SEATTLE It was striking. And unusual.
No, not just the four sacks of Russell Wilson in the first half of the Seahawks’ 18-11 loss to Minnesota Thursday in the second preseason game.
Coach Pete Carroll pointing blame at Wilson for at least “a couple" of them, for holding onto the ball too long. And Wilson himself took blame for, indeed, two of the sacks.
"It didn’t have anything to do with the offensive line," Carroll said of a half was so ugly for Seattle the best thing to say about it was it was only Aug. 18.
"I know everyone’s looking at the sack numbers and everyone’s saying, ‘Oh, what’s that mean?’ We got (receivers) covered up a couple times, we’ve got to get the ball out. Throw the ball away and get rid of it so we don’t take the big (losses).
"Russ could do a better job to help us there when we get stuck. … We need to get the ball out and stay quicker, like we want to."
That was the formula over the latter half of last season, when Wilson became the first 4,000-yard passer in Seahawks history despite his line allowing 31 sacks in the first seven games.
Thursday, he and the starting offense regressed.
"I think the line did a good job. The first two sacks, they were kind of coverage sacks. They did a good job,” Wilson said of the Vikings, whose starting defense played the first half. “It was the right call for them at the right time, for the defense. And I’m trying to make a play some times. That’s going to happen every once in a while.
“The other two I take the blame for. We’ll just get better, we’ll continue to watch film, we’ll continue to study. That’s the great part about it. That’s why it’s the preseason."
It took Trevone Boykin’s second rally in as many preseason games to tie the game, at 11 in the fourth quarter. The undrafted rookie quarterback strengthened his case for the No. 2 job behind Wilson by leading a 65-yard drive to a touchdown, then leaping recklessly across the goal line over a defender for the two-point conversion that made it 11-8. Then Steven Hauschka kicked a 49-yard field goal with just under 6 minutes left to tie the game.
But then, in the face of a free blitzer running at him, Boykin threw a pass into the flat directly into the arms of Minnesota’s Marcus Sherels. Sherels ran 53 yards the other way with the interception touchdown with 1:23 left, the winning score.
The Seahawks trailed 11-0 at halftime, and by that same score into the fourth quarter. The Vikings out-gained them 200 yards to 106 in the first half.
Seattle’s starting offense managed those 106 yards on 29 plays, an underwhelming average of 3.7 yards per snap. The Seahawks punted four times on five drives. The other drive ended when the Vikings stuffed rookie running back Alex Collins up the middle for no gain on fourth and 1 at the Minnesota 41 in the first quarter.
"Obviously, we never want Russell to get hit. We take pride in that," new center Justin Britt said.
Or, as left tackle Bradley Sowell said: "Thank goodness it happened in the preseason."
Of the four sacks, Wilson noticeably held onto the ball an extra-long time on two of them. New left tackle Sowell thought Wilson had already thrown the ball on a play deep in Seattle’s own end in the first quarter. The quarterback still had the ball, though, and Sowell’s man, Minnesota star end Everson Griffen ran in free to dump Wilson for a 10-yard loss.
Another other sack came when the Vikings blitzed a linebacker off Seattle’s right edge, inside Gilliam. Collins took a fake handoff then missed the blitz-pickup block as Wilson got dumped again.
Sowell is playing left tackle and Gilliam right tackle, where he started all last season, since last week’s knee sprain sustained by J’Marcus Webb. Webb, signed as a free agent from Oakland this spring to a two-year contract with $2.75 million guaranteed, had been the starting right tackle from May’s minicamps until Aug. 10.
Carroll echoed Gilliam in saying he’s optimistic about his offensive line, and that if Wilson gets the ball out more quickly the pass-protection issue will work itself out.
The most alarming play was Wilson’s and the starting offense’s last one. On third and long and trying to get a 2-minute drill going, Wilson ran around while right tackle Garry Gilliam let his Viking defender go. In fact, Gilliam didn’t hit anyone on the play. Blitzing safety Andrew Sendejo hit Wilson 18 yards behind the line, crumpling the invaluable legs of Seattle’s $87.6 million quarterback beneath his body weight and into the turf.
You could almost feel the home stadium gasp.
"Just got to be sharper," Gilliam said. "Obviously, we have stuff to work on. But I’m excited for the future of our offensive line and our offense."
The offensive line, with the potential of new starters in four of the five positions, has allowed four sacks on 30 drop backs so far this preseason.
Wilson finished 5 for 11 passing for 77 yards. Three of his passes were dropped, by Collins and tight ends Brandon Williams and Luke Willson.
