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Wilson finishes what defense started
What the defense started so emphatically, Russell Wilson finished just as dramatically.
That was the start-to-finish story of the Seahawks’ 27-17 victory over the Tennessee Titans in their preseason opener at CenturyLink Field on Saturday night.
From Brandon Browner’s 23-yard interception return of a Matt Hasselbeck pass for a touchdown on the first play of the game to Wilson’s 32-yard scoring run on the team’s final offensive play of the game, there was a lot to like about what the Seahawks were able to accomplish.
“It was a great experience,” said Wilson, the rookie quarterback who also hooked up with veteran receiver Braylon Edwards on a 39-yard touchdown in the third quarter led the team in rushing with 59 yards.
“First of all, we won the game. That’s the biggest thing. Our defense did a great, great job of getting the ball for us. The offense clicked when we needed to. And we finished the game, that was the most important thing.”
The Seahawks also got 41- and 40-yard field goals from Steven Hauschka and big defensive plays from cornerback Richard Sherman (interception), linebacker Heath Farwell (who forced and then recovered a fumble) and rookie defensive lineman Greg Scruggs (half a sack and another tackle for a loss) in winning their preseason opener for the third time in three seasons under coach Pete Carroll.
“This was a really good night of work for a lot of reasons,” Carroll said.
The primary focus leading up the game was the quarterbacks, and they did not disappoint. Matt Flynn, who was signed in free agency, got the start and completed 11 of 13 passes for 71 yards in the first half. Wilson took over in the second half, completing 12 of 16 passes for 124 yards. Each also threw an interception.
“I thought that the quarterbacks did a really nice job; nothing but good stuff came out of this game for them,” Carroll said. “They were poised. They handled the offense well. They did the things like we had seen in practice.”
On Browner’s play that got things rolling in the right direction, Hasselbeck’s pass went off receiver Nate Washington and then Pro Bowl free safety Earl Thomas. Browner scooped the carom and ran it into the end zone, even though he thought the pass had hit the ground and would be reversed after being reviewed.
“It was a gimme,” said Browner, who had two interception returns for TDs last season. “I actually thought it was an incomplete pass. It bounced right in my hands and I just ran it in.”
Offered Hasselbeck, the ex-Seahawks QB who was playing his first game in Seattle after signing with the Titans in free agency last summer: “It was kind of a freak thing. It reminded me of my first pass the last time I was in this stadium, which was intercepted against the Saints (in a 2010 wild-card playoff game). I remember Pete coming up to me after that pass and saying not to worry about it because we had the rest of the game to play.
“It was a disappointing it started that way, not at all how I envisioned it.”
But it also seemed fitting that the defense would get the first score for the Seahawks after the way they played last season, when it ranked among the Top 10 in the league in average points and yards allowed and had three members of the secondary play in the Pro Bowl.
“It felt great, especially for us in the secondary,” Thomas said. “We’ve been working real hard. There’s been a lot of talk about how good we are and us getting overconfident. But we did great tonight and I’m very proud of all the work we’ve been putting in. It’s paying off for us early.”
While the start belonged to the defense, the finish was all about Wilson. The rookie from the University of Wisconsin continued to show the playmaking ability that prompted the Seahawks to select him in the third round of the draft, and the instincts that he has been displaying during training camp practices.
“I thought I did a really good job, especially for the first time being out there,” Wilson said. “I was really really calm. Just trusted what I saw. … I thought I had a really positive day.”
His two biggest plays were the TD pass to Edwards and his scoring run that iced the win on a warm night before a revved up crowd of 65,589.
“One-on-one, you’ve got to give the guy a chance,” Wilson said of the TD pass. “He came down with it; made a great play.”
Offered Edwards, “I knew he was going to come to me. It was just a matter of working my technique. Like he’s been doing at practice, Russ threw the ball up and gave me a chance. I just tried to go up and make a play.”
That he did, by tracking the pass, adjusting his route and then going up and over Titans cornerback Tommie Campbell to make the catch.
Another receiver also played a big part in Wilson’s late scoring run – Charly Martin.
“Charly Martin made an unbelievable block,” Wilson said. “He did a tremendous job of staying on his guy so I could get in the end zone.”
From start to finish, there was a lot to like about the Seahawks’ first outing of the 2012 preseason.