Russell Wilson wasn’t exactly bummed — nor underdressed — on his way out of Denver after the Seahawks’ first exhibition of this post-Super Bowl season.
At his locker beneath Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Seattle’s quarterback and franchise face pulled down his cuffs late Thursday night. He fastened their links. He cinched up his sleek, gray tie. He carefully donned his dark blue suit coat then ensured his matching, blue-and-gray handkerchief stuck out fashionably from the coat’s breast pocket.
“Want to look sharp for you guys,” he joked.
To Wilson’s immediate left, in an equally chic, black suit and matching black tie, Terrelle Pryor also looked like a starting NFL quarterback — which he was in Oakland for parts of three seasons ending last fall.
That wasn’t the only way in which Pryor resembled Wilson on Thursday, when Seattle lost 21-16 at Denver to begin the preseason.
“It was fun to see Terrelle Pryor for the first time,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “He was, obviously, all over the field, trying to create when we had troubles up front and he was compensating for that.”
The veteran of 10 NFL starts twisted, turned and sprinted out of numerous sacks behind a makeshift line to gain a team-high 28 yards rushing. Two of those improvisational escapes were particularly Wilson-esque: 90-degree turns away from charging defenders and looping scrambles from deep in the backfield. Those turned what could have been 10- or 15-yard losses into positive plays. One of those gained 4 yards on third down to keep Steven Hauschka within range for a 40-yard field goal that gave Seattle a 16-14 lead early in the fourth quarter. Had Pryor gotten sacked Hauschka would have been facing a try of about 56 yards.
Pryor has looked good before running and sometimes throwing in improv acts on the outside, both in Oakland and in a week-plus of Seahawks training-camp practices before Thursday. Yet his best pass against the Broncos came from the place he’s supposed to be least effective.
On third-and-9 near midfield in the third quarter he stood as tall as his 6-foot-4 frame in the pocket, stared through an onrushing defensive lineman and fired a perfectly placed dart onto the hands of Bryan Walters. The wide receiver had broken free deep down the middle for a 28-yard gain. That set up Hauschka’s second field goal to get the Seahawks to within 14-13.
Pryor just shrugged at those gems.
“I’m used to playing football and making plays. Ever since I was a little kid I’ve made plays,” the former Ohio State and Western Pennsylvania high-school star said. “So that really doesn’t shock me, just to make plays.
“But what shocks me and what I’m really upset about is losing the game for my teammates. I just have to make better decisions. And next time, I will.”
He was referring to his game-ending interception, but Pryor should have had the winning touchdown on the play before it, with 2 minutes, 54 seconds left. Demitrius Bronson — the rookie from Eastern Washington who ran the ball with power and zest — allowed Pryor’s deft, flip screen pass versus Denver’s all-out blitz to go through his hands inside the Broncos’ 10-yard line. If Bronson makes that catch, he has no one in front of him to the end zone, the Seahawks win 23-21 — and we are talking right now about the 89-yard drive Pryor led to increase Seattle’s preseason winning streak to 10 and raise his stock in his competition with Tarvaris Jackson for the No. 2 QB job.
“We had a great drive to win the football game,” Carroll said. “Unfortunately we didn’t finish it the way we wanted to.”
As it was, Pryor completed four of his first five passes for 76 of his 137 yards passing on that drive while leading the Seahawks from their own 11 to the Denver 3 for a prime chance to win the game. That’s what Carroll and his staff likely noticed during film review at Friday morning practice, more than the interception he threw into traffic on a tipped ball intended for Ricardo Lockette with 2:49 remaining.
The final tallies for the Seahawks’ quarterbacks Thursday: The offense netted 95 yards and scored seven points on the 23 plays Wilson triggered. They gained 25 yards and scored three points on the 12 plays with Jackson at quarterback for the final drive of the first half and initial one after halftime. And with Pryor playing the final 25 minutes, they gained 183 yards and scored six points on 26 plays — a team-leading seven yards per play.
The QBs did that while playing without three starting offensive linemen; Max Unger has a new groin injury while left tackle Russell Okung (toe surgery) and left guard James Carpenter (calf) returned to practice just this week. They did it with backup Lemuel Jeanpierre, the only other true center on the roster, playing the entire first half and usual guard Greg Van Roten at center for much of the second.
As Carroll noted, Seattle had blockers playing positions they had assumed only this week. And it showed.
“We were surviving,” Carroll said of the makeshift offensive line.
So, no, the Seahawks aren’t exactly going Chicken Little because of a loss in a practice game on Aug. 7.
“I have been on teams that went 4-0 in the preseason and then got killed in the season,” defensive end Michael Bennett said.
He was referring to his first NFL season in 2009, when he was on Jim Mora’s Seahawks that went undefeated in August — then 4-12 when it counted. Carroll arrived after that.
“It’s all about how we are getting better on a week-to-week basis,” Bennett said. “None of these games count until we play Green Bay in Week 1.”