If only Tyler Lockett played on Seattle’s offensive line, eh?
For the second time in three exhibition games, the rookie third-round draft choice provided the Seahawks’ only touchdown while the starting offense was in the game.
On Saturday evening at toasty Qualcomm Stadium he fielded a punt at his own 33. He flashed to the left as if he was headed down that sideline. Then he cut hard right as if he was going down that side. Instead, he cut one more time straight upfield — and untouched past some stunned Chargers to the end zone.
Lockett’s jaw-dropping, 67-yard punt return — two weeks after his 103-yard kickoff return in his preseason debut — was the “wow” moment of the Seahawks’ 16-15 exhibition victory over San Diego that left more questions than it answered on Seattle’s offense.
“He’s been doing that his whole life,” coach Pete Carroll said of Lockett.
Yet Lockett’s latest zigzag return really was inexplicable. Even to the man who pulled it off.
“We had a middle return (on). A middle return can go anywhere,” Lockett said.
“I mean, I don’t know why I went left and I didn’t go right. I can’t tell you that. It’s just reacting,” he said.
Backup wide receiver B.J. Daniels seemed to ruin a chance at a winning field goal with a 10-yard offensive pass-interference penalty back to the San Diego 44 with 27 seconds left. No matter. Steven Hauschka boomed a 60-yard field goal into a warm breeze just over the crossbar with 16 seconds left. It would have been a team record had this game been a real one.
Hauschka had kicked a 65-yarder in practice back in Renton this month, but that was with a wind off Lake Washington wind at his back. This was the longest he’s nailed in any game, real or fake.
His teammates ran into the middle of the field after the kick to mob him briefly, as if this was real.
“I mean, we hadn’t won yet this preseason,” Hauschka said with a shrug. “So I think everyone was excited just to get a victory.”
In between Lockett’s and Hauschka’s heroics, the offense — specifically its new line — struggled.
So did Russell Wilson throwing the ball.
“We’ve got some issues we’ve got to figure out,” Carroll said.
Marshawn Lynch got his first snaps of the preseason, a run of 6 yards to begin the game, then a catch over the middle for 3. On third and 1 Lynch tried to run left, but fill-in left tackle Alvin Bailey was chasing Chargers and blocking no one. Lynch got stopped for no gain.
That fit the starting offense’s start-and-stop night, as Jon Ryan punted four times in Seattle’s six drives. Lynch spent the final five of those watching from the sidelines and playfully messing with teammate Jermaine Kearse and others while wearing a beanie askew on his head on a 92-degree day into night.
Yes, the offensive line remains a huge issue for the Seahawks (1-2) with just two weeks before the games get real Sept. 13 at St. Louis.
Left tackle Russell Okung stood watching on the sideline in street clothes for what the team said was a “precaution” for a shoulder issue. The belief was if this had been a regular-season game Seattle’s first-round draft choice from 2010 would have started.
Earlier this month Bailey was presumed new starter at left guard, until now-former right tackle Justin Britt moved there two weeks ago. Bailey jumped early for a false-start penalty, got away with being flagged for that a second time and allowed a sack on Seattle’s next-to-last drive of the opening half.
But on the other end of the remade line, Garry Gilliam was plowing Chargers from his new position of starting right tackle. On one run in the first quarter the former tight end at Penn State drove his man 10 yards past the line of scrimmage. Robert Turbin sprinted inside that for a 5-yard gain.
Yet Seattle’s starting offense did not have a sustained drive until Wilson went into playground-improvisation mode in a 2-minute drill in the final minute of the second quarter. Using scrambles and on-the-run passes Wilson moved the Seahawks from their 39 to the San Diego 21 in 41 seconds, using two timeouts. Hauschka kicked a 40-yard field goal with 3 seconds left to give the Seahawks a 10-6 lead at the break.
Six of the 12 drives by Seattle’s starting offense this preseason have resulted in zero first downs.
Seattle’s best drive while not in a 2-minute drill came when the starters stayed in for the first drive after halftime. They went 71 yards to a second field goal by Hauschka.
On that march, Wilson took off on some scrambles for gains, and Christine Michael made a sharp, perfectly timed bounce-out run for 29 yards around left end. It’s the kind of run coaches have been waiting for from the second-round pick in 2013, and it got Seattle a first down at the San Diego 2.
But then tight end Jimmy Graham, acquired in a March trade for everything but his blocking, plus the entire right side of the line missed blocks. Turbin lost 9 yards on that sweep.
Asked what the issues are with the line, Carroll said: “I don’t know that. We have to take a look.”
Britt cited the ongoing need to establish continuity.
“We’ve just got to continue to work to get comfortable together,” he said.
Gilliam said it comes down to nuances such as proper footwork.
“We were hurting ourselves,” he said. “Bad technique.”
The final tally for the starting offense Saturday: 32 plays, 136 yards and eight first downs on six drives. Seven of those eight first downs came in the 2-minute drill at the end of the half and against the Chargers’ reserves after halftime.
Seattle’s starters were 2 for 7 converting third downs, and rushed 16 times for 86 yards. That 5.4-yards-per-carry average, exactly what Seattle had while leading the NFL in rushing offense again last season, got a great boost by Michael’s 29-yard run. Through two preseason games Seattle was averaging 3.4 yards per carry.
Seattle’s halftime lead came despite San Diego out-gaining them 180-80. It was 180-40 until the final 2-minute drill of the half. San Diego’s Philip Rivers did what he did for much of the previous meeting here between these teams, the Chargers’ win in Week 2 last September. He kept hitting receivers running free in front of zone coverage with short, quick passes for first downs. Rivers was 13 for 19 passing for 140 yards in the first half.
San Diego had 10 first downs in the first 30 minutes on Seattle’s defense, which mixed in second-team linemen and linebackers on the final drive of the half.
THURSDAY: Raiders at Seahawks, 7 p.m., Ch. 13