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Coming up short
Charlie Whitehurst is locked in a quarterback competition … with himself.
After his second statistically impressive performance in as many preseason games on Saturday night, the Seahawks’ backup QB was asked the obvious question: Does Whitehurst feel he’s competing with Tarvaris Jackson for the starting job?
“I’m kind of competing against myself,” Whitehurst said in the locker room after the Seahawks’ 20-7 loss to the Minnesota Vikings at CenturyLink Field. “I’m trying to be as good as I can and help the team in any way they ask me.”
Diplomatic, but also direct and to the point.
“I motivate myself,” he said. “The external stuff, I don’t think it really factors in. I’m trying to be as good as I can and whatever happens happens.”
What happened Saturday night was this: After Jackson failed to generate any points during the first half, Whitehurst entered the game and directed a 16-play, 89-yard drive on the Seahawks’ first possession of the second half that ended with his 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Anthony McCoy.
Whitehurst was 10 of 11 for 79 yards on the drive, including a 6-yarder to rookie wide receiver Kris Durham on third-and-3; a 3-yarder to rookie fullback Dorson Boyce on third-and-2; an 11-yarder to rookie wide receiver Doug Baldwin on third-and-4; and the scoring pass, which came on third-and-3.
But coach Pete Carroll was quick to point out that it was two different games when Jackson and Whitehurst were on the field. Jackson faced relentless pressure from the Vikings’ pass rush in the first half, when he completed 11 of 21 passes for 75 yards. The game slowed down a bit and Whitehurst picked up the offensive pace against the Vikings’ backup in the second half, when he was 14 of 19 for 97 yards.
“It’s really two different halves, in the way that they were able to play and the guys that were in the game and that kind of stuff,” Carroll said. “It was much harder early on. Our matchups weren’t there.”
Asked if there was a chance for a QB competition, Carroll offered, “I’m not in that mindset at all. I love that Charlie played well, and we need to give Tarvaris a chance to play well, too.”
The next chance comes next Saturday night in Denver against the Broncos.
“You always want to put on a good show, whether it’s preseason or practice. You want to play well,” said Jackson, who played the past five seasons for the Vikings. “We haven’t got the ball in the end zone yet as the first team.
“We’re going to keep working. That’s all we can do is keep working.”
Other than Whitehurst’s outing – which followed his 14-of-20, 115-yard performance against the Chargers in the preseason opener – Carroll was at a loss when asked about bright spots.
“I was disappointed the way this went tonight,” Carroll said. “I didn’t feel like we got very much done.”
The Seahawks were penalized 10 times for 84 wrong-way yards, including a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct call on linebacker Aaron Curry for yanking the helmet off a Vikings’ player and then throwing it. The play prompted Carroll to take Curry out of the game and label the situation “A bad play. That was bad judgment right there.” The Seahawks also dropped too many passes, and missed too many blocks.
“The big lesson tonight for our team is how easy it is to make it easy for the other guys,” Carroll said. “And we gave them stuff tonight.”
It was a strange game.
The Vikings scored first, when a Jackson pass went off wide receiver Golden Tate and cornerback Marcus Sherles picked off the carom and returned it 64 yards for a touchdown.
“We need to not let that ball be a touchdown for them,” Carroll said.
It appeared the Seahawks would tie the score when they drove to the Vikings’ 2-yard line. But four runs by Justin Forsett resulted in a 1-yard gain on first down and then three no-gains. Rather than go with 215-pound Marshawn Lynch, the ball went to the 198-pound Forsett four times.
“In that situation there, in preseason, we’re going to hammer the ball at them,” Carroll said. “I thought let’s go for it, and bang away and see what happens. And we shouldn’t leave it down there.”
As for Lynch, the plan was to get him three to five carries. He got three early and called it a night. Carroll also wanted to take a long look at Forsett after he sat out the opener.
The Vikings added a pair of Ryan Longwell field goals in the second quarter, and running back Tristan Davis scored on a 35-yard run late in the fourth quarter – long after the Seahawks’ No. 1 defense had called it a night.
“These games are designed to put us in situations,” middle linebacker David Hawthorne said. “We pretty much got a lot of situations – we’ve been on the fringe, we’ve been on sudden change, we’ve been read zone, we’ve been goal line, we’ve been two minutes.
“And that’s what you take from it. You use it as a learning experience to come out here and put yourself through the game and get prepared for a different opponent. And, hopefully, it pays off.”
And that, when you get past the disappointment and strip away the frustration, is what the preseason is all about – especially one that has followed the lack of an offseason and a rushed training camp.
“We have to get back to work,” Carroll said. “We have to get better.”