Seahawks starters struggle in opener

If you’re expecting instant success with Pete Carroll as the new leader of the Seattle Seahawks, be patient.

After the Seahawks won a combined nine games the past two years, Carroll won’t wave a magic wand and turn them into contenders.

Much like last season, Seattle’s offense sputtered in the opening quarter of the first exhibition, and the defense struggled to contain Tennessee’s offense in a 20-18 win for the Seahawks at Qwest Field.

Filled with nervous energy Saturday, Carroll had to be nudged back to the sidelines by officials a few times in his first game back in the NFL after a decade’s absence.

“It was great to be out there,” Carroll said. “I learned a couple things tonight, but I won’t tell you about them. But I learned a couple things tonight that I needed to know.”

Like all exhibitions, there were some bright spots. Carroll won his Seattle debut, for one.

And backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, whom the Seahawks paid $8 million to challenge veteran Matt Hasselbeck, was 14-of-22 passing for 214 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

And receiver Mike Williams lived up to his billing as potential big-play receiver for Seattle, scoring on a 51-yard burst after corralling a short throw from Whitehurst.

If the backups had some success, Seattle’s starters struggled early.

The Titans took the opening drive and marched 79 yards on 10 plays, with speedster Chris Johnson scoring on a 1-yard plunge, giving Tennessee a 7-0 lead.

“You dream about coming out on that first drive knowing the stadium, playing great defense and knocking them back and getting off the field,” Carroll said. “Well, that dream didn’t come true tonight.”

Hasselbeck and Seattle’s first unit did not have much success in the opening quarter, finishing with 32 total yards on three drives.

In the first unit’s final drive of the night, the Seahawks managed to get into field goal position, with Olindo Mare converting a 44-yard effort early in the second quarter.

The starting defense also had a few plays of note, including a nice interception by cornerback Josh Wilson on a roll-out pass by Vince Young on the Titans’ second drive.

And defensive end Chris Clemons sacked Titans backup quarterback Chris Simms on third down to thwart Tennessee’s third drive.