Carroll said Wednesday he wanted to see his starting offensive and defensive line control the line of scrimmage better in this exhibition than last week’s.
Seattle did in the running game.
Christine Michael continued to make huge strides filling in as lead running back while Thomas Rawls works back from his broken ankle last December. Michael rushed for 55 yards on 10 carries and showed not only sharp cut backs but a better awareness than in his previous seasons on when to cut back.
"Just getting in my playbook, knowing my craft," Michael said of the better cut-backs.
Seattle’s former second-round pick, whom the team traded away to Dallas last September before bringing him back after Rawls got hurt, has 99 yards on 17 carries through two preseason games.
That’s 5.8 yards per rush, better than Rawls’ NFL-best 5.6 yards per carry last season.
Carroll said late Thursday Rawls will be “full go” in practice next week, and that the team will see what that means as far as Marshawn Lynch’s replacement as Seattle’s lead runner playing in a preseason game.
Through two exhibitions, the Seahawks’ starting offense has played six drives and produced 167 yards on 39 plays (4.3 yards/play) with 11 first downs, one interception, one turnover on downs – and zero points.
“We’ve got to clean up things,” Carroll said.
AND ON DEFENSE…
The starting defense mixed in reserves more than the offense did. It included Mike Morgan, back from a quick trip to Philadelphia to see a specialist for a groin issue, at strong-side linebacker. Rookie second-round pick Jarran Reed was the defensive tackle with Jordan Hill. Jeremy Lane starting at left cornerback, then moved to nickel inside again with DeShawn Shead outside when Seattle went to five defensive backs.
Those starters allowed Minnesota: eight points and 166 yards on 29 plays (5.7 yards per play). The Vikings were 3 for 7 on third downs. Seattle’s starters again did not force a turnover, and its pass rush did not pressure Minnesota’s Shaun Hill with four- and, occasionally, five-man rushes.
Hill started as Vikings’ starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater sat out. Minnesota officials said that was a "coach’s decision."
The Seahawks rotated eight linemen in on that defensive line in the first half, including rookie draft pick Quinton Jefferson, end Ryan Robinson, strong-side linebacker candidate Cassius Marsh and tackle Justin Hamilton. Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett started after missing last week’s exhibition because of illness.
Through two games, the Seahawks’ starting defense has allowed 215 yards on 37 plays (5.8 yards/play), 13 first downs on six drives – and 15 points.
The Vikings’ eight points on the "starting" defense came Thursday when Bennett plus three-time All-Pro cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas were on the Seahawks’ sideline.
Starting weak-side linebacker K.J. Wright walked off the field slowly in the second quarter with a trainer on one side of him and a team doctor on the other. He appeared to have gotten hit near the head or neck. When he got to the sidelines, another team doctor apparently declared Wright’s night over – judging by Wright stomping up and down and then being escorted into the Seahawks’ locker room.
Carroll didn’t know about Wright’s status after the game.
RYAN IN MID-SEASON FORM
Jon Ryan boomed his fourth 60-yard punt in two preseason games, after three last week at Kansas City.
“It is one of those things where my technique and my strength match up real well right now,:” Ryan told the TNT’s Todd Milles in the Seahawks’ locker room. “It has all come together nicely right now.”
Ryan did drop a good snap. The former contestant on television’s “American Ninja Warrior” also caught a punt -- by the Vikings that sailed well out of bounds in the third quarter. Ryan proudly held the ball above his head and displayed his catch to the home crowd, which, of course, erupted.
“I had to make up for (the dropped snap),” Ryan said.
McDANIEL DEBUTS WELL
Defensive tackle Tony McDaniel entered in the first quarter and stoutly took on double teams while plugging running lanes in his rougly dozen plays. It looked like 2013 again for him on the Seahawks’ front.
Not at all bad for a 31-year-old free agent who was kayaking and hiking in Leavenworth less than a week ago. His agent noticed on Snapchat that his client was in Washington, and asked the Seahawks to try out McDaniel with the added attraction the team wouldn’t have to pay for his flight.
McDaniel started at defensive tackle for Seattle on their Super Bowl teams in the ’13 and ’14 seasons.
Carroll said rookie second-round pick Jarran Reed aggravated an ankle injury. The coach didn't think the injury was too bad. ... Rookie free agent Nolan Frese’s high snap caused Steven Hauschka’s timing to falter on a 53-yard field-goal attempt in the third quarter. “We had one high, and one low,” a not-pleased Carroll said of the long-snapping. The Seahawks cut Drew Ferris this month and chose Frese, from the University of Houston, instead. … Rookie tight end Nick Vannett left the game in the third quarter after a catch and was limping on the sideline.