What was expected to be a high-scoring affair between two potent offenses with sub-par defenses lived up to the hype last night in Seattle. The Seahawks made big plays on both sides of the ball to notch a 27-13 win over the Broncos in their home opener to take them to 2-0 in the preseason.
Both teams let it all hang out early. Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck fired on all cylinders, leading off the game with an eight-play, 70 yard drive that culminated with a 34-yard strike to rookie wide-out Deon Butler for the game's first score. Butler, starting in place of the injured Nate Burleson, made a sweet grab despite tight coverage from corner Andre Goodman. The Broncos would answer back, however. Kyle Orton, playing for his own job security, went 6 of 8 for 63 yards as he marched down the field and tied the ball game up with a 3 yard touchdown pass to Brandon Stokley. Orton would then go 3 of 3 on his next drive that was capped off by a 53 yard field goal by Matt Prater.
Orton, though, would eventually show his knack for drive-killing mistakes in the second quarter. After leading the Broncos from their own 13 to the Seattle 1-yard line, Orton failed to convert from a yard out. His pass to Jabar Gaffney on second down was dropped and then cornerback Josh Wilson tipped away Orton's second attempt at connecting with Gaffney on 3rd down. The Broncos would go for it on 4th down but Orton, under heavy pressure, made an ill-advised left-handed lob into the end zone that was snagged by cornerback Ken Lucas for the interception(Orton's 4th in 2 games). One has to wonder why coach Josh McDaniels opted to throw for it on three consecutive downs with a quarterback prone to costly turnovers instead of just attempting to punch it in on the ground.
The costly turnover would come back to bite the Broncos. Hasselbeck orchestrated a 14-play, 80 yard drive that saw him spread it out to numerous targets from running back Justin Forsett to tight end John Carlson and eventually to T.J. Houshmanzadeh for the 2 yard score. Hasselbeck finished the game 16 of 23 for 171 yards with a pair of touchdowns, though the clearly felt the effects of left tackle Walter Jones' absence as he was sacked three times in the first half. As for Orton, he rebounded nicely from last week's disaster going 18 of 26 for 182 yards and a touchdown, though he did himself no favors with that bone-headed pick in the endzone.
The game settled down a bit in the second half. The Seahawks bracketed a Seneca Wallace touchdown pass to Joe Newton with two Brandon Coutu field goals in the 3rd quarter. The man of the hour once again, however, was rookie defensive end Nick Reed. Reed followed his amazing debut last week(1 sack, 1 INT) with another fantastic performance against Denver. Reed got a hand on a Dustin Colquitt punt that managed to only go 15 yards in the 3rd quarter. In the 4th, Reed teamed with defensive end Baraka Atkins for a sack on rookie Tom Brandstater before blowing past tackle Stanley Bryant for a sack and forced fumble on Brandstater on the next drive. Reed's play set the tone for a Seahawks' second half that was highlighted by the forcing of two more turnovers(a Kelly Jennings forced fumble on Tony Scheffler and a C.J. Wallace forced fumble on return man Kenny McKinley). The emergence of Reed over the last two weeks makes for an interesting story to watch over the rest of the month. With Cory Redding and Patrick Kerney entrenched as the bookends on the defensive lineand first rounder Lawrence Jackson and pass-rush specialist Daryl Tapp backing them up, the coaching staff is going to have to make a tough call between Reed, Atkins and fellow end Michael Bennett(who also had a sack last night) as the team cuts down to 53. With the team needing extra depth on the offensive line and the secondary to account for the possible long-term recoveries of stars Walter Jones and Marcus Trufant, it seems unlikely Seattle will carry 7 defensive ends into the regular season.
That, along with the trimming of other positions, will be a topic to watch closely over the next few weeks. One thing is for sure, the Seahawks put on another impressive performance last night and are slowly but surely building up that sleeper buzz.
About the Author
Written by Dave Leonardis
Born and raised in New Jersey, I've been writing since I was 10 and blogging since I was 18. I'm a huge sports nerd, following football, baseball and basketball in particular in close detail. My style is very upfront. I don't pull punches and I'm not shy about criticizing anything I feel deserves a proper tongue-lashing. If you're looking for someone who says what he wants, when he wants, then look no further than this guy right here.