Here is the unedited version of my game story and notes that I just filed for tomorrow's News Tribune:
By Frank Hughes
How's this for an indication the Seattle Seahawks were in a relatively meaningless preseason game on Friday night?
Trailing by 10 points early in the third period, Oakland Raiders coach Lane Kiffin allowed kicker Sebastian Janikowski to attempt a 66-yard field goal.
When Janikowski came up short by 10 yards, it gave the Seahawks the ball in Oakland's territory, whereas a punt would likely have pinned the Seahawks inside their own 20.
About the same.
Yes, the Seahawks won their third of four exhibitions by a 23-16 margin before 67,163 ready-for-the-regular-season fans at Qwest Field. But this game was more about staying healthy and getting a full chance to evaluate the players fighting for the final roster spots.
The Seahawks didn't do so well on the first front even though they didn't put many of their front-line players in the game.
They lost wide receiver Ben Obomanu to a broken clavicle that knocked him out of the game in the first quarter and may have ended his season. Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said Obomanu is a candidate for the injured reserve, thought that determination will come today.
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Obomanu actually suffered a minor knee injury a few plays before that, came back in to catch a 33-yard pass that set up T.J. Duckett's 24-yard scoring run, and then went out for good with the shoulder injury.
"He got off to such a great start, I feel bad for him," said Holmgren, who also does not have Deion Branch or Bobby Engram because of injuries. "He was a very steady guy. But this happens, unfortunately."
Obomanu's injury sets up an interesting decision for the coaching staff, which must trim the roster from 75 players to 53 by this afternoon.
If rookie running back Justin Forsett does not make the team, Obomanu was probably next in line to return punts and kickoffs. Nate Burleson is no longer a candidate for that job because he is the team's starting split end.
But with Obomanu out for an extended time, it would require the Seahawks to use somebody who has not returned punts in any preseason games in the season opener in Buffalo next Sunday if Forsett does not make the team.
Forsett made the staff's decision more difficult by fumbling Oakland's first punt of the game. With the Raiders' gunners bearing down on him, Forsett looked up and dropped the ball. It was his second fumble in two weeks after the 261 all-purpose yards he gained against Chicago two weeks ago.
Forsett did play well the remainder of the game, totaling 45 yards rushing on 14 carries, catching two passes for 17 yards and displaying the tackle-breaking skills that made coaches and teammates take notice in the first place.
"He got better as the game went along," Holmgren said. "I think he is reliable, he made pretty good decisions in the kicking game. He runs hard. He does all the things we've said. But he is a part of that group at running back that we are going to have to take a look at."
Though Duckett did very little in the first two exhibition games – and had two fumbles, as well – he may have rendered a debate about his status meaningless with his second consecutive strong outing, which included 71 yards rushing and two touchdowns, including a score off a draw play that saw the 252-pounder break a few tackles and issue a stiffarm to spring himself, giving the Seahawks a 7-0 lead.
Like Forsett, receiver Logan Payne both hurt himself and helped himself. On his first opportunity, Payne was thrown a ball that would have been a Seattle first down on Oakland's 11.
But as he was trying to escape a tackler, Payne took a step back and had the ball punched from his grasp. After a review, the officials ruled that Payne did not make the catch, forcing the Seahawks to kick a field goal for a 10-0 lead, which was never threatened by Oakland's ineffective offense.
Thereafter, Payne – who broke his ribs in the team's scrimmage early in training camp – caught three passes for 34 yards, including a 20-yard catch-and-run. His chances are enhanced, though, by the injury to Obomanu.
"It's tough to look at it like that," Payne said. "Ben is one of the leaders of the receivers. He has helped us all. I don't look at it like (his injury helps me), I look at it like we need to get those (injured players) back."
Payne's chances are better than Bryan Gilmore, who saw his Seattle career end when he dropped a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter that would have cemented the Seahawks' victory. Never mind that Duckett scored three plays later for a 23-9 lead; the damage was done for Gilmore, who has played for two other NFC West teams but will not make it a trio.
As expected, the field goal kicking competition between veteran Olindo Mare and rookie Brandon Coutu was very close. However, what separates them, and what may be the deciding factor, is the length on kickoffs.
The perfect microcosm: Mare booted the opening kickoff seven yards deep into the end zone, forcing a touchback that required the Raiders to take the ball on the 20.
After Duckett's first touchdown, Coutu got the next kickoff in the same direction. His kick was only two yards deep, and Johnnie Lee Higgins returned it 57 yards, Coutu forced to save a touchdown with a desperation tackle.
NOTES: There Raiders have become a watered-down version of the University of Washington South. Besides former UW quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo, the Raiders also have rookies Louis Rankin, Marcel Reece and Greyson Gunheim on their roster. Reece scored a 25-yard touchdown on a pass from Tuiasosopo with 1:51 left. …
Quarterback Charlie Frye, who suffered a knee bruise against San Diego on Monday night, dressed for the game but did not play. Dalton Bell finished the game for Seneca Wallace. …
Holmgren said he hopes that Branch can begin practicing this week. He has only been able to do conditioning drills since having surgery on his knee in February. …
Defensive end Jason Babin, fighting with Baraka Atkins to make the team, had the first special teams duties of his career Friday night, a good indication the team would like to keep him. "It's harder than you think," Babin said. "It's not just running down the field and making the tackle."