For the second straight week, little to really pick at about that one as the Seahawks dominated from start to finish in routing the Bears 34-6 at CenturyLink Friday night.
As I wrote in one of my stories for the paper, the usual caveats apply about it still being only the preseason. But if the third preseason game is really a dress rehearsal for the regular season, then the Seahawks are more than ready for Sept. 4 against Green Bay.
The offense was basically flawless in the first half, when the starters were out there en masse, scoring on all five possessions, the first four times scoring touchdowns and only the clock forcing the Seahawks to kick a field goal to end the second quarter.
“A lot of really fun things happened,” said coach Pete Carroll.
Did they ever. Let’s count a few:
— There was Russell Wilson going 15-20 for the game for 202 yards and two touchdowns and having gone 26-33 for 323 yards in the past two games. Sort of hard to figure out how he can be any readier for the season.
— There was Earl Thomas’ 59-yard punt return that probably sewed up his standing as the No. 1 punt returner. He wants to do it, the coaches have no qualms about him doing it, and the return tonight showed what he can do with it. Everybody’s probably going to just have to get used to the idea of Thomas as the returner.
— There was Percy Harvin’s 46-yard kickoff return to the start the game. “Looked like the Super Bowl all over again almost,” Wilson said.
— There was Harvin catching three passes for 61 yards and hardly seeming to break a sweat in the process. Really feels like we’re just scratching the surface of what Harvin may bring to the offense.
— There were Marshawn Lynch’s first three carries (and surely only) of the preseason, with 16 yards and coach Pete Carroll saying later that he got all there was to get out of carries that he had.
— There was Jermaine Kearse, who’d been a little quiet so far, looking the way he did throughout 2013, coming up with a big third-down catch for a touchdown.
— There was the defense getting it done when it had to against what may be a really good offense this season
— And there was Steven Hauschka booting a career-best 59-yard field goal.
Yep, a fun time at the CLink.
Now for some brief thoughts on each position group:
QUARTERBACK: The rotation went as planned, with Wilson playing a series into the third quarter, then Tarvaris Jackson taking over and Terrelle Pryor getting two series at the end. Wilson, as noted, was just about perfect. Jackson was Jackson, leading a field goal drive in one of is two series and going 5-10 for 65 yards. Not spectacular, but fine (and also going behind the No. 2 line). Pryor didn’t help himself, though, with the interception at the end on a throw that was the result of the kind of decision you don’t see from Wilson and that the coaches will surely grade harshly. But he’ll almost certainly get a lot of PT next week to make a final case for himself. Carroll was asked after the game about the backup QB spot and said simply that nothing has been decided and it will go through to the final game.
RUNNING BACK: Lynch looked like Lynch — no reason to be worried yet about his demise. Robert Turbin was steady with six carries for 26 yards. This was by far the best performance of the preseason for Christine Michael, with eight carries for 28 yards and three receptions for 36 and a touchdown. No reason to think the lineup has changed, but the team saw the kind of bounceback from Michael it surely wanted. I thought Michael blocked better tonight, too. He had a nice pickup of a blitz to allow Wilson to complete a pass to Jermaine Kearse to set up the second TD. Not a lot of work for the fullbacks tonight which might come to be expected with the way the Seahawks are using three-receiver sets.
TIGHT END: A tough night healthwise with Cooper Helfet suffering knee and shoulder injuries and Luke Willson taking a hard hit that got him tested for a concussion — he passed and returned to the game. Helfet appears set as the third tight end, assuming the team keeps one, but obviously needs to be healthy.
OFFENSIVE LINE: It was the first time this preseason to see the starting offensive line, and it’s hard to argue with two series and two touchdowns. Russell Okung and Max Unger played just the two series, with Carroll saying they were gassed. The most interesting thing was seeing some of what happened behind the starters. Eric Winston played left tackle and was in for the next two TD drives. Showing he can play both roles will help his case greatly. Wade Davis played guard with the second team, and given that he was with the entire second unit, it’s hard to judge it initially. But the team is obviously giving him a long look, as well. As for the starters, it seemed like another good night for Justin Britt. He got beat once early on a pass play, but seemed from here like he had some really good run blocks — he helped clear the way for Lynch on the initial TD, for instance. And you had to like James Carpenter getting out quickly and pulling to lead a sweep later in the game. So far, so good on the Carpenter front.
