Seahawks ‘dress rehearsal’ a black-tie affair

Published on August 24, 2014 by     Tacoma News Tribune (Feed)

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Can the real season start now, please?

As in, this morning?

The Seattle Seahawks might be thinking that and more after another dominant, absolutely ready-for-prime-time performance Friday night by their starters in an exhibition game.

This time, it was the Chicago Bears who felt regular-season quality from the Super Bowl champions. Seattle led 31-0 with 250 yards of offense by halftime of a 34-6 runaway in the third game of the preseason at ain’t-this-grand CenturyLink Field.

What made it so grand was that while, yes, this is August, the third exhibition is typically the final full “dress rehearsal” for the starters before the games get real.

“We’ve got guys running all over the field,” left tackle Russell Okung said after his first game action since February’s Super Bowl. “We have so many weapons now.

“The only one who can stop us is ourselves.”

At least it has been that way in these last two exhibitions, in which the starters have outscored the first-teamers of the Bears and San Diego Chargers 55-0 in the opening halves, and the offense has converted 12 of its 13 third downs in that span.

For sure this rehearsal — however ultimately meaningless it might prove to be — was Oscar quality. It came 13 days before the Seahawks open the NFL’s season with an extravaganza against Green Bay on this same roaring stage.

They sure look ready for real. But do they feel ready?

“Oh yeah,” said Percy Harvin, who continued his supersonic, pain-free summer since hip surgery with a zooming 46-yard kickoff return to begin the game and then three catches for 61 yards that were mostly off his sprints past dust-eating Bears. “There’s always work we can do, but it feels like we’re heading in that direction and will be ready to play our game.”

Russell Wilson called Friday “exceptional.”

“We are really starting to put things together,” Wilson said after he went 13-of-17 for 174 yards in the first half, with touchdown passes to Jermaine Kearse of 12 yards on a dart and Christine Michael of 7 yards.

Both scores came on third down. Wilson also turned what would have been a sack into a scrambling run for a 7-yard touchdown run that made it 14-0 in the first quarter.

That was on a third down, too. The Seahawks were seven-for-seven on third-down conversions in the opening half. Coach Pete Carroll had mandated improvement in that area after the exhibition-opening loss at Denver on Aug. 7.

Carroll also noted after this one that in the last two games Seattle’s starters have committed just two penalties. In this summer of “points of emphasis” by officials in the NFL’s flag-a-palooza, that’s saying something.

So is this:

“They are as ready as I can get them right now,” Carroll said of the starters for Sept. 4.

Wilson and the starting offense played one drive after halftime and got Steven Hauschka into position for a 53-yard field goal. That clanged off the upright for Hauschka’s first miss in practice or exhibitions in weeks. Wilson finished 15-for-20 for 202 yards and two touchdowns passing, plus the scoring run, for a tidy quarterback rating of 140.0. A perfect such rating is 158.3.

Through three exhibition games, Wilson sure looks ready for the real games. Despite his offensive line not becoming whole until this past week, the third-year starter is 30-for-39 passing — a 76.9-percent completion rate — for 360 yards, two touchdowns passing and three scores rushing.

Heck, this game looked so regular-season quality, even Marshawn Lynch carried the ball.

The star running back didn’t even make the trip to Denver this month. He then played the first two plays and didn’t touch the ball last week while watching the rest of exhibition against San Diego. Friday he had his first three rushes in a game since the Super Bowl. The third was a 7-yard, bounce-out run around right end through the swinging arms of two Bears for a touchdown to end Seattle’s first drive.

Earl Thomas had a 59-yard punt return — the only shame there being that Chicago’s rookie punter Patrick O’Donnell brought him down at the Bears 16. That seems to have cemented the All-Pro safety as the much-debated punt returner for the regular season.

“It felt like I was in high school,” Thomas said of his days back home in Orange, Texas. “Always playing both ways and never coming out.

“I don’t have any fear. I’m just happy to be back there. That’s why I don’t fair catch.”

Then he added with a knowing smile, “I need to work on that.”

Cornerback Byron Maxwell, who will be a target throughout the regular season while playing opposite All-Pro Richard Sherman, broke up a touchdown pass at the goal line to end Chicago’s first drive. That was after Jay Cutler’s deep, slightly underthrown pass to Alshon Jeffery made the wide receiver wait at the goal line. O’Brien Schofield had another sack and two more quarterback hits, giving him six QB hits in two games. Nickel back Jeremy Lane intercepted a Cutler pass near the goal line in the final minute of the first half and returned it 40 yards. That set up a 59-yard field goal try by Hauschka on the final play of the half. Of course he made it, a fitting end to Seattle’s phenomenally flowing first half.

It’s been 55-0 Seahawks starters over the Bears and the Chargers in the first halves of the last two exhibitions. The starting defense hasn’t allowed a point in about five combined quarters of exhibition play since Peyton Manning and the Broncos scored a touchdown in the first quarter on Aug. 7.

All these feeling-good first-teamers will likely make only cameos (if that) in Thursday’s exhibition finale at Oakland.

Tarvaris Jackson entered for Wilson to begin the second drive and, as Carroll had wanted, got some extended playing time after not playing at all last week. The ninth-year veteran, in a competition with Terrelle Pryor to become Wilson’s primary backup, led the Seahawks 44 yards in 10 plays to Hauschka’s 38-yard field. That made it 34-0 heading into the final quarter.

Jackson was 3-for-7 passing for 41 yards on that scoring drive, and 5-for-10 in his first two drives with the second-team offense. Terrelle Pryor threw an interception on his second throw in relief of Jackson.

Starting left tackle Russell Okung played one series, left for Eric Winston for part of the second drive, returned for Winston and limped some as Seattle scored again, then called it a night. Center Max Unger also took the rest of the night off after two drives, as Seattle had its starting offensive line intact to start a game for the first time since February.’s Super Bowl.

Brock Coyle, the undrafted rookie middle linebacker from Montana who has been the surprise at camp, left late in the half with an injury to his lower right leg. Coyle didn’t start for the first time in three exhibition games while Bobby Wagner remains out with a hamstring injury.Usual outside linebacker K.J. Wright started in the middle, as he has done in a fill-in basis in the past. That could hint to a Plan B for the Seahawks in case Wagner isn’t ready for the opener — though Wagner did do some pregame warm-up drills in uniform and might practice next week.

“A lot of fun things happened (Friday),” Carroll said. “We just want to keep marching forward.”

Read more here: Seahawks ‘dress rehearsal’ a black-tie affair | Seattle Seahawks | The News Tribune.

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