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SEATTLE -- The Seattle Seahawks beat the Dallas Cowboys 27-17 Thursday night at CenturyLink Field, a game that was likely the last chance at significant playing time for Seattle’s starters, making this an important test against an opponent that figures to be in the NFC playoff picture this season.
Here are five quick takeaways from Seattle’s win:
1. The starting offense took a step forward.
Through two preseason games, Seattle’s No. 1 offense failed to produce points, and while A. it’s the preseason, and B. the starters didn’t play a ton in those two games, the coaching staff and players alike were hoping to see improvement, and yes, touchdowns, out of the starting offense in their final lengthy tune-up of the preseason.
And while playing into the third quarter, Russell Wilson and the No. 1 offense delivered, producing two touchdowns and two more field goals on six possessions. Wilson was particularly dialed in, completing 16 of 21 attempts for 192 yards and two touchdowns, good for a passer rating of 135.4.
The running game wasn’t as productive in the first half as it had been the previous two weeks, but looked very good on the two series the starters played in the third quarter, allowing Christine Michael to finish with 58 yards on seven carries after rushing for just 11 yards on four first-half carries.
Wilson’s second touchdown pass, a 16-yarder to Tyler Lockett, was an example of why there will always be an element of improvisation in Seattle’s offense as long as Wilson's playing, even if there is more focus on getting the ball out in a timely manner. A week after Seahawks coach Pete Carroll noted that two of Seattle’s four sacks were not on the pass protection, but rather on Wilson for holding the ball too long, Wilson made magic happen after holding the ball for a very long time, twice spinning away from Dallas pass-rushers before finding Tyler Lockett open in the corner of the end zone. As the Seahawks showed in the second half of last season, the quick passing game is a very valuable weapon for their offense, but so too is Wilson’s ability to occasionally channel his inner Houdini.
2. The Seahawks did some tinkering with the offensive line.
The Seahawks opened the game with the same offensive line that started the previous two games: Bradley Sowell at left tackle, Mark Glowinski at left guard, Justin Britt at center, Germain Ifedi at right guard and Garry Gilliam at right tackle. But as both Carroll and offensive line coach/assistant head coach Tom Cable suggested could happen during the week leading up to the game, the Seahawks did a bit of shuffling at tackle with the No. 1 offense.
After two series, J’Marcus Webb, who had been with the first-team early in camp before a knee injury, played right tackle with the No. 1 offense, replacing Gilliam. Then after that group played two series, Webb switched to left tackle with Gilliam playing right tackle and Sowell coming out of the game. Jahri Evans also saw a couple of plays at right guard with the starters, but that might have just been to give Ifedi a quick breather.
3. Christine Michael continues to shine.
After running back Christine Michael came through with big performances in his first two preseason games, Carroll said the biggest thing for Michael to do is just keep up the good work.
“What I’m anxious to see Christine do is just maintain over a long period of time,” Carroll said Wednesday. “He’s really found a great consistency and I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t. In any role that we want to play him in, he’s ready to go, but you’ve still got to do it and he hasn’t had the chance to do that in the NFL yet, so we’ll see how he goes week after week after week. It’s an endurance race for these guys, and you’ve got to hang and he hasn’t had the opportunity to prove that yet, so that’s still out there, but I don’t see any reason why he won’t.”
And after a slow start for Michael and the running game, Michael got going in the second half and finished with a team-high 58 yards on seven carries. In three preseason games, Michael now has 157 rushing yards on 24 carries, good for an average of 6.5 yards per carry.
4. The pass rush was improved.
One of the goals brought up by both players and coaches for this game was to see the pass rush be more disruptive after producing only one sack and eight quarterback hits in the first two games. And with the starters playing more, that improved pass rush was on display, with Seattle finishing with 4 sacks, including 1.5 from Cliff Avril, and eight quarterback hits.
5. Kelcie McCray was impressive again.
Throughout training camp and the preseason, teammates and coaches have been raving about the play of safety Kelcie McCray, who came to Seattle in a trade last year and became a special teams standout and reliable backup to Kam Chancellor.
With a year under his belt in Seattle’s defense, McCray looks even better this season, and he turned in another strong performance after playing well last week when he started for an injured Chancellor. Seeing extended playing time again—Chancellor started, but played only two series—McCray finished the game with a team-high seven tackles, including a couple of nice open-field takedowns, and broke up a deep pass attempt.