Sunday August 12, 2007
Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California
Play Of The Day: WR Deion Branch hauled in a 31-yard strike from QB Matt Hasselbeck to cap off the only first-team drive of the game, making the final score of the Seahawks first Team vs. the Chargers first-team 7-0.
Handouts To The Standouts: All iterations of the Seahawks offensive line, who gave up just one sack and gave Hasselbeck and Seneca Wallace plenty of time in the pocket to find the open receiver. In addition, the big boys up front incurred no penalties, something that’s sure to endear them to the coaching staff and fans alike in their first outing of the 2007 preseason. RB Marquis Weeks, for running strong in the 4th quarter, in particular 3 consecutive runs capped by a 6-yard draw for a TD that would widen the Seahawks lead to 8.
WR Ben Obamanu, who not only lead the team with 5 receptions for 83 yards including a beautiful one handed 17-yard TD grab early in the 4th to pull within 2 points of the Chargers, but also had a nice punt return after the ensuing San Diego possession that ultimately led to the go-ahead FG. Daryl Tapp for collecting two sacks, a forced fumble and getting up in the grill of 3rd string QB Charlie Whitehurst on another play that forced the Chargers to settle for a FG at the start of the 4th Quarter. Finally, OG Rob Sims, who not only caught a batted Matt Hasselbeck pass on the first drive but advanced the ball 16 yards for a first down.
Things That Made Me Go “Blech”: OLB Julian Peterson showed considerable rust during the Chargers opening drive, allowing TE Antonio Gates to release into completely empty space for a big gain, and then biting on an inside run on a play that allowed RB Michael Turner to scoot outside for a huge gain. The Turner play would ultimately be negated by a holding call on WR Vincent Jackson, but Peterson was caught out of position for the second play in three snaps.
DB Michael Boulware proved he’s still a liability in coverage even with the second strong offense in as he bit hard on a play fake on 3rd down that left a void in the zone that allowed the Chargers to convert in addition to later missing a tackle on a draw play on 3rd and forever that cost the Seahawks a first down. Seneca Wallace threw a floater over the middle into the teeth of Cover 2 leading to an easy pick for rookie S Eric Weddle and fumbled the ball on a scramble to end the next Seahawks possession. Wallace would later rally and lead his team to a come-from-behind victory, but his play during the 2nd Quarter was, shall we say, less than stellar.
Offense: QB Matt Hasselbeck was saved from a bad interception by a defensive holding call against CB Drayton Florence (who wound up picking off the pass). This was, however, Matt’s only miscue and he otherwise looked very sharp completing 4 of 5 passes for 65 yards including the aforementioned touchdown strike to Deion Branch. Shaun Alexander had a nondescript outing; rushing twice for 4 yards and dropping an easy pass from Hasselbeck during his limited time on the field, but backups Maurice Morris (6 rushes for 26 yards) and Marcus Weeks (5 rushes for 37 yards and a touchdown) filled in the void making the most of their limited time on the field.
Leonard Weaver didn’t get the chance to show off his vaunted stiff-arm (aka “The Baptism”) but caught the one pass that was close to him and even earned some props from John Madden who opined that Weaver might yet make the roster as the starting FB over Pro-Bowler Mack Strong. It bears repeating that the starting offensive line gave up no sacks (and the team only surrendered one all game), and all offensive lineman committed no penalties and looked good getting off the line on running plays.
WR Chris Jones caught three straight Wallace passes in the fourth which lead to the go-ahead FG. Overall, the Seattle offense looked solid throughout the game, recovering well from early turnovers and keeping focused on moving the chains, a hallmark of the NFC Championship team from 2005.
Defense: Heading into the camp there were two major questions about the Seattle defense: the line and the secondary. Both 1st team units played well, albeit they weren’t facing the NFL’s 2006 MVP LaDanian Tomlinson, which skews the stats significantly in their favor.
Leroy Hill contributed a sack against the Chargers first team, and Patrick Kerney demonstrated why every pundit from here to Egypt describes him using the words “big motor”, chasing down Chargers RB Darren Sproles from behind on a 3rd down play, saving the first down and ultimately leading to a turnover on downs one play later. The second string defensive line had a stellar game, with 2 sacks and forced fumble from Daryl Tapp, and sacks from Chuck Darby and Russell Davis.
Special Teams: K Josh Brown missed his first attempt of the season wide left but was saved by a bonehead 12 men on the field penalty on the kick and made his second chance, which will be the only one in the books. Brown also muffed one kickoff only managing 46 yards in the air, but his other kickoffs were deep and well-placed. P Ryan Plackemeier did a fine job punting, both in long kicks and pooch punts.
The kick coverage left a bit to be desired, although the Seahawks didn’t surrender any huge returns. Rookie Josh Wilson fumbled kick return in the 3rd Quarter but ultimately bounced back with a decent and non-fumbled return later in the game. Ben Obamanu looked sharp in his two punt returns and might earn himself a spot on the final roster if he can manage to keep up the good special teams work.
Summary: Everybody knows that preseason success or failure doesn’t amount to hill of beans once September rolls around, but we can still gauge the relative strengths and weaknesses of a team from how the units played during their limited time. The offense looked solid, in particular the offensive line, and the defense looked like they could gel into something special. Perhaps even more importantly than any of this is that every player who took the field, returned to Seattle uninjured. After the 2006 season, that’s the best news of all.