By Sam Smith
The Seahawks notched their first win of the preseason with a 16-15 score, aided by a 67 Punt return TD by WR Tyler Lockett, and a 60 yd. Field Goal from Steven Hauschka. Defense and Special Teams was where it was at for this game, as the offense struggled mightily to get anything solid going. Notably, RB Marshawn Lynch came in to play a series, and that was it. No real solid gains came from that series, as Seattle went three and out to begin the game. San Diego seemed to have the answer for their hit or miss running game, as rookie RBs Melvin Gordon and Danny Woodhead continued to churn out low yard gains. Particularly of note, both received multiple dump off passes and converted them into longer runs, sending our defensive lines scrambling to adjust.
SD started their march to the goal line slow, settling for a field goal with just over eight minutes to go in the 1st quarter. A hefty penalty for too many players on the field nullified the kick and allowed them to be a few yards outside of the redzone. Newcomer WR Stevie Johnson (SD) completed a clutch first down, but a play later a furiously spinning Linebacker from Seattle by the name of K.J. Wright stuffed him for no score. The kicking team came out for SD again, and the second kick stood, SD 3, SEA 0 to score first. They would be aided mostly by WR Johnson (recent Cali convert from the San Francisco 49ers) and a lengthy run by third string RB Brandon Oliver in the 3rd quarter that made a lot of SEA defenders miss. QB Phillip Rivers ended the night 13/19, with a 140 yds. Of particular note, they converted almost all of their 3rd down situations.
Seattle’s first team offense was pressured often and early, and it’s evident that NFL teams are ready for SEA QB Russell Wilson’s spin moves, as he was taken down by a defender who was clearly proficient in guessing where the (multi) million dollar man was going. Wilson and TE Jimmy Graham had bits of magic, with a long catch seamlessly and yards after the catch. Only with extra oomph from two SD defenders, did he go down. Of a lower note, when targeted, the throws were either too high, or he was running too fast (if you could even call that a knock on Graham), but overall, Wilson took the blame in a post game interview: “We didn’t connect on some throws, but don’t worry, we will.” Wilson ended up rushing for more yards on the evening then those passing. We’ve come to expect that if the read option fails, he’ll make up for it, and he consistently does.
The team was ultimately unsuccessful (an overthrow) in another passing situation involving Graham on the 1yd line (after a 1yd run by RB Christine Michael that failed to convert) but there was no corresponding interception. Speaking of passing, the WR carousel of Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and even Ricardo Lockette making catches. Kevin Smith fought hard for a catch in the red zone, but was ultimately not successful. Seattle RB Christine Michael notched a huge run in the 3rd quarter, prefaced earlier by a number of clunk and chunk yardage runs. He was the only real notable factor in the ground game all night.
Defensively, both the first and second teams for SEA played hard. LB Bruce Irvin made a few key tackles, including a sack on SD QB Rivers, and this style of play did not relent even after a penalty call against him. The other players didn’t disappoint, as K.J. Wright, Cassius Marsh and Brock Coyle made stop after stop, no matter if it was SD RB Melvin Gordon trying to rip off long, powerful runs, or deep passes from either SD QBs Rivers or Kellen Clemens. Brock Coyle prevented a 2 PT conversion from Brandon Oliver after he torched the Seattle defense for a long TD run. They ultimately would give up 386 yds. total on the evening, but they forced a turnover on San Diego, aided in part by a timely sack from SEA DE Greg Scruggs. Of those 386 yds, only 120 of them were awarded via the ground, highlighting that even if the play appears sub-par, that the lines are working overtime to keep the odds in Seattle’s favor. CB Tharold Simon came back with a great showing, defensing a pass and almost getting an interception with the same play in the 3rd quarter.
Even the third team defense, which got off to a slow start in the 4th quarter, got it together quickly. Of special note was the O-line, who in the 4th quarter bought QB R.J. Archer enough time to convert a 4th and 1. It never hurt to see them garner an interception to end the game. This play was preceded by another Seattle defender punching the ball clearly out of the SD QB’s hands. He would recover it, try again, and that was all she wrote.
I don’t know what we’re paying K Steven Hauschka, but he’s worth every penny of it, plus some more. He would end the night 3/4, converting 40 and 27 yarders, and a 60 yd. kick that would give Seattle the win by a 1 point margin. His only miss came on a 58 yarder, and to be honest, that as a small miss, I would estimate by inches. Had he not missed that, it could have very well been SEA 19, SD 15.
Up next for the Hawks is a Thursday night game at Century Link Field against the Oakland Raiders. The Hawks are 24-28 W/L all time versus the Raiders, but easily won their last matchup against Oakland in 2014, 30-24. The Raiders of late are still in a rebuilding phase, so I predict an early surge for the Hawks before easing off of the burners, for another preseason win, ending at .500 before the regular season.