahawks used the field position to score five plays later – on Hasselbeck’s 11-yard pass to WR Ben Obomanu. Hasselbeck kept the short drive alive with a 9-yard pass to Branch on third-and-8.
But the Broncos came right back to score on an 80-yard drive, as Knowshon Moreno got into the end zone with a leap over the left side of the line on third-and-goal. The drive was sustained on the first third down when CB Marcus Trufant was called for a questionable pass interference penalty against WR Brandon Lloyd. The 14-yard penalty moved the ball to the Broncos 37. Two plays later, Moreno took a screen pass and went for 45 yards to the Seahawks’ 16. On third-and-5 from the 11, Orton pass to TE Daniel Graham for 10 yards. The 10-play scoring drive made it 24-7 with 3:31 remaining. The Broncos needed Moreno’s third-down leap because DT Brandon Mebane stopped him for no gain on first down and LB David Hawthorne had the first hit as the Seahawks also stopped him for no gain on second down.
The Seahawks got a 52-yard gain on their next play, as Tate a pass from Hasselbeck and carried it to the Broncos’ 28. But the drive stalled, and then ended as Hasselbeck’s pass to Branch in the end zone on fourth down was incomplete.
Peephole perspective: Another interception thrown deep in Broncos’ territory by Matt Hasselbeck. A couple of long scoring drives by the Broncos. Denver, 17-0.
Player of the quarter: Kyle Orton. The Broncos’ QB completed 8 of 11 passes for 115 yards as Denver put together 81- and 91-yard scoring drives in the quarter.
Play of the quarter: With the Seahawks driving and at the Broncos’ 28, FS Brian Dawkins intercepted Matt Hasselbeck’s pass that was intended for TE John Carlson at the Denver 7. The Broncos then drove 91 yards in 16 plays to a field goal.
Stat of the quarter: 4 for 56 yards. Those were the reception totals for Broncos rookie WR Demaryius Thomas in the quarter.
The bigger picture: The Broncos’ drive that started on the last play of first quarter continued, and ended when RB Correll Buckhalter scored on a 1-yard run with 10:30 left. The scored capped a 10-play, 81-yard drive. The big plays were Orton’s 25-yard pass to WR Brandon Lloyd, who got behind CB Kelly Jennings, to the Seahawks’ 48; and a flee-flicker on third-and-5, as RB Knowshon Moreno threw back Orton, who passed for WR Eddie Royal for a 34-yard gain to the Seahawks’ 1. Moreno carried five times for 18 yards.
The Seahawks drove to the Broncos’ 28 on the ensuing series, but Dawkins intercepted Hasselbeck’s pass that was intended for Carlson at the 7. RB Justin Forsett broke a 19-yard run and RB Michael Robinson added a 15-yarder to the 9-play drive. Hasselbeck also had a 2-yard run on fourth-and-1.
The Broncos again capitalized with a 16-play, 91-yard drive to Matt Prater’s 20-yard field goal with 11 seconds remaining. Orton was 6 of 7 on the drive, with four of his completions going to Thomas. The Broncos converted three third-down situations – on a 1-yard run by Buckhalter on third-and-1; an 18-yard pass from Orton to Thomas on third-and-14; and a 9-yard pass from Orton to Thomas on third-and-3.
Peephole perspective: The Seahawks’ dominated the quarter, but also committed two turnovers and were flagged for three penalties. Broncos, 7-0.
Player of the quarter: Hasselbeck. Yes, he threw an interception near the Broncos’ goal line on the game-opening drive. But he also completed 7 of 12 passes for 67 yards.
Play of the quarter: The Seahawks’ defense held after their first offensive series ended with an interception, but rookie Walter Thurmond gave the ball right back – at the Seahawks’ 13 – when he muffed the punt return. The Broncos scored three plays later.
Stat of the quarter: 9:54. The Seahawks’ time of possession, compared to 5:06 for the Broncos.
The bigger picture: The Seahawks won the coin toss and elected to receive. They moved from their own 20 to the Broncos’ 1, but things then fell apart. RG Stacy Andrews was penalized for a false start and RT Sean Locklear for a hold, so first-and-goal from the 1 became first-and-goal from the 16. CB Champ Bailey then intercepted Matt Hasselbeck’s second-down pass to WR Deion Branch. Hasselbeck had completed five of his first 7 passes, including four to WR Deon Butler for 48 yards – and three of those produced first downs on third-down plays. RB Justin Forsett, who got the start, added four carries for 24 yards.
The defense forced a punt on the Broncos’ ensuing series, but Thurmond muffed the return and the Broncos recovered at the Seahawks’ 13. The Broncos capitalized, as WR Eddie Royal took a low pass from QB Kyle Orton at the 1 and rolled into the end zone to make it 7-0 Denver with 3:48 remaining.
The Seahawks’ ensuing drive also stalled when Andrews was called for another false start and Hasselbeck was sacked for a 3-yard loss on third down by LB Jarvis Moss.
The following players are inactive for the Broncos today:
- CB Syd’Quan Thompson
- RB Laurence Maroney
- S Darcel McBath
- LB Wesley Woodyard
- OL Chris Kuper
- OL Ryan Harris
- OL Chris Clark
- 3rd QB: Brady Quinn
Kuper and Harris being out is not a surprise. They also missed last week’s opener with injuries. So Zane Beadles will start at right tackle for Harris and Russ Hochstein moves in at right guard for Kuper. The Broncos also are starting rookies at center and left guard – J.D. Walton and Stanley Daniels.
