Seattle Seahawks go long and look strong in first-team beatdown of Denver Broncos
SEATTLE -- If the game between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos on Saturday night turns out to be a preview for Super Bowl XLVIII (as it well might), the Broncos' starters will hope for a very different result, and the Seahawks' first teams will pray for a replay. Both teams played their main men through most of the first half, and the Seahawks dominated nearly every phase of the game. They took a 33-7 lead into the locker room at halftime, and wrapped things up with a 40-10 win in their first preseason game at home this year.
Peyton Manning played through the first two drives of the second half, and he was the lone consistently effective player on his side of the ball, slicing through Seattle's estimable secondary for 163 yards and a touchdown. He completed 11 of 16 passes and got out of the game with no sacks. The same could not be said of backup Brock Osweiler, who was sacked twice in two first-half drives, and finished with one completion in two attempts for minus-1 passing yard. Osweiler finished his day with nine completions in 14 attempts for 66 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. In the third quarter, Denver gained a grand total of minus-3 yards.
Though Manning was able to drive the Broncos earlier, scoring was a tougher task. In a drive that started at the end of the first quarter and went more than five minutes into the second, the Broncos travelled from their own 20-yard line to the Seattle 1-yard line, when running back Ronnie Hillman fumbled the ball deep into the end zone. Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner picked up the ball and ran it back for a 106-yard touchdown.
"When I looked up, I saw nothing but green ahead of me," Browner said. "I only saw offensive linemen, and I'll always take my chances against offensive linemen."
That was the second play of the game for Seattle that went at least that long -- near the end of the first quarter, receiver Jermaine Kearse returned a Matt Prater kickoff 107 yards for a score.
"He told me a couple of weeks ago -- 'Man, if I get a return, I'm taking it all the way,' and sure enough, he did," Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson said after the game.
It was his second touchdown of the day -- Kearse led off Seattle's scoring with a 12-yard catch from Wilson with 8:37 left in the first quarter. It was a fortuitous ending to a play that started with Wilson dropping the snap from center.
"I knew I would have a chance, because the corner was playing off," he said. "We call it a Colorado route. I just knew that if I could sell that slant and make him bite on it, I would have a chance. At first, I didn't know that Russell was messing around with the snap, and I didn't know that the ball was on the ground. I was wondering where the ball was, but I was just trying to make a play and get in the end zone."
Some days, everything just goes your way. Wilson finished his day with eight completions in 12 attempts for 127 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. Backup Tarvaris Jackson came in for the second half and beat Wilson in passer rating, 141.4 to 141.3, completing four of seven passes for 93 yards and a score of his own.
For Kearse, who never returned punts or kicks at the University of Washington from 2008 through 2011, special teams has been his ticket to a relatively permanent address in Seattle. Still, he was only recently approached about returning kicks, and it's safe to say he made a fairly decent first impression.
"They told me that the cutoff [to return the ball in the end zone] was seven or eight yards, but I didn't know how deep I was, and the ball was kinda hanging up there," Kearse said of his play. "So, when I took my first step, I just said, 'Whatever,' and just went out. It was a return left, and those guys blocked it up really well."
The Browner return was emblematic of Denver's main bugaboo on the evening -- they lost the turnover battle in a landslide, and as Broncos coach John Fox said after the game, that won't wash when you're dealing with an upper-echelon opponent.
"Like I told our team, when you're minus-four in turnovers, you're going to win 10 percent of your games. When you play a good team, you're going to win zero percent. We have got to look at that in practice. Ball security is something that we will work hard at in practice, because you're not hitting live. That is something that we will definitely emphasize."
Things went just about perfectly for the Seahawks even when the reserves were in -- for the second straight week, under-the-radar free-agent pickup Stephen Williams caught a touchdown pass from Jackson. This time, with 3:37 left in the third quarter, Williams brought it in near the goal line and flipped his way across untouched for a score.
"It's just being aware -- I didn't feel like they touched me, but I wanted to make sure," Williams said. "Leave no doubt, catch the ball, and get in the end zone. We came out kind of sluggish and slow in the second half, and I wanted to do something to get the game going again." Beyond the game, the best news for either team came when the Broncos announced that defensive end Derek Wolfe would be able to travel back with the team. Wolfe was laid out in the first quarter by a dual hit from Seahawks tight end Luke Willson and fullback Michael Robinson. He lay on the field for several minutes, and team trainers took him off the field on a backboard into an ambulance. Wolfe underwent a battery of tests at a local hospital and was deemed safe to travel.