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Open, and shut: Seahawks grab a victory
SAN DIEGO – It was an all-but-overlooked play in the first quarter of a preseason opener.
But Matt Hasselbeck whirling away from Shaun Phillips to throw an incomplete pass at Qualcomm Stadium on Saturday night was significant, because it was in last year’s preseason opener against the Minnesota Vikings that the Seahawks’ three-time Pro Bowl quarterback took a hit that trigged the back problems which eventually forced him to miss nine games.
The nimbleness Hasselbeck displayed with the San Diego Chargers’ linebacker in hot pursuit was a good indication that his back issues are behind him as the Seahawks moved into the Jim Mora era with a 20-14 victory.
“It was good to see Matt moving like that,” left tackle Sean Locklear said. “We’ve got backups, but Matt is our starter and we don’t want to see him taking hits – especially after what happened last year.”
Many played more, and some made more plays. But no player looms larger in the team’s success this season than Hasselbeck.
Hasselbeck was 3 of 5 in his brief stint, with the completions going to tight end John Carlson (10 yards) and – for first-down yardage – wide receivers Nate Burleson (12 yards) and T.J. Houshmandzadeh (5 yards).
The Seahawks got just about everything they were looking for:
* A victory, which was more exciting than it needed to be as the Chargers’ last-ditch drive ended at the Seattle 34-yard line with a trio of incomplete passes from No. 3 quarterback Charlie Whitehurst.
* No serious injuries.
* And ample opportunity to evaluate their players, which was Priority One for offensive coordinator Greg Knapp and defensive coordinator Gus Bradley.
“We did get to evaluate a lot of our young guys in good situations,” Mora said. “I thought we did a nice job defensively in the takeaway battle (plus-2), especially in the second half.
“A lot of situations came up in that game that are learning opportunities.”
No one helped himself more than Nick Reed, a seventh-round draft choice. The rookie defensive end from Oregon had a sack and an interception in his NFL debut.
“It was good to see him show up,” Mora said. “I had a feeling that he would show up and make some plays.”
But there were others.
Rookie quarterback Mike Teel played extensively in the second half, and the sixth-round draft choice completed 7 of 15 passes for 75 yards, including an 18-yard touchdown to No. 18 – Mike Hass, the former Oregon State wide receiver who also had two special teams tackles.
Rookie offensive lineman Max Unger, a second-round draft choice from Oregon, played the entire game – the first half at right guard, the second half at center. Running back Devin Moore, a rookie free agent from Wyoming, ran for a game-high 32 yards. Defensive linemen Baraka Atkins and Michael Bennett each had a sack.
But it was Teel’s TD pass late in the third quarter that put the Seahawks ahead to stay.
“I was really happy for Mike, really happy,” Mora said. “He just showed a maturity about him that we’ve been looking for.”
After seeing limited reps in training-camp practices, Teel was really happy to be able to get into the flow of the game.
“It was nice to get out there and play,” he said. “In practice, you don’t get many reps because Matt and Seneca (Wallace) are getting theirs. To go out and get some serious time under your belt and just play a little bit, it’s fun.”
The Seahawks’ other points came on Wallace’s touchdown pass to fullback Justin Griffith and a pair of 38-yard field goals from Brandon Coutu, who handled all the kicking chores.
The Seahawks’ most consistent player on a picture-postcard night at Qualcomm was Jon Ryan, who averaged 52.4 yards on eight punts – including a booming 77-yarder in the fourth quarter.
“When you have a punter who can change field position like he did tonight, that is really a weapon,” Mora said. “Not only the distance, but I thought he did a really nice job of placing the football outside the numbers.”
The evaluation process continues at Qwest Field on Saturday night, when the Seahawks host the Denver Broncos in a turn-back-the-clock preseason that will see them playing each of their former rivals from the old AFC West.