No matter that this was August. This was what Super Bowl champions do.
They answer their coach’s call to be more physical at the line of scrimmage. They clean up penalties. They get an opponent down early, then bury it.
“What jumped out was just in general, I thought we played real hard and ran fast. And it looked like we had full energy across the board,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said tonight of his team answered last week’s relative dud in Denver with a 41-14 mauling of San Diego at CenturyLink Field in the second exhibition game.
The link above tells what Carroll thought about the first-team offense rolling to a 24-0 lead after four drives, and about improved play by an offensive line that was still missing starting left tackle Russell Okung and starting center Max Unger — but got left guard James Carpenter back in the lineup after a calf injury caused him to miss last week.
Tonight was an example of the evolution of Carroll’s program in Seattle. When he first arrived from USC in 2010 to coach the Seahawks for his third NFL go-around, he was trying to instill competitiveness at every position, every day, in every situation — including an exhibition game. That took a couple of years of constant roster churn orchestrated by synchronized general manager John Schneider.
Now, entering season number five and coming off the franchise’s first Super Bowl title, these Seahawks have internalized that Carroll competitiveness and drive to perfect even the smallest of details in the seemingly most meaningless of settings, such as a practice game on Aug. 15. Those that haven’t or didn’t are no longer here.
The result is what we saw tonight. Carroll doesn’t like the line play, the aggressiveness or the sloppy penalties from last week. Presto! 24-0 lead after four drives, with a 255-42 edge in total yardage on San Diego before the Seahawks’ starters left the game for good.
Russell Wilson didn’t throw passes away or rush throws while pressured as much as he did while playing two drives in Denver last week. He simply out-ran the Chargers who got into the backfield, and there were still too many for the coaches’ — or quarterback’s — liking. I counted at least five plays that for three-fourths of the league’s quarterbacks would have been sacks that Wilson salvaged, including the 5-yard touchdown run in the second quarter that made it 24-0.
Even second-year cornerback Tharold Simon, who didn’t play at all last season because of foot injuries, showed he is internalizing Carroll’s message. Last week, Simon got thrown out of the game for slapping a Bronco in the facemask immediately after a Denver touchdown. He needed to respond individually, pronto. Tonight he made a leaping interception in the end zone, took off down the Seahawks’ sideline with a convoy of teammates and sprinted 103 yards for what would have been a touchdown in the third quarter — if not for a horrid illegal-contact call by an official who took too far the league’s new point of emphasis on that call. The contact came within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage, which remains legal in the NFL.
“I thought it was a perfectly executed two-handed jam,” said Carroll.
He didn’t say “perfectly executed” about anything Simon did last week.
The offensive line wasn’t perfect, and to me there is still a ways to go there in establishing continuity and consistency. But there are still three weeks until the games get real.
Wilson got sacked when left guard James Carpenter got beaten on the first drive, and the QB got pressured two other times in the first half-dozen plays. The reason Wilson ran so effectively was because he had to. The only one of his four official rushes was called, the 1-yard touchdown run in the first quarter that made it 17-0 early in the second quarter.
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell showed more spice on that call than the offense had last week, spreading the Chargers out with three wide receivers to the left including Jermaine Kearse in the slot. Wilson then faked a handoff to Robert Turbin inside and jogged into the end zone around an empty right end.
Alvin Bailey and Carpenter had nice blocks on Turbin’s 1-yard touchdown that ended the first drive. And Bailey, starting for Okung at left tackle again, got some push before Turbin cut-back from left to right on a 47-yard run in the first quarter. That got Seattle out from its own 3-yard line on a 78-yard drive that led to the first of Steven Hauschka’s two field goals in two tries.
Yes, the Seahawks saw value and importance to rebounding tonight. So what that it was another exhibition game.
“There’s value every time you step on the field — whether it’s practice, game, preseason game, championship game, playoff game,” Wilson said. “Even watching film. There’s value to everything everything that we do. I think that the championship mindset that we talk about is there’s a purpose to everything that we try to do. And the communication that we have, the visualization, all that plays into a major factor or role in to the success of our football team day in and day out.
“If we can continue to have that mindset of truly believing that and really seeing that, we have a chance. We have the right guys to do it, we got the right coaching staff, we got the best fans in the National Football League. So it makes it exciting everyday.”
Turbin, the Seahawks’ fourth-round pick in 2012 out of Utah State, may have won the No. 2 running-back job tonight. He had 80 yards rushing by midway through the second quarter. Christine Michael, Seattle’s second-round draft choice last year out of Texas A&M, was Carroll’s first choice to run the ball after Marshawn Lynch started and left for good two plays in. But Michael fumbled for the second time in eight carries this month on the game’s first drive. Just like in Denver, he lost the ball on a low hit at his torso. Though the Seahawks recovered, Turbin replaced Michael immediately — and immediate ran wild.
Asked if he was concerned with Michael’s fumbling, Carroll said, “Yeah.
“He needs to protect it more. … I’m hoping that he’ll learn from it because it’s really the exact same situation, I believe. He allowed the defender to get under him where the ball is vulnerable and they knocked it out. He needs to fix that.”
Turbin had a highlight play in the first quarter, getting Seattle out from its own 3 with a 47-yard run on a cutback from left to right. He threw in a wicked stiff arm at the end of the run across midfield, something Carroll said he’s been trying to get Turbin to do more of.
Turbin wasn’t about to make any proclamations that he arrived tonight.
“Every opportunity … I just want to get better,” Turbin said. “Whether I am getting four carries in one game and a different number in the next game, I just want to do my best to take advantage of all of that, and use all of that as a tool to get better.
–DE Michael Bennett didn’t play because Carroll said his hamstring tightened before the game. Doesn’t sound serious at all.
–The only injury Carroll noted was to reserve linebacker Horace Miller, who “twisted his knee pretty good,” Carroll said. The undrafted rookie free agent from Texas-El Paso will have an MRI.
–Wide receiver Doug Baldwin is fine. He got whacked in the back by San Diego’s Darrell Stuckey at the end of what was originally ruled a 13-yard touchdown catch from Wilson in the second quarter. A replay review showed the hit was so hard it knocked Baldwin 4 yards from the end zone to beyond the end line before his left foot could hit the turf to complete the reception. As Baldwin collected his wits on one knee after the hit, team doctor Ed Khalfayan jogged onto the field with a trainer to attend to Baldwin. But Baldwin waved them off and walked off the field under his own power. Carroll said Baldwin is OK.