The following players are inactive for the Seahawks today:
- TE Cameron Morrah
- TE Anthony McCoy
- OT Russell Okung
- OL Chester Pitts
- OL Evan Dietrich-Smith
- LB Matt McCoy
- DB Mike Ness
- DE E.J. Wilson
With rookie WR Golden Tate active after being inactive last week and LB Leroy Hill returning from his one-game suspension, the Seahawks had to adjust their list. With two tight ends inactive, it will be interesting to see how that affects offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates’ ability to utilize the two-tight end formations he likes so much.
DENVER – Greetings from Invesco Field at Mile High, where some of the Seahawks already are on the field preparing to face the Denver Broncos.
The Seahawks have not played their old AFC West rivals here since 2006, and they came away with a rare victory in the rarified air, 23-20. It was only the Seahawks’ fifth win in 25 trips to Denver, and the others came at old Mile High Stadium – in 1995, 1988, 1984 and 1982.
But before coach Pete Carroll confiscates this computer to remake the same point he has been hammering home to the players all week, none of that matters. Neither does the fact that the Seahawks have won only three games on the road the past two seasons, with two of those coming against the woeful Rams in St. Louis. Nor is the fact that the Broncos have won 10 consecutive home openers.
The only thing that matters today is what the Seahawks are able to do today.
And the environment for this game will be completely the opposite as it was for the season opener at Qwest Field last week. It will be unnervingly noisy at times when the Seahawks have the ball – especially in passing situations – which likely will prompt quarterback Matt Hasselbeck to go with silent snap counts. The defense, meanwhile, will not have the advantage of the din generated by the 12th Man crowd at Qwest to assist in getting off the ball quickly against opposing offensive linemen who are having a difficult time hearing the QB’s cadence.
But the Seahawks’ goals remain the same:
Use the short passing game as efficiently as they did in upsetting the favored 49ers last week, when Hasselbeck completed 78.3 percent of his passes while throwing for two touchdowns and running for a third.
Find a way to get the running game going – after rushing for 77 yards against the 49ers, when 32 of them came on one fourth-quarter run by Justin Forsett. And, get the zone-blocking scheme cranked up in the city where the Broncos made it famous – and ridiculously, not to mention consistently, productive – under former coach Mike Shanahan. The Seahawks will attempt to do it with Tyler Polumbus, a former Bronco, starting at left tackle for injured first-round draft choice Russell Okung; and just-arrived Stacy Andrews stepping in at right guard for Max Unger, who sustained a season-ending toe injury in the opener.
Carroll admits that the running game is a work in progress, and will remain so at least until Okung gets back in the lineup. But he also stresses it is a commitment – a philosophy, even.
Shanahan compares it to playing the stock market.
“If you’re going to get a stock, what are you going to do?” he told the Denver Post recently. “You’re going to look over the last 15, 20 years and see what’s No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, No. 4, No. 5, and usually if you’re going to invest your money, you’re going to invest in something that’s been done, that’s performed at the highest level over that time, for those 15 years, and say, ‘Hey, that has a chance to keep on going.’ And that hopefully it will. I believe it will.”
For Shanahan’s money, that’s the zone-blocking scheme, and Carroll agrees.
On defense, the Seahawks have had to prepare multiple game plans this week because the Broncos will come at them with multiple looks, formations and personnel groupings. All teams do that, but the Broncos do it more – and better – than most.
But the best way to combat all the things the Broncos can do is to take away one, and force them to try and beat you with the other – as the Seahawks did against the 49ers last week by shutting down Frank Gore and pressuring Alex Smith into some poor decisions.
Here are a few players to keep an eye on today:
Colin Cole. Nose tackles usually don’t get much recognition, but today the Seahawks’ nose will be in the face of J.D. Walton, the Broncos’ rookie starter at center. And, Cole is coming off an effort in the opener against the 49ers that Carroll called “the best he’s played for us.” In the Broncos’ opener, 40 percent of their running plays went for no gain (three carries) or 1 yard (six). So Cole could be a notable nose again.
Lawyer Milloy. The Seahawks’ strong safety will start his 200th regular-season game, but only his second for the Seahawks. In an odd coincidence, Broncos free safety Brian Dawkins also will make it 200 regular-season career starts today.
Leroy Hill. The Seahawks’ linebacker was scheduled to return, but is listed questionable with a heel injury. He won’t start at weak-side linebacker; David Hawthorne will. But Hill is slated to play on special teams and in a situational role on defense. He admitted this week that he can’t wait to hit somebody, but he may have to wait.
Golden Tate. The Seahawks’ second-round draft choice was inactive for the opener, but the rookie wide receiver got plenty of snaps with the Seahawks’ offense in practice this week. If he gets a chance to play, Tate needs to make the kinds of plays he did during training camp.
Kyle Orton. The Broncos’ QB passed for 295 yards in the opening-day loss to the Jaguars in Jacksonville – with Eddie Royal catching eight passes for 98 yards and former 49er Brandon Lloyd catching five for 117 yards. Orton has taken to the offense being run by Broncos coach Josh McDaniel, after being taken for granted by the Chicago Bears.
We’ll be back in awhile with the inactive players.