Here is an unedited version of my game story that will appear in tomorrow’s News Tribune:
SAN DIEGO – The Seattle Seahawks were so close to starting the preseason with three consecutive victories for the first time in 20 years and for only the third time in their history.
But a controversial pass interference penalty on Kevin Hobbs, a late touchdown run by San Diego and an interception thrown by Seneca Wallace in the final two minutes led to Seattle’s first exhibition loss, an 18-17 decision before 52,763 at Qualcomm Stadium and a national television audience.
Of more concern than the loss, however, is the status of Pro Bowl middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu’s knee. He bruised it in the first half and never returned.
Tatupu did not speak to reporters, but he left the locker room on crutches walking very stiffly, telling an assistant coach he didn’t think he would be able to drive once the team landed in Seattle.
Though coach Mike Holmgren said that team doctors determined there was no ligament damage, Tatupu will receive a magnetic resonance imaging scan today to determine the severity of the injury. He almost certainly is out of Friday’s preseason finale against the Oakland Raiders.
Charlie Frye, who started at quarterback, also suffered a knee injury, though his did not appear as serious as Tatupu’s. He said it was sore but he did not appear to be nearly as affected as Tatupu. His status for Friday’s game is unclear.
Frye’s injury ended what had been a very good game for him, redemption for his three-interception performance against Chicago last week.
He threw a 68-yard touchdown pass to Nate Burleson on the third play from scrimmage, a 12-yard touchdown to Jordan Kent early in the fourth quarter and had the Seahawks in position to try to finish the preseason undefeated for the first time ever.
But that’s when Chargers backup quarterback Billy Volek decided to throw a deep pass into the end zone — and the referees decided to become the focal point of Holmgren’s ire.
On the play, Hobbs had Chargers tight end Scott Chandler blanketed as he crossed into the end zone, though Hobbs did have a hand on top of Chandler’s shoulder pad.
Hobbs jumped to knock away the ball, but as he celebrated the officials’ flag came flying in.
"It made me mad because I didn’t even touch the guy," Hobbs said. "But sometimes in football they call it one way or the other way. It just didn’t go our way today. I didn’t even try to get any information from them because I was so frustrated. I don’t even know what they said I did."
Before Ed Hochuli informed the stadium what the infraction was, the officials conferred in a huddle around the goal line, giving the Seahawks hope that they would wave off the flag. No such luck. They placed the ball on the 1.
"Can I get fined in the preseason?" Holmgren asked. "Holy Toledo. I thought Kevin Hobbs made a great play on that long ball. I couldn’t ask him to do it any better. I didn’t agree with those two (officials)."
The Chargers did not convert on first and second downs, but Jacob Hester just pushed the ball across the goal line on third down. Instead of risking an overtime — which would have been the second consecutive week in overtime for the Seahawks — Chargers coach Norv Turner elected to go for the two-point conversion. Volek threw up a pass to the 6-foot-5 Malcolm Floyd, who outjumped Omare Lowe for the final margin of victory.
"We have one of the tallest receiving corps out there so coach was just trying to take advantage of that," Floyd said.
Holmgren had not planned on allowing Wallace to throw any passes because of a sore groin that limited him in practice last week. But with his team down a point with 2 ½ minutes remaining, he had no choice.
Wallace was sacked once on Seattle’s final possession. And then as he was scrambling to his right on the next play, he threw a pass intended for Logan Payne that was tipped by Cletis Gordon and intercepted by Brian Bonner, ending Seattle’s chances.
The third preseason game is traditionally the time for most teams’ starters to get in the majority of their work before taking off the final game in preparation for the regular season opener.
But Holmgren took a bit more caution in this exhibition, leaving Matt Hasselbeck at home to rest a sore back. LaDainian Tomlinson did not play for San Diego.
Holmgren put Frye in control for the second straight week, and this time Frye acquitted himself well, completing 19 of 29 passes for 219 yards and no interceptions. His passer rating went from 38.9 last week to 111.1 this week.
"He handled things very, very well and he threw some nice balls," Holmgren said.
He found starting flanker Courtney Taylor three times, though Holmgren said he wished Taylor, who had no catches in the preseason, had caught even more passes. And Kent continues to solidify his position on the 53-man roster, catching four passes for 47 yards, and his second score of the preseason.