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Seahawks return home, with Jermaine Kearse and Brandon Browner leading the way
As Brandon Browner was looking for Denver Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey in the wake of the Seahawks’ impressive start-to-finish effort in their preseason home opener, future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning found him.
And why not? On an evening when the Seahawks’ franchise-record seventh consecutive preseason victory was dictated and decided by big plays, Browner had one of the biggest in the 40-10 victory before an appreciative crowd of 67,635 at CenturyLink Field on Saturday night.
And this lopsided victory meant even more to Browner because it came against Manning, and the Broncos – the team he was with in 2005, even if it was on injured reserve; before spending four seasons in the CFL.
“That’s Peyton Manning,” Browner said. “He’s a magnificent football player. I look at it like you can take something from it; take some positives from a good win like this.”
Browner’s biggest play was a 106-yard scoring return of a fumble that was forced by middle linebacker Heath Farwell. But Browner had other plays that were equally frustrating for Manning. He ripped what should have been a completion from the hands of Eric Decker on the second play of the game. He forced a fumble on another Manning pass to Julius Thomas that was recovered and returned 21 yards by strong safety Kam Chancellor to end the Broncos’ second possession. He broke up another pass to Demaryius Thomas.
That third play came on the Broncos’ only touchdown drive, a score that was quickly matched as Jermaine Kearse returned the ensuing kickoff 107 yards for a touchdown.
That’s Jermaine Kearse the second-year wide receiver who last returned kickoffs while at Lakes High School.
Kearse indeed used blocks from J.R. Sweezy and Byron Maxwell in getting to the sideline, before racing up that sideline and into the south end zone.
But what about the decision to run it out from 7 yards deep?
“The cutoff was 7 to 8 (yards),” he said. “I didn’t realize how deep I was and the ball was kind of hanging up there. So when I took my first step, I just said, ‘Whatever,’ and just went out.”
That’s the same Jermaine Kearse who also caught a 12-yard pass from Russell Wilson for the Seahawks’ first touchdown – to go with the TD catch he had in the preseason-opening 31-10 victory over the Chargers in San Diego last week.
“He was playing off,” Kearse said of Chris Harris, the cornerback he turned around with a nice mid-route move. “So I knew I had a pretty good chance of getting the ball. I just tried to sell the route as best as possible and make the play when the ball came my way.”
Just don’t ask Wilson about the deftness of Kearse’s route. He fumbled the snap and was, as he put it, “Too busy being like a shortstop, trying to pick up the ball.”
Browner’s big return also came with a post-game story.
In stark contrast to the opener in San Diego, when the No. 1 offense and defense played sparingly – the starters took off early in the home opener and never let up.
Wilson completed 8 of 12 passes for 127 yards and also threw a TD pass to tight end Sean McGrath during his first-half stint. Chancellor had 11 first-half tackles to spark the defense, after it allowed the Chargers a 13-play, 74-yard drive to a field goal on the first series of the opener.
“I think our biggest thing for the offense was having great tempo, getting back into the rhythm of everything,” Wilson said after fashioning a 141.3 passer rating. “When you play your first preseason game in San Diego, you don’t get too many plays. So it’s hard to get in the rhythm. It’s hard to figure out, ‘Are you doing things right?’ Or, ‘Are you not doing things right?’
“Today, we were really clicking.”
Tarvaris Jackson took over for Wilson in the third quarter and had a 38-yard touchdown pass to Stephen Williams to highlight his 4-of-7, 93-yard passing performance. Jackson also ran twice for 23 yards before Brady Quinn took over in closing seconds of the third quarter and also quarterbacked the fourth.
As for the defense, rather than clicking, they were swatting, getting their hands on five passes – including an end-zone interception by safety DeShawn Shead in the fourth quarter. And sacking, with O’Brien Schofield, Benson Mayowa, Ty Powell and Kyle Knox all contributing to drop the passer. And stuffing, as the Broncos averaged 2.7 yards on 28 rushing plays.
And then there where those two huge returns that underscored the special evening.
“This was a good night to come home,” coach Pete Carroll said. “Our guys really looked forward to it.”
And, definitely made the most of it.