Russell Wilson was still scrambling and creating.
Shaquem Griffin was still wowing.
Wilson escaped pressure three times and turned those plays into gains on his first drive of the Seahawks’ preseason. The third time came after top rookie running back failed in what this summer is a huge challenge for him to gain starting time: pass protection. Wilson eluded Penny’s missed block and threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Nick Vannett, and the Seahawks’ starters took a 7-3 lead over Indianapolis’ in the first quarter of Seattle’s eventual 19-17 loss in its exhibition opener Thursday night at CenturyLink Field.
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Coach Pete Carroll called it “a perfect start for the offense.”
For what it’s worth (nothing), the Seahawks’ six-game winning streak spanning the two previous preseasons ended.
Griffin continued his wondrous summer at weakside linebacker behind Pro Bowl veteran K.J. Wright. The first one-handed player drafted into the modern NFL and twin brother of Seahawks starting cornerback Shaquill, Griffin had four tackles in four snaps on his first drive in his first NFL game, when the Colts still had their starters in the game. Three of the younger (by one minute) Griffin’s stops were on runs, one on a short pass by Colts quarterback Andrew Luck in front of him over the middle.
“My whole thing is, coach said ‘Run to the ball,’ and that’s what I was doing,” said Griffin, whose 4.38-second time in the 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine in March was the fastest for a linebacker at that event since 2003. “I don’t know how many tackles I was having. I just kept running.”
By the end of the third quarter Griffin had a game-high eight tackles, five of them solo. He finished with a game-high nine, more than twice more than any Colts defender. Not only did Griffin have a tackle for a loss, dumping former Seahawks running back Christine Michael 1 yard behind the line in the third quarter, he also made two other stops for a gain of just a yard. That’s even though he was lining up about 3-5 yards off the ball outside the tackles.
So, yeah, he can run. He can play.
“The reality is he’s got no hand. And to think of how great a football player he is,” Wilson said. “He’s playing in the National Football League, making tackles—and not just making tackles but making plays.
“He got me,” the $88-million franchise QB said, referring to Griffin’s interception of Wilson at the goal line early in training camp.
Wilson was 4 for 5 passing for 43 yards with another 14 yards on two scramble runs, including one for a first down. He targeted Vannett three times on that opening drive.
Vannett, the third-year tight end, got prime time with Ed Dickson having yet to practice in training camp because of a hip-flexor injury, Jimmy Graham gone in free agency to Green Bay and Luke Willson having signed with Detroit also this offseason.
Two field goals by the Colts’ Adam Vinatieri in the second quarter put Seattle down 9-7. But Jason Myers, the former Jacksonville Jaguars kicker battling 40-year-old former Oakland Raider Sebastian Janikowski for the Seahawks’ job, made a 43-yard field goal. That put the Seahawks back up 10-9 midway through the third quarter.
Indianapolis re-took the lead with its fourth field goal to make it 12-10 at the end of the third period. A 10-yard touchdown pass to former University of Washington tight end Darrell Daniels in the fourth quarter ended the scoring.
The defense had seven starters in new spots from last season.
“It’s a new era for us,” Carroll said.
Rookie fifth-round draft choice Tre Flowers started at right cornerback three days after veteran Byron Maxwell went out with a hip-flexor injury. Rookie third-round pick Rasheem Green started at right defensive end with Frank Clark coming back from wrist surgery and Dion Jordan out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his leg.
Branden Jackson was the other starting defensive end, after leaving the field with teammates Duane Brown and Quinton Jefferson rather than stand for the national anthem before the game.
Green sacked Andrew Luck, playing for Indianapolis for the first time in 18 months, on Seattle’s second defensive drive. Green and Flowers were the only starters still on the field with the second-team defense. Luck drove the Colts 49 yards to another field goal by Adam Vinatieri on that drive. That cut Seattle’s lead to 7-6 well into the second quarter.
Seattle’s starters allowed a 12-play drive of 60 yards by the Colts to a field goal to begin the game. Luck repeatedly used short throws and swing passes underneath the Seahawks’ pass coverage to move the ball.
