For the first time in 211 days, the Seattle Seahawks will play an actual football game Sunday. Well, sort of actual, the way a dress rehearsal is a sort of actual theatrical performance.
The Seahawks opponents are the San, er, Los Angeles Chargers, who’ve relocated from San Diego. I am putting the over-under number of references to “San Diego Chargers” during the television broadcast at 60.
A sellout crowd is expected to watch the Chargers make their debut at the StubHub Center, built as a soccer-specific stadium with a seating capacity of 27,000. I suspect the very different vibe — an NFL game in an MLS venue — will become the prevailing story line from a national perspective.
Some other prognostications from Spoiler Alert headquarters:
▪ During Pete Carroll’s brief sideline interview before kickoff, the Hawks coach will note how the cozy atmosphere “is really cool.”
▪ Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson will participate in one offensive possession, and it should go more smoothly than his last offensive possession, on Jan. 14, when the Falcons sealed their 36-20 playoff victory by intercepting a garbage-time pass intended for tight end Luke Willson.
▪ Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers also will be limited to one series, but he’ll want to play because he always plays. Between the regular season and the playoffs, Rivers has made 186 consecutive starts, which ranks fourth on an all-time list led by Brett Favre.
▪ At a sports bar near you, somebody will see the name of former Seahawks offensive tackle Russell Okung listed among the Chargers starters and ask, “why didn’t we keep that guy?”
Why did the Hawks conclude their patchwork, forever-in-chaos offensive line wasn’t desperate for a veteran familiar with such sophisticated nuances as pass blocking and run blocking? Trying my darnedest to remember — a salary-cap issue, maybe? — but I’m better at reading the future than revisiting the past.
▪ Speaking of the offensive line, Luke Joeckel, a free-agent acquisition from Jacksonville, and rookie Ethan Pocic, a second-round selection out of LSU, will get substantial playing time against the Chargers.
The other day, Carroll talked of how Pocic was making the most of his audition as a potential replacement for Germain Ifedi at right tackle. Carroll even brought up the legend of Wally Pipp, the Yankees first baseman who supposedly begged out of the lineup with a severe headache, paving the way for Lou Gehrig to position himself at first base for 2,130 consecutive games.
It’s possible Carroll’s comments were intended as a way to motivate Ifedi, who likely never has heard of Wally Pipp or, for that matter, Lou Gehrig.
▪ Seahawks rookie cornerback Shaquill Griffin, a third-round draft pick looming as the star of the 2017 draft class, will break up three passes and intercept another. I am making this prediction based on training-camp hype, not on some dream I’ve had.
I don’t dream about the impact a rookie cornerback makes in a preseason game. My dreams are these typically bizarre scenarios where dogs talk, and cats fly, and Seahawks offensive tackles block defensive ends.
▪ During Carroll’s brief sideline interview at halftime, he’ll accentuate the positive by saying, “I’ve got to look at the video, but my first impression is a lot of really cool things are happening here.”
▪ As the “action” devolves into a scrum for survival beyond the first roster cuts, a TV camera will zoom in on new Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn. A former Broncos backup running back who carved a career by surviving roster cuts, Lynn has drawn praise for executing people skills not associated with his grumpy predecessor, Mike McCoy.
When Lynn was a Cowboys assistant, a hit-and-run driver left him fighting for his life. He was back at practice 10 days later.
▪ Any of a dozen Seahawks running backs and receivers, obtained as undrafted free agents, will turn over the ball on fumble. The poor, unfortunate soul guilty of this will be released.
▪ Any of a dozen Seahawks running backs and receivers, obtained as undrafted free agents, will use an acrobatic juke to score a touchdown. The diamond-in-the-rough project will be released, as well.
▪ A Seattle player will be escorted off the field with an injury, and it won’t be as devastating to the Hawks as James Paxton’s pec injury is to the Mariners.
▪ The Seahawks will win, 23-20, thanks to the last-minute field goal off the foot of Blair Walsh. But I’m not discounting the possibility of the Chargers winning by four touchdowns. If you’re betting more than a $2 on this, my advice is to call a gambling help line.
▪ Whatever the score, Carroll will wear a smile afterward.
“I saw some really cool things out there,” he’ll say. “I mean, really, really cool things.”
The coolest thing will be making a dent in the exhibition-season schedule. One down, three to go, there’s some light at the end of the tunnel.