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Rapid Reaction: Seahawks 17, Raiders 15

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The Seahawks wrapped up their preseason with a 17-15 victory over the Oakland Raiders at CenturyLink Field, a game that saw Geno Smith and Ben Burr-Kirven shine, saw Russell Wilson take on a new role, and saw Branden Jackson endear himself to countless writers on deadline. 

Here are six rapid reactions to Thursday night’s win, which saw Seattle wrap up its 2019 exhibition slate with a 3-1 record:

1. Geno Smith helped himself in the backup quarterback competition.

The fact that Geno Smith has played ahead of Paxton Lynch when they have both been healthy in the preseason would seem to indicate that he has been in the lead in the backup quarterback competition, and if that’s the case, Smith only strengthened his case for winning that job with his play on Thursday. Smith started the game with Russell Wilson getting the night off (well not entirely, but more on that later), and put together his best performance of the preseason.

Smith started his night by hitting undrafted rookie Terry Wright for a 39-yard touchdown on Seattle’s opening possession, then later he connected with another undrafted rookie, Jazz Ferguson, for a 41-yard gain. That play set up an 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jacob Hollister on which Smith fired a pass to thread the needle between a pair of Raiders defenders, with Hollister hanging on despite taking a pretty good hit.

Smith, who left the game with a knee injury late in the second quarter, completed 4 of 7 passes for 107 yards and two touchdowns, giving him a 141.4 passer rating.

"I thought he looked really good," Carroll said. "I thought he did a nice job. A great couple balls down the field.  A great touchdown pass to Terry. It was a beautiful play. I think he was 5 for 7, or something like that in the first half, and looked pretty good, or 4 for 7. He looks in control of the offense. He gets it. He really understands it, so that’s a real positive."

2. The Seahawks are really deep at linebacker.

The starting linebacker trio of Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and Mychal Kendricks is one of the elements of the team Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is most excited about, but with the starters resting on Thursday, the rest of Seattle’s linebackers showed just how deep the team is at that position, and how tough the decisions are going to be when it comes time to cut the roster down to 53 players.

Austin Calitro got things going with a pair of tackles for loss on Oakland’s first possession, and rookie Cody Barton was solid, as he has been throughout camp and the preseason, but the star of the night was fellow rookie Ben Burr-Kirven, who made a strong final case for a spot on the roster. Burr-Kirven was seemingly everywhere, recording a team-high 12 tackles, a sack with the Raiders going for it on fourth-and-goal, another quarterback hit that drew a flag neither he nor Carroll agreed with, a pressure that forced a throwaway on third down, and a pass defensed.

"He had a huge game. He had a huge game," Carroll said of Burr-Kirven. "He was making plays everywhere. It’s really important for him. He’s trying to make the club. We’ll take a look at all that. He had a great opportunity to play all night long. He was up for it. It’s not like he’s unfamiliar with making a lot of tackles. He’s a good ballplayer, and I think that’s what showed tonight. It was his best outing for sure, and it was great to see it. He was really kind of bogged down a little bit early in his return. He could get back, but he wasn’t feeling really good, but tonight, he looked like he was back to full speed and flying and made a ton of big plays tonight."

3. Russell Wilson, offensive coordinator?

Despite not playing a snap on Thursday, Seattle’s starting quarterback had a busy evening. Prior to the game, Wilson and Ciara presented a check for more than $2.6 million to Strong Against Cancer, money raised by his annual golf tournament, Wilson’s Why Not You Foundation, and donations from Safeway and Albertsons customers.

Then during the game, Wilson took over play-calling duties from offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer for two series, including the one that ended with Smith’s touchdown pass to Hollister.

“I got two drives,” Wilson said in an interview during the Q13 FOX TV broadcast of the game. “I got the one where we hit Jazz on the deep ball, then we came right back after them and hit the touchdown on third down with Hollister going down the middle. Second drive we got backed up, we had a negative play and they got to us. Hey, I’ll take a touchdown anytime.”

Asked if play-calling was in his future, Wilson laughed and said, “Who knows?”

Carroll said Wilson calling plays was "to keep him engaged, challenge him, make him appreciate what it’s like. Just for an opportunity for him to grow. It was really fun on the sidelines when he was doing it. He took him downfield, and got a little win. What do you think he’s going to do? He calls a drive and they go down and score a touchdown. It’s like, 'yeah OK, what did you think was going to happen?' It was fun. He didn’t make a yard the next drive, too, so i told him that too."

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4. DeShawn Shead continues to show his versatility.

DeShawn Shead’s first two preseason games were highlighted by big plays, a sack for a safety and an 88-yard interception return for a touchdown. But while the big plays are obviously a plus, what might make Shead most valuable is what he demonstrated Thursday by starting the game at right cornerback, playing there for much of the game, then finishing it playing free safety. Shead, who played all over the secondary in his first six seasons with the Seahawks, spent most of his time at safety during training camp and the first two-plus preseason games, but he played corner late in last week’s game, then played there a lot on Thursday before eventually going back to safety late in the game. That kind of versatility, along with his play on special teams, could be what helps Shead win a job in a deep secondary.

"I wanted to give him a chance to show us the versatility," Carroll said. "He had been a longtime corner for us. He never had played a lot of safety. That was the spot that we wanted to see if we could really bring him along, and then kick him back out there so he had enough time to show us where he fit there. We just have to figure it out. I don’t know what to tell you, but DeShawn Shead is a great kid. He’s a great champion kid. If we’re fortunate enough to have him on our team, he’s going to help us."

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5. Logan Tago and might be sore on Friday.

Logan Tago, an undrafted rookie out of Washington State, took part in Seattle’s rookie minicamp in May, but didn’t sign with the Seahawks or any other team after that. Presumably Tago kept himself in shape waiting for the call that came this week, but he wasn’t in a training camp or playing in the preseason like everyone else on the field Thursday night. But after signing with Seattle on Wednesday, Tago didn't just see a ton of paying time despite having not practiced yet with his new team, he started the game at defensive end.

Tackle Will Holden also saw significant playing time a day after signing, no small feat at a position where continuity makes a big difference.

"Unbelievable," Carroll said. "They played a ton of plays, it was a great job by those two guys. What a great job by those two guys."

6. Branden Jackson, press-box hero.

When the Raiders found the end zone late in the fourth quarter to make it a 2-point game, overtime suddenly became a real possibility, which in the press box is no one’s idea of a good time at 10 p.m. in the fourth game of the preseason.

But when the Raiders lined up for a potential game-tying 2-point conversion, defensive end Brandon Jackson got into the backfield and sacked Nathan Peterman to secure a Seahawks victory.

Normally, there is no cheering in the press box. In that moment, however, there definitely was.

Game action photos from the Seattle Seahawks' final preseason game of 2019 against the Oakland Raiders at CenturyLink Field.

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