RECEIVER: The big three — Percy Harvin, Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse — all had nice nights. After that it was interesting. Paul Richardson has been quiet the last two weeks after the nice opener at Denver, with just one catch for 12 yards. Phil Bates had a chance at a TD on a catch that wasn’t going to be easy but is the kind of play you need to make to make the final roster. And hard to know what to make of Arceto Clark playing alongside Bates and Richardson with the second unit, and ahead of Ricardo Lockette. Clark, who had one catch for 19 yards, isn’t someone generally regarded as a real threat to make it. But the team has kept him around for a while, which has to mean something. Lockette had the nice hit on the punt, though he was also flagged for the play. And obviously a big disappointment that Bryan Walters couldn’t play due to the rib injury suffered last week. The battle for those final one or two WR spots frankly seems as murky as ever.
DEFENSIVE LINE: I’m not sure we saw anything that changed what we thought going into the game. The starting four and Kevin Williams look like a pretty sure thing. O’Brien Schofield remains something of a revelation, with another sack tonight and three QB hurries. Cassius Marsh looks like he’s ready to contribute, with another sack tonight. And after that, still some question marks. Jordan Hill got a lot of work early and seems ticketed for a key role. And it seemed like Benson Mayowa was a little more active. But in general, when the second unit was in there, you might have liked to have seen a little more consistent pass rush.
LINEBACKER: An interesting look early with Seattle opening in a nickel with K.J. Wright in the middle and Malcolm Smith at weakside linebacker. Wright is the team’s defacto backup MLB — recall he started two games there last year when Bobby Wagner was out — and maybe they were just getting him some work there. Wagner participated in pre-game drills in full uniform so he appears on the mend. Smith looked healthy, turning in one big hit for an assisted tackle. Mike Morgan, who had been limited in practice during the week, returned to join those two as the starting strongside linebacker. Brock Coyle hurt his ankle but came back in and it doesn’t appear to be anything significant. Heath Farwell played the best he has all preseason, and had a sack among his four tackles. But he hurt his groin late in the game and any kind of significant injury will be a tough blow at this point. Everyone wrote a lot this week about Korey Toomer’s return and how big this game was for his chances to make it. He got some significant work, and had one tackle and two assists but didn’t seem to make a big impact. Also, Kevin Pierre-Louis got a lot of work, and worth noting he was also on the starting kickoff team, and at the moment, seems like he’s on the roster. And who knows if he has a chance to make the team, but Marcus Dowtin had a nice night playing WLB with three tackles in a reserve role. He’s gotten a lot of work in practice of late with all the injuries to others.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Another game where Seattle’s starting DBs did not get any sort of pass defense penalty — they don’t have any this preseason despite all the media talk of the new emphasis being due in part to their success. Richard Sherman gave up a couple of receptions and seemed to be talking to the officials about the Chicago WRs pushing off. Earl Thomas showed his trademark speed on a crossfield run to make a tackle — he’s ready for the season it looks like. Kam Chancellor played two series and had one tackle. Jeremy Lane had maybe the play of the night for the defense with his interception in the end zone near the end of the first half. He finished with a team-high three passes defended. Byron Maxwell got beat by Alshon Jeffrey early in the game, but recovered nicely to knock it out of his hands, The starting five DB roles, in other words, are set. Tharold Simon had two passes defensed playing the left side after Sherman. Jeron Johnson left with a sore foot. But Carroll said it didn’t appear serious. That’s good news as Seattle’s safety depth is pretty thin after that.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Hausckhka’s 59-yarder proves again the work he did last year to increase his length is working. Punter Jon Ryan is the Maytag man of this team — dependable but rarely needed. The big news was the returns of Harvin and Thomas. I think the starting return roles are set. Iffier are the backup spots, especially with Walters injured. Phillip Adams got his shot at it tonight, but he would seem to be far from a lock to make the team.