SEATTLE — The Seattle Seahawks used big plays to bury the visiting Denver Broncos, 40-10, in the team’s home exhibition opener at CenturyLink Field on Saturday night.
The victory was Seattle’s seventh straight preseason win, and second lopsided triumph during exhibition play, after disposing of San Diego 31-10 last week.
Lakes High grad and University of Washington product Jermaine Kearse knifed through Denver’s kickoff coverage for a 107-yard touchdown.
And cornerback Brandon Browner added a 106-yard fumble return for a score.
But along with the big plays, Seattle’s first-unit offense finally moved the ball.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson played the entire first half, finishing 8-of-12 for 127 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown pass to Kearse, and a 3-yard touchdown toss to tight end Sean McGrath.
Wilson was sacked once, and finished with a 141.3 passer rating against Denver.
Wilson led Seattle’s offense to scores on four of his five drives in the first half, including the two touchdowns.
Seattle’s first-unit offense failed to cross midfield on two drives against San Diego in the team’s first exhibition game.
“I felt like we were doing things like we like to do it,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “Russell missed a couple, but he threw a couple touchdown passes, too, in the first half. So I think it all worked great.”
Seattle scored on the team’s opening drive, a 10-play, 65-yard march that culminated with Wilson finding an open Kearse in the corner of the end zone on an out route.
Seattle overcame three penalties to still get into the end zone
The Seahawks pushed their lead to 10-0 on a 42-yard Steven Hauschka field goal.
But Denver answered with a 9-play, 80-yard drive, punctuated by an 11-yard, Peyton Manning touchdown pass to Wes Welker, cutting Seattle’s lead to 10-7.
Seattle scored 23 unanswered points from there.
The Seahawks have been looking for a kick returner to replace Percy Harvin, who’s out for an extended period of time after recent hip surgery.
And Kearse vaulted up the depth chart after his long return for a score, his first chance at returning a kick in his short, NFL career.
“It was nice,” Kearse said. “I haven’t returned a kickoff return since high school. They came up to me this week and asked if I wanted to return, and I definitely wasn’t going to turn it down.”
Manning methodically led Denver down the field, and the Broncos were in position to answer again, but running back Ronnie Hillman had the ball knocked loose by Seattle linebacker Heath Farwell as he crossed the goal line.
Browner picked up the loose ball in the end zone, and raced the length of the field for the score, putting Seattle up 24-7 with 8:54 left in the half.
“When I looked up, I saw nothing but green grass and saw offensive linemen,” Browner said. “I’m going to take my chances against offensive linemen.”
Hauschka added a 41-yard field goal, and McGrath completed the scoring in the first half when Wilson found him in the back of the end zone with 1:14 left in the second quarter.
Hauschka’s extra point attempt pounced off the left cross bar and was no good, and Seattle led 33-7 at the half.
While the offense found a rhythm, Seattle’s defense struggled with Manning’s up-tempo, no-huddle attack. Manning finished 11 of 16 for 163 yards and a touchdown, before giving way to backup Brock Osweiler midway through the second quarter.
Tight end Julius Thomas led the Broncos with four catches for 70 yards.
Golden Tate led Seattle with two catches for 42 yards, and also had a nifty, 33-yard punt return.
Stephen Williams scored his second touchdown of the preseason, this one a 39-yarder from Tarvaris Jackson in the third quarter.
Matt Prater added a 33-yard field goal for Denver, set up by Trindon Holliday’s 73-yard punt return.