It took 10 drives, but Russell Wilson finally scores first touchdown of preseason.
As the pinpoint pass floated into Paul Richardson’s arms, thrown so precisely that it was nearly un-uncatchable, Russell Wilson pumped his fist, then rushed into the end zone to join a rapidly expanding celebration.
Wilson’s reaction might have been equal parts exhilaration and relief. It was the 10th possession of the preseason for the Seahawks’ first-unit offense, and their first touchdown. Meaningless in the big picture, the elusive score was a pre-emptive strike against misguided panic.
Because that, of course, is what preseason is for, just as much as getting into football shape: overreaction. And its close cousin, jumping to conclusions. Never mind that preseason sloppiness and sluggishness are about as meaningful as Stephen Williams’ exhibition stats in 2013 (to refresh your memory, he led the entire NFL in receiving yardage — and is still awaiting his next regular-season reception).
Nevertheless, the Seahawks had provided plenty of ammunition for concern by virtue of an offensive attack that just didn’t seem to be quite in rhythm, undone by a penalty here, a busted route there, interspersed with some Wilson passes that just weren’t up to his standards of uncanny accuracy.
Coming into the game, the first-team O had six drives, resulting in four punts, an interception and turnover on downs. They had been plagued by penalties and sacks, and the most promising drive — the first of the year against Kansas City, starting with two long gains to Doug Baldwin — fizzled with a pick in the end zone.
So where was the magic with which Wilson and company had exploded down the stretch in 2015, finishing the year with 24 touchdown passes and just one interception in the final seven games? The Seahawks didn’t need to unleash it all on Thursday; just enough of a glimpse to remind everyone that it was still in their possession, tucked away for the proper time.
“We want to be in attack mode. We want to stay on the field,’’ Wilson had declared Wednesday, indicating that Thursday’s third exhibition game against the Cowboys, traditionally the one most reminiscent of competitive football, was the appropriate time to jell.
Wilson would say after the game, “The huddle was so tight-knit; guys were really looking forward to playing great football tonight.”
Yet for much of the first half of this eventual 27-17 Seattle victory, they didn’t. A holding penalty against Germain Ifedi slowed one drive, and a personal foul charged to Bradley Sowell short-circuited another. A short pass to Baldwin was underthrown, and another to an open Richardson was off-target and nearly intercepted. Late in the first half, all the Seahawks had to show was a field goal.
And then, in a flash of dazzle late in the first half and early in the second, they delivered a subliminal message: We’ve got this. First, on a third-and-two play, Wilson hit tight end Luke Willson for 18 yards, and then Tyler Lockett for 27, setting up the thing of beauty to Richardson: Wilson rolled right and then threw across his body to Richardson, who had Morris Claiborne draped all over him.
That touchdown came at the 3:17 mark of the second quarter and gave Seattle a 10-7 lead. On their second possession of the second half, Wilson added razzle to the playbook. First, he found utility man Tanner McEvoy, who has been at various times in his career a quarterback, running back and, with the Seahawks as an undrafted rookie free agent, a safety, wide receiver and now tight end, for a 43-yard reception. McEvoy has shown a knack this preseason for being in the right place at the right time, which he may parlay into an unexpected spot on the roster.
Ensconced at the Dallas 9, Wilson did Wilson stuff, just a whiff of his elusive genius, like the first chilled breeze in early September that portends autumn around the corner. Facing a heavy rush, Wilson sprinted left, then right, then back, then up, and finally found Lockett in the end zone for a touchdown. You’ve seen that act before, sometimes with a wince. It’s always a great show, even when it doesn’t count.
“You don’t want to give up on the play,’’ Wilson said. “Sometimes, it’s the smart thing to do. Sometimes, it’s the right thing to do to extend the play and make something happen, and sometimes it’s better to throw it away.
“There’s a happy medium there. You have to understand the play call and the situation. Tyler Lockett did a great job of getting open, and the scramble drill was great. It was a huge touchdown.”
That ended the night for Wilson, who completed 16 of 21 passes for 192 yards and two touchdowns and a tidy 135.4 rating. In the course of putting up 20 points, there were no picks, and no sacks.
And no source for panic — not that any would have been warranted even if Wilson had gone three-and-out to finish out his stint. Yet it beats the alternative, and made another potentially tedious exhibition game one that ended with a happy glow.
As Seahawks coach Pete Carroll summed up the night, “We had the joy of playing the game the way we like to.”