CARSON, Calif. — The Seahawks played their starters for most of the first half Saturday night.
The Los Angeles Chargers did not.
And that, as much as anything, explains why the Seahawks dominated the first half, leading 16-3 at the break and carrying a 225-151 edge in yards and eventually holding on for a 23-15 win.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll particularly liked that Seattle rushed for 125 yards on 21 carries in the first half, an average of 6.0 per attempt.
“I thought the running backs did a really nice job,” Carroll said. “Everybody ran the ball well. That’s a real tribute to the system, I think. I’m really excited we were able to do that.”
While Chargers’ starting quarterback Philip Rivers did not play a down, Russell Wilson played the first three series, leading the Seahawks to two touchdowns and one failed possession that ended in a punt.
But that wasn’t all we saw out of the Seahawks win Saturday night.
Here are five more impressions on the night that was.
C.J. Prosise come on down
Prosise may be the player Seahawks fans love to hate, having played just 16 of a possible 48 regular season games in his first three seasons with Seattle.
But on Saturday he showed why the Seahawks have kept him around for the past three years, rushing for 32 yards on five carries as well as reeling in one pass for 15 yards on a second down. Prosise was greeted enthusiastically by teammates as he came back to the sidelined following his touchdown.
“It was really a good night for C.J.,” Carroll said. “It’s been such a struggle for him just to get out there. He had a really good week of practice and he looked like that in practice. I don’t think anybody was surprised, we were just happy for him. We will come back next week and he will go back again and he will put another week under his belt and show what he can do and it just makes that running back position more competitive and solid.;”
Prosise had not played in the first two preseason games and played sparingly last season, making him a popular target of fans frustrated that he has not been able to play more to this point.
But the Seahawks will look at the bigger picture, which is that when he is healthy Prosise holds a lot of value. He would almost certainly be claimed if the Seahawks were to waive him.
Because he’d likely be claimed, the Seahawks may have to keep him and hope he stays healthy.
Prosise did not play in the second half, indicating that the Seahawks have plans for him.
Mychal Kendricks for the win
So, it’s hard to make a whole lot out of what the Seahawks’ defense did since the Chargers did not play their starters including quarterback Rivers, who is one of the best in the NFL.
The drop-off from Rivers to Tyrod Taylor is immense.
But Kendricks showed why the Seahawks have gone through the trouble to keep him over the past year — he is due to be sentenced on an insider trading charge next month — on two plays late in the first half.
On the first, Kendricks broke through to tackle one-time Seahawks preseason sensation Troymaine Pope in the open field for a 2-yard gain on a pass on a third-and-three play. Then, on fourth-and-one, Kendricks broke through the line to tackle Pope for a loss of 2.
Carroll had talked this week of his excitement over seeing the linebacking trio of Kendricks, Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright on the field for the first time this week — Wagner and Wright did not play in the first two preseason games — and said what he saw Saturday only added to his eagerness to see those three on the field in the regular season.
“It was exciting or me to see Bobby and K.J. and Mychal on the field at the same time,” Carroll said. “Mychal made a couple of beautiful plays. … Just to have those guys out there running the show is something that is really important to us and I think it’s going to be a real strength of our club and that was kind of their debut.”
The Seahawks saw it on the field for the first three series Saturday, during which the Chargers were held to a punt, a field goal and a stop on downs.
Geno Smith takes a step forward
Wilson played the first three series, conveniently departing at the same time as standout left tackle Duane Brown. The rest of the Seahawks’ first-team offensive line played through the second quarter and came out at halftime.
Smith entered on the fourth series, with the score 13-3, and led the Seahawks to scores on his first two drives, the kind of performance that may go a long way toward earning him the backup spot over Paxton Lynch.
Lynch, the star of the preseason opening win against Denver, did not play against the Chargers because of a concussion suffered last week against the Vikings.
That allowed Smith to get most of the reps against the Chargers after he recovered from a surgery to repair a cyst on his knee. Smith led the Seahawks on drives of 48, 73 and 74 yards the first three times he was in the game, completing 10 of 16 passes for 117 yards and also rushing four times for 26 yards and a touchdown. He finished 11-18 for 117 yards.
“I thought Geno was pretty efficient,” Carroll said. “I thought he made some nice plays, did a nice job on the move. … He did move the club and I thought he was solid. We got out of this game with no turnovers and we’ve had one turnover in three games and that was the last play last week. Our guys are really focused and attended to that. That’s such an important part of our play and Geno carried that out, too. This was his game with Pax not playing and so next week will be a real mix of those guys and hopefully Pax will be able to play and those guys will battle it out.”
The touchdown might have been his most impressive play, coming on a third-and-goal from the 8. Smith dropped back, saw that no one was open and burst for the goal line, diving in to score to make it 23-3. It was the kind of under-control play that the Seahawks would want at that position that Smith — who has 31 career starts — could be expected to make instead of Lynch, who has just four.
Penny bounces back — a little bit
The play of 2018 first-round pick Rashaad Penny was the subject of much discussion after the loss at Minnesota. He had just 13 yards on 12 carries in the first two games.
Carroll defended Penny during the week, pointing out he got little work with the first-team offense.
He got some on Saturday, going against what were largely backups for the Chargers, and he had 22 yards on eight carries, including a touchdown on a fourth-and-one play from the 3-yard line that put Seattle ahead 7-3, and also had three receptions for 15 yards.
Whether that was enough to quiet the critics for a night was in the eye of the beholder. But there is no doubt that Penny will be on the roster week one as was indicative of the fact that he did not play in the second half.
Hard to tell about young receivers
A big story line heading into the game was which of the receivers might stand out in the absence of the injured David Moore and DK Metcalf.
The injuries — Moore may be out weeks of the regular season — means that the Seahawks are likely to be looking to continue to add to their receiving corps over the next week with the cutdown date looming next Saturday.
Seattle doesn’t have to worry about its starters. Tyler Lockett played well with 50 yards on two receptions and Jaron Brown had one catch for 15 yards.
But it was hard to tell what to make of the younger receivers.
John Ursua had two catches for 52 yards through early in the fourth quarter continuing his impressive preseason and he looks as if he might be hard to keep off the roster.
Conversely, Gary Jennings — a fourth-round pick — had just one catch for 12 yards on three targets, giving him just one catch for 12 yards on six targets in the preseason to that point. He also had a catch on the sidelines that was ruled no good that Carroll thought should have been ruled as a reception late in the second quarter.
Jennings was also called for a block in the back that nullified a 16-yard run by Wilson on a second-and-15 in the second quarter and finished
“It was a bad decision,” Carroll said. “That’s a new emphasis and we won’t forget now the emphasis is intact. I thought he caught the ball on the sidelines. It would have been a great play. I wish we had a chance to get that reviewed.”
And Jazz Ferguson, the star of the first game, had no catches and no targets.
And 2017 third-round pick Amara Darboh got plenty of playing time but also had no catches on two targets through three quarters.
The upshot was that for now, Ursua appears in the best position to make the team.