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It was really cool
Leave it to Pete Carroll to sum up the Seahawks’ Trojan-infused victory in their preseason opener, and his return as a NFL coach after a 10-year hiatus.
“It was really cool,” Carroll said Saturday night after the Seahawks had hung up for a 20-18 victory over the Tennessee Titans at Qwest Field.
And no one was cooler than backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, who had a pair of touchdown passes included his 14-of-22, 214-yard performance.
On the first, Whitehurst recognized that the Titans would be blitzing and checked to a pass to Mike Williams, the former USC wide receiver who last played in the league in 2007. The read-and-react play resulted in a 51-yard touchdown that gave the Seahawks a 10-3 lead midway through the second quarter.
On the second, tight end Anthony McCoy was part of a three-receiver stack to the left side. When the rookie from USC flashed open just across the goal line, Whitehurst went to him for a 4-yard touchdown that stretched the Seahawks’ lead to 20-7 late in the third quarter.
Before Whitehurst made those throws, the Titans had taken a 7-0 lead by scoring on the first drive of the game. After he made those throws, the Titans scored 11 fourth-quarter points to make things interesting.
The game wasn’t iced on this hot Saturday evening until rookie safety Kam Chancellor intercepted a pass with 25 seconds remaining.
“I loved it. It was a blast“,” said Carroll, who coached both Williams and McCoy at USC and last coached in the NFL in 1999 for the New England Patriots.
“I’m so proud to be here and to be out there to try and put this thing together for everybody.”
So is Whitehurst, who was obtained in an offseason trade with the San Diego Chargers to be the backup to Matt Hasselbeck. In four seasons with the Chargers, Whitehurst never threw a pass in a regular-season game.
It was difficult to tell by the way he handled himself while working against – and working over – the Titans’ No. 2 defense.
On the TD pass to Williams, what Whitehurst did before the snap was even more impressive than the short thrown that led to the long TD.
“That play is really more hats off to Charlie,” Williams said. “He recognized that they brought guys down and put more guys in the box than the offense was able to block.
“I was just the end result of it.”
Whitehurst also recognized that Williams would be in single coverage against a corner who is eight inches shorter.
“It looked like they were bringing some pressure and Mike was one-on-one,” Whitehurst said. “He’s a big target. I gave him that little short route there and he made a great play.”
After catching the ball near the Titans’ 45-yard line, Williams spun around Titans cornerback Ryan Mouton and – using a key block by tight end Cameron Morrah on the safety – used the long legs attached to his 6-foot-5 body to get up the field and into the end zone.
Once Williams made his move, Whitehurst was thinking six points all the way.
“I thought he was going to go. I did,” he said. “I may have thrown my arms up a little too soon, so I’m glad he got there.”
Williams tossed the credit back to Whitehurst after the game.
“That one-on-one matchup, it doesn’t happen if Charlie can’t recognize the blitz,” Williams said. “He switched the play up and gave me a different route to fit what they were trying to get done.”
But Whitehurst wasn’t done just yet.
His TD pass to McCoy capped an eight-play, 66-yard drive, which was given new life when Whitehurst lofted a pass to second-year wide receiver Deon Butler for a 36-yard gain on a fourth-and-2 play.
“We ran it all week during practice and it opened up during the game just like the coaches drew it up,” McCoy said of his TD catch – as the ball was sitting in his cubicle behind him.
McCoy was the inside man in the three-receiver set, with Morrah next to him and a wide receiver next to Morrah. When the other two cleared out the area, it left McCoy wide open.
“For a goal-line pass, that one came real open,” Whitehurst said. “Good play design on that one.”
The Seahawks’ other points came on a couple of long field goals by Olindo Mare, who missed some practice time last week because of a sore calf. But he hit from 44 and 48 yards.
The No. 1 defense yielded that 10-play, 79-yard touchdown drive to open the game, but the Seahawks then shut out the Titans until the fourth quarter. Rush-ends Chris Clemons and Dexter Davis had sacks, as well as six of the Seahawks’ nine QB hurries. Cornerback Josh Wilson and Chancellor intercepted passes and linebacker Matt McCoy recovered the fumble.
Not a bad way to open their first preseason under Carroll. Even better was the perspective the players displayed after the game.
“It was a good start,” said defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson, who was obtained in a draft day trade with the Titans. “But this is a preseason game, so it means something, but it doesn’t. It’s something we’ve still got to build on.”