Well, that’s more like it.
Pete Carroll had asked for this. The Seahawks’ coach said he wanted better performances on third downs. Better pass protection for Russell Wilson and his quarterbacks. Just … better.
He got much, much better.
Wilson completed his first nine throws and 11 of 13 overall for 121 yards in Seattle’s rampaging first half. He also ran away from what for about 75 percent of the NFL’s quarterbacks would have been five sacks, gaining 32 yards on four carries for two touchdowns on the ground.
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That, Robert Turbin’s 81 yards rushing to seize the No. 2 running-back job behind Marshawn Lynch and the starting defense holding San Diego to 42 yards, three first downs and no points in four drives led the Seahawks to a roaring, 41-14 victory over the Chargers in their second exhibition game Friday night.
“That’s about as much as we could hope for,” Carroll said, pleased that his defending Super Bowl champions didn’t use the this-is-August excuse for coasting.
Instead they responded with a rousing bounce-back from last week’s subpar start to the preseason in Denver.
Backup quarterback Terrelle Pryor continued his push for a spot on the roster behind Wilson. He sprinted 44 yards down the sidelines after a juke step that left Chargers standing flat-footed as if in awe for a third-quarter touchdown. He also showed better patience looking downfield for throws – only a dropped pass by backup tight end Cooper Helfet kept him from perhaps Seattle’s fifth score in five drives of the first half.
“I told Terrelle when he got to the sidelines, ‘You may be faster. But I’m quicker,’” Wilson said with a laugh of Pryor’s jolting score.
Even fourth-string QB B.J. Daniels scored on the ground, to make it 41-14 with 4 minutes still left in the third quarter.
And it could have been worse. Besides Helfet’s drop, cornerback Tharold Simon had a 103-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter called back on a dubious illegal-contact flag on Simon.
“We were full of energy tonight, across the board,” Carroll said. “And we cut our penalties down by a third. That’s a big deal for us, only (48) yards in penalties. That’s a big step for us. We really wanted to clean that up on the line of scrimmage, and we got that done.
“And I can’t remember a game when four quarterback (rushing) touchdowns were scored in a game, maybe back to the old Oklahoma days.”
It was 24-0 with 11 minutes gone in the second quarter of Seattle’s first game at CenturyLink Field since January’s NFC championship. Even though every Seahawk from Carroll to the team’s groundkeepers are preaching that is in the distant past and this is a new year, this romp made it seem like the 2013, Super Bowl season hadn’t ended.
The total yardage when Seattle’s starters departed: 255-42.
Lynch started in his preseason debut. He was in for two plays and wore a team cap on the sidelines the rest of the night.
“Our execution was unbelievable. Our offensive line was excellent tonight,” Wilson said, mentioning the unit that needed to improve the most after last week’s subpar start to the preseason in Denver. “I really believe we can be that explosive. It all starts on the offensive line.”
As sputtering as last week's start was for the Seahawks' first-teamers, that's how splendid they were Friday.
No one was more sterling than Wilson.
As Carroll said, “Russell kind of stole the show.”
Seattle's do-it-all quarterback did, well, it all. His first TD run came when Seattle spread out San Diego’s defense with three wide receivers left. Wilson then faked a handoff to Turbin, who replaced Christine Michael as Lynch’s primary backup after Michael fumbled for the second time in eight carries on the game’s opening drive. No one was on the right end Wilson jogged through to make it 17-0 less than 6 minutes into the second quarter.
Wilson's second scoring run of the half came when he avoided a Charger on each of his flanks and ran up the middle from the 5-yard line. That made it 24-0.
On the sidelines following that TD, Wilson went the length of Seahawks' bench giving fist bumps to everyone. Doctors. Trainers. Injured teammates in sweats. Managers. Everyone.
About the only thing Wilson didn't do against San Diego, which had its starting defense in for about two of Wilson's four drives, was tackle someone.
His defense did plenty of that.
One week after allowing the Broncos huge, sustained drives, the Seahawks' starting defense held San Diego to zero points, 42 yards and three first downs in four drives. The second-teamers entered with about 4 minutes left in the half. They surrendered San Diego's first score with 44 seconds left in it, when the Seahawks’ zone coverage got mixed up in the back of the end zone for a touchdown catch by Keenan Allen from Kellen Clemens.
Chargers starting quarterback Philip Rivers left after one drive. But, still, this was a far better showing on defense for the Seahawks starters, especially up front.
Seattle converted five of six third downs into first downs in the opening half. Its starting defense allowed the Chargers to convert two of five third downs. That stinginess came with the Seahawks again playing mostly base defense, rarely blitzing and mostly rushing just four down linemen in passing situations.
This was Seattle’s second consecutive exhibition against a team it will face for real next month, so there was again no need to reveal too much strategically.
Last week, the Seahawks made good on just three of 11 third downs. Their defense allowed Denver to convert 8 of 12 on third downs.
Pryor showed why Carroll may be tempted to keep three quarterbacks on the roster for a change this regular season. The former Oakland Raiders starter and Ohio State star made it 34-14.
Asked what impression he thinks he’s made through two exhibitions, Pryor shrugged. And smiled.
“I really don’t know what the coaches are thinking,” he said. “I’m just having fun, playing the game. I’m sorry. I really don’t know.”