Seahawks have picked up where they left off

Seattle rides momentum from late last season into this year’s exhibition play

Staff writerAugust 19, 2013 

Seahawks rookie defensive end Benson Mayowa, right, running through a drill with Cliff Avril, has 2.5 sacks through the first two exhibition games.

ELAINE THOMPSON/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

For the Seattle Seahawks, the first two games of the exhibition season were much the same as the team’s second half of 2012 — when Pete Carroll’s boys won seven of their last eight regular-season games to advance to the NFC playoffs for the second time in three years.

The Seahawks have the NFL’s top scoring offense, averaging 35.5 points through two exhibition games. And Seattle ranks No. 2 in scoring defense, allowing just 10 points a contest.

While Seattle’s starters have played a little more than two quarters in two games — with many front-line players such as Marshawn Lynch, Sidney Rice, Chris Clemons and Zach Miller playing sparingly, if at all — what has been more impressive is the backups subbing in and playing at a high level.

Dating to 2011, the Seahawks have won seven consecutive exhibition games by an average of 20.9 points.

However, pump the brakes on planning a ticker-tape parade route through downtown Seattle for a Super Bowl celebration in February.

In 2009, the Seahawks finished 4-0 in exhibition play but stumbled through a 5-11 regular season, leading to Jim Mora’s firing after one season as their head coach.

Therefore, encouraging exhibition wins don’t necessarily translate to postseason success in January and February.

That said, the following is a closer look at how the Seahawks made quick work of San Diego and Denver this exhibition season.

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE BALL

The Seahawks have an impressive plus-6 turnover differential through the first two games — second in the NFL to NFC West rival Arizona (plus-7).

The Seahawks have picked off three passes and recovered three forced fumbles. Those six turnovers directly led to 23 points.

Also, Seattle has not turned the ball over during exhibition play.

“The most important factor that’s happening right now is that we’re not giving the football up,” Carroll said. “And there’s nothing more important than that.”

One of Carroll’s points of emphasis remains taking care of the football on offense, and creating turnovers on defense as momentum-changing plays.

Last season, the Seahawks were No. 6 in the NFL in sudden change situations — think points off turnovers in basketball. Seattle scored 103 points off 31 turnovers forced, and only gave up 50 points off 18 turnovers lost in 2012.

During exhibition play, cornerback Brandon Browner has been particularly effective getting the ball from opponents, with a forced fumble and a fumble recovery returned for a 106-yard touchdown through two games.

ROOKIE STANDOUTS ON ‘D’

Some of Seattle’s young defensive players have made an impact through two games.

Undrafted rookie free-agent defensive end Benson Mayowa is tied for fifth in the league with 2.5 sacks. Linebacker Ty Powell is third on the team in tackles with eight, behind safety Kam Chancellor (14) and middle linebacker Allen Bradford (11).

Undrafted rookie free-agent linebacker John Lotulelei is tied for fourth on the team in tackles with seven. He seems to deliver a bone-jarring hit every time he approaches the line of scrimmage.

Third-round selection Jordan Hill appears to be on his way to sewing up the starting defensive tackle position next to Brandon Mebane with his consistent play.

RUNNERS GET HIGH MARKS

Running back is perhaps Seattle’s most talented position from top to bottom on the depth chart.

Second-round selection Christine Michael was impressive in his pro exhibition debut, finishing with 89 yards on 16 carries.

But with Michael sitting out against Denver because of back spasms, sixth-round selection Spencer Ware stepped in and filled the void, finishing with 54 yards on nine carries. The Seahawks like Ware’s ability to play fullback and tailback.

Second-year pro Derrick Coleman also has played well on special teams.

No. 2 running back Robert Turbin finished with 35 yards on nine carries in his first game back after nursing a foot injury through the first two weeks of camp.

Lynch has just 1 yard on two carries, but Carroll says expect to see plenty of Seattle’s No. 1 back against Green Bay this week.

The Seahawks’ run-based attack is averaging 129 yards through two games — good for No. 8 in the NFL.

PENALTIES A CONCERN

While the Seahawks have made big plays, penalties have been an issue.

The Seahawks finished with 12 penalties for 107 yards against Denver. In the opener against San Diego, Seattle totaled eight penalties for 65 yards.

Through two exhibition games, the Seahawks are second in the NFL with 20 penalties for 172 yards.

“There’s just stuff we’ve got to see where they all are,” Carroll said. “They’re scattered; we didn’t have error repeaters tonight. We had a bunch of guys who contributed. We just have to get better there. It’s lousy to play football like that. I don’t like it at all.”

Quarterback Russell Wilson said on offense the Seahawks need to understand how penalties set the team back.

“The biggest thing I try to tell the offense is, ‘Hey, let’s stay on schedule,’ ” Wilson said. “If we can stay on schedule, we’ll be in great situations. We’ll be in third and shorts, which obviously we can handle with the running game and also the throwing game. And if we can do that, we’ll be in the red zone more. We’ll make some plays, the defense will get us the ball every once in a while, and we’ll have short fields.

“So we’ve got to take advantage of those opportunities. And when you do that, it makes it tough on the other team. It makes it tough on the other team to capitalize against us.”

Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 eric.williams@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks @eric_d_williams

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