That the Seahawks held out 22 starters or key players for Saturday night’s preseason game against Denver obviously puts a huge asterisk on the result — a 30-3 Broncos win.
Among those 22 were the team’s top two quarterbacks — Russell Wilson and Geno Smith — meaning the Seahawks went with Alex McGough and Sean Mannion. (Officially, 27 Seahawks didn’t play, including a few who were ruled out due to injury).
Denver used most of its starters for the first two series, in part to give Teddy Bridgewater a fair shot in his quarterback battle with Drew Lock.
The results were predictable — the Broncos drove for touchdowns the first two times they had the ball against a Seahawks defense mostly going with backups, while forcing three turnovers by McGough (two interceptions and a fumble).
That allowed Denver to take a 17-0 halftime lead and cruise from there.
Coach Pete Carroll later said he wasn’t too worried about the result, given the differing approaches the teams took to the game. Seattle has not played the majority of its starters in either preseason game, losing by a combined 50-10.
“We’d like to be having fun, winning football games and all that, but that’s not where the matchups are happening right now,” Carroll said.
Still, he might have hoped for more, especially in the second half when each team was fielding reserves.
It was the first game in front of fans at Lumen Field since the end of the 2019 season, with 68,027 tickets distributed, though far less in the stands — many of whom likely figured they could have found something better to do with their Saturday night.
Maybe most concerning is that a few players and/or position groups that the Seahawks would like answers from delivered some mixed results.
- Presumptive starting left cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon was beaten off the line and across the field by speedy Denver receiver Jerry Juedy for a 35-yard gain on a fourth-and-5 play to set up Denver’s first touchdown. Witherspoon was somewhat intriguingly put back in the game for the final series of the first half. Carroll said later he needed to watch the film to make any assessment of the team’s cornerback play.
- The battle for the final receiving spots took an unfortunate hit when third-year player John Ursua was carted off the field with a knee injury late in the first half after making a team-high three catches for 34 yards to that point — no receiver ended up with more. That was one of two significant knee injuries in the first half as linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven was carted off after the opening kickoff. Carroll later said each injury was “serious” without offering specifics while also saying “it’s going to be a while” with each.
- The Seahawks learned there is a pretty big gap between their top two QBs and McGough, who along with two interceptions and a lost fumble also threw another pass that appeared as it could have been a pick-six but was dropped. “You turn the ball over three times in the first half it’s really, really hard to win a football game,” Carroll said. Other than not turning it over — which is not insignificant —Mannion was not much better, driving Seattle to a lone field goal on five second-half possessions, none of which got closer than Denver’s 22. The good news is that Wilson is still on this team and that backup Smith is recovered from a concussion suffered last week — Smith threw some passes during pregame warm-ups and Carroll said this week he has been cleared to return to action.
- The Seahawks were called for nine penalties to zero for Denver (a late penalty on the Broncos was officially wiped out as offsetting). Five were on backup tight end Dom Wood-Anderson. A false start on rookie offensive lineman Greg Eiland before a fourth down play with 2:09 left brought some pretty hefty boos from the few fans left, as did the sack of Mannion on the next play.
- In what might have been the most futile moment of the night, Seattle had a second-and-one at its own 25 in the fourth quarter and ran it twice and failed to get a yard. It decided to go for it, and again failed to get a yard, turning over the ball on downs and leaving the Broncos a short field that led to a final Denver score. All were runs by undrafted free-agent rookie Josh Johnson.
- While the nature of the lineups makes it hard to read much into anything, it’s worth remembering that during the Super Bowl years the Seahawks routinely won preseason games in routs, which was often viewed as a sign of the strength of the overall roster. So far in this preseason, in which Seattle has been outscored 50-10 with just one touchdown in eight quarters, that obviously has not been the case.
Not that there wasn’t some good through all the gloom:
- Second-year running back DeeJay Dallas, who scored Seattle’s only TD last week, is emerging as the star of the preseason. Dallas returned two kickoffs for 73 yards, with a long of 45, in making a significant bid for that job, and he had three receptions for 27 yards. Dallas also had a partial block of a punt in the third quarter. “DeeJay Dallas played a terrific game tonight,” Carroll said.
- Defensive end Rasheem Green continued a nice preseason with a sack and a forced fumble, and now has a sack in each game, playing more out of the team’s LEO, or rush end, position. “He’s really taking advantage of this preseason to make a statement,” Carroll said.
- Second-year linebacker Jordyn Brooks had seven tackles and appeared to have pretty good coverage on tight end Eric Saubert on a play in the second quarter, when a perfect Bridgewater pass resulted in a completion anyway, to the 1-yard-line.
- Veteran Nick Bellore, ostensibly the team’s starting fullback, was forced to play linebacker significantly due to the injury to Burr-Kirven and overall lack of depth at that spot and responded with five including a four-yard tackle for a loss in the fourth quarter. Bellore has 12 career starts at linebacker and while he has played that spot regularly in practice the last few weeks he suddenly looks as if he may actually be needed there. “Amazing,” Carroll said of Bellore making the switch to linebacker. “He said he was shaking off the rust.”
- And in maybe the best news, there is just one preseason game left, at 7 p.m. Saturday against the Chargers at Lumen Field. Carroll said later to expect more of the team’s starting players to see action in that game, which should also mean a fairer evaluation of where the team stands heading into the regular season. “We’ll go back to a lot of the other guys that haven’t played in the first two games to prepare them for game one of the regular season,” Carroll said. “That’s been the plan all along.”