Flowers had a pass-interference penalty on his second drive, going through the back of and holding the arm of T.Y. Hilton well before Luck’s pass arrived. Late in the half, he was in strong coverage position staying on top of an end-zone fade route to force an incomplete pass. Carroll demands his Seahawks cornerbacks stay over the top of such routes. That’s how Shaquill Griffin won his starting-cornerback job as a rookie last preseason.
Flowers played every defensive snap in the first half, 31. It was the third day with the starters for the converted former safety at Oklahoma State, since veteran Byron Maxwell has had a hip-flexor injury.
“I needed it,” Flowers said of the extended work against new foes. “I told them that it was way harder in practice than it was in the game. So I’m going to keep working hard in practice, and it’s just going to keep getting easier.”
At running back, Chris Carson showed what he has all training camp: He’s back, so back, from his broken leg and ankle-ligament damage that ended the starter’s impressive rookie season last Oct. 1. Carson didn’t run as much as he galloped fluidly through the Colts, showing the decisiveness, power and speed that were why he’s the No.-1 back over Penny, Seattle’s first-round pick this spring.
Carson had four carries for 26 yards in his brief night. His 12-yard run behind new right guard D.J. Fluker’s drive block showed why Carroll loves him.
Penny’s first carry came without any blocking and lost a yard on that first drive. His second run came on the play after Carson’s 12-yard burst, for 6 yards to the Colts 5. The major-college leader last season at San Diego State with more than 2,200 yards and 23 rushing touchdowns—22 more than Seattle’s backs had in 2017—made three Colts miss tackles on that run around right end.
Two of those jukes on that run were in the backfield, an example of the 220-pound Penny’s speed and elusiveness.
Wilson threw his touchdown pass on the next play.
Penny had four carries for 6 yards in the opening half.
Carson had nine snaps in that first half, seven with the starters on the opening drive to the touchdown. Penny had eight snaps in the half, then was in for all five of the plays that started the second half with third-string rookie quarterback Alex McGough.
That drive ended with a punt by rookie Michael Dickson of 34 yards. The Colts fair caught that at their 14-yard line.
Jon Ryan, the 13th-year veteran fighting with the rookie the Seahawks drafted for his job, punted 49 yards in the first half.
Dickson held for Myers’ field goal in the third quarter. Holding has been Ryan’s job in Seattle for years.
Later, in the fourth quarter, this happened, showing why the Seahawks not only drafted Dickson out of Texas in the fifth round but traded up to do it:
Dickson then nailed a 55-yard punt. It wasn’t just how long they were. Or the fact they were roof high, for serious hang time. His punts were directional, to the sideline to pin Colts returners at the boundary with nowhere to escape. That’s why the Seahawks traded up to get him.
Then, Dickson, an Australian Rules Football player from age to eight to 18, dropped kick a lofted, onsides kick over the first line of Colts. It was unsuccessful and negated by a penalty.
That was after the Seahawks trimmed the Colts’ lead to 19-17 on a zany bad snap then went backwards 30 yards and was recovered by Seattle reserve defensive lineman Joey Ivie in the end zone.
The biggest negatives for the Seahawks were two injuries on the offensive line. Rookie fifth-round pick Jamarco Jones, who replaced Germain Ifedi briefly this week in camp as the starting right tackle, left the field early in the fourth quarter seated on the back of a motorized cart. He fell and rolled on the turf in pain grabbing his left ankle at the end of a pass play.
But Carroll said X-rays on Jones’ ankle were negative.
Earlier in the second half reserve Isaiah Battle left with a knee injury. Battle replaced Ifedi on the starting offense to end last weekend’s mock game, because Carroll was angry at more penalties by Ifedi.
Carroll said Battle has a sprained knee.
Ifedi didn’t have any flags in his brief work Thursday. The only foul on the starting offensive line was by Fluker, a false start.
“I think the offensive line was the most exciting thing tonight,” Wilson said, lauding his blockers for opening running lanes and providing him extra time to scramble for yards and the touchdown throw on that first drive.
“The scramble plays, those are going to be natural plays that happen.”