After a start that was probably way too familiar to Seahawks fans, the team’s first preseason game of the Pete Carroll era turned into mostly positive night for Seattle.
In particular, Saturday night’s 20-18 preseason victory over the Tennessee Titans was marked by a pretty impressive coming out party for quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, one of Seattle’s biggest offseason acquisitions.
Whitehurst, a well-paid backup for now, and quite possibly the team’s long-term future at the position, threw both of Seattle’s touchdown passes, and completed 14 of 22 passes for 214 yards and one interception. And even though the results don’t count, it was a promising start to Whitehurst’s Seattle career.
“I know people will say that it wasn’t a real game and all of that, but it’s still football and he’s still out there throwing and making the plays, so you get a good comparison with other guys,” Carroll said.
Before Whitehurst could shine, however, and before the defense came up with three turnovers, the 62,352 in attendance had to suffer through a bit of 2009 deja vu. The game started with Tennessee’s No. 1 offense marching down the field on a 10-play, 79-yard drive that featured a couple of big plays and not a lot of resistance from the Seahawks defense.
When Seattle got the ball for the first time, Matt Hasselbeck was knocked over on his first pass attempt and the offense only managed one first down before punting. Seattle’s first-team offense continued its struggles on the next drive, going three-and-out after Hasselbeck was sacked on the first play, bringing back memories of last year’s 5-11 campaign that featured many games that went bad early for the Seahawks.
It was 2009 all over again. Or at least a less-than ideal start for Carroll in his first NFL game since January, 2000.
“That first drive, we looked shaky,” Carroll said. “You dream about that first drive, playing great defense, knocking them back, getting off the field. Well that dream didn’t come true tonight … But the defense really played very well for the whole night and came back and did a lot of good things.”
And on their third and final possession Seattle’s offensive starters managed a field goal, and those were the first three of 20 unanswered points that gave Seattle the win.
The turning point of the night came on a third-and-1 play on which Whitehurst read a blitz at the line of scrimmage and called an audible. The change worked to perfection when he hit wide receiver Mike Williams with a short pass, and Williams, who has been out of the NFL for two years, made cornerback Ryan Mouton miss on his way to a 51-yard touchdown.
“It’s one thing to sit in a meeting room and know what the audible needs to be, it’s another thing to get the other 10 guys to do it,” Hasselbeck said. “I thought he showed definite command of the situation and had a great audible.”
Williams downplayed his role in the play, instead giving credit to Whitehurst, but it was clear that it was a big moment for the former USC standout who went from a top-10 pick to NFL bust, and now appears on the verge of a comeback. He even took the ball to the sideline with him.
“We’ve kind of been talking about him since he got here, just how impressive he’s been, and he got a chance to do it in a game, and I think everyone was really happy for him,” Hasselbeck said. “It’s been a long time for him, and it was just a perfectly executed play.”
Whitehurst was happy for his chance to shine in his Seahawks debut, but was also well aware of the fact that he and the team have a long ways to go.
“It’s nice to go out there and play well, but again it’s the first preseason game,” he said. “We’ve got three more preseason games, we’ve got a long season. Yeah, you like to go out there and play well every time, and it was nice that it was the first one, but it doesn’t mean all the much. We’ve got a bunch more this season and we’ve got to come every week and execute.”
In addition to Whitehurst’s play, Carroll was encouraged by a defense that came up with three turnovers, including a game-clinching interception by Kam Chancellor. The defensive line, a huge question mark for the Seahawks this season, managed to come up with two sacks and put pressure on Tennessee’s quarterbacks throughout the night.
“There were a lot of good things that happened tonight,” Carroll said.