This really didn't make things easier for coach Mike Holmgren and the rest of the Seattle Seahawks staff.
The Seahawks ended the 2008 preseason with a 3-1 record on the strength of a 23-16 victory Friday night over the Oakland Raiders, and plenty of players on the bubble gave them everything possible. Nonetheless, the Seahawks must slice the roster from 75 to 53 by 3 p.m. Pacific Time Saturday.
The situation changed Friday night too, with the news that wide receiver Ben Obomanu had broken his collarbone and will be out indefinitely - with both Deion Branch and Doug Baldwin injured but guaranteed roster spots.
"Tomorrow we have some difficult decisions to make - I think it's fair to say - particularly at wide receiver because of Ben Obomanu," Holmgren said. "We'll meet tomorrow morning at the facility, we've got some preliminary meetings tonight, and then we'll bang it around a little bit more tomorrow."
Obomanu was slotted to be one of the top four receivers despite having not caught a pass until the two he caught Friday night - the second one good for 30 yards and the fractured clavicle.
"It's a tough one," Holmgren added. "He got off to such a great start (tonight), I feel bad for him. He hadn't touched the ball much in the preseason but he was very much in our plans and knew all the positions. He's a very steady guy and he got off to a great start tonight. It was too bad. But unfortunately, it happens."
With virtually all the starters sitting out on defense and just a smattering of starters on offense, this was all about the battle of the bubble players.
The guys who stood out were running backs T.J. Duckett and Justin Forsett, while quarterback Seneca Wallace was superb, completing 21-of-30 for 255 yards with a 95.8 quarterback rating. Michael Bumpus and Logan Payne each caught three passes to lead the team in receiving. Duckett carried the ball 11 times for 71 yards and 2 touchdowns, and Forsett had 45 yards on 14 carries, while each added a couple of pass receptions as well.
On defense, Jason Babin, battling for a roster spot at defensive end and special teams, tied for the team-high with 5 tackles, including a sack, a tackle for loss and a pair of quarterback hurries.
The Seahawks open the regular season on Sept. 7 at Buffalo.
The fourth quarter appeared to start off auspiciously for the Seahawks, who with the benefit of three interference penalties had a first down on the Raiders 1-yard line in the opening seconds of the final quarter. But on a play action pass under pressure, Seneca Wallace stepped into the pocket and fumbled on the Raiders 3, recovered by defensive tackle Josh Shaw.
But that only instigated both the Seahawks defense and the crowd of 67, 163. Jason Babin nailed Louis Rankin for no gain, and a pair of false starts put them on the 1 before David Hawthorne crushed Rankin on the 3. Glenn Pakulak's punt carried only to the Oakland 43, putting Wallace and the offense back in business with 12:54 left in the game.
This time they would find the endzone, driving 43 yards on seven plays, topped off by T.J. Duckett's second touchdown, this a 1-yard plunge behind rookie Owen Schmitt's block. Along the way, Wallace had a brilliant bootleg fake that became a 16-yard pass to Michael Bumpus. Next came a 14 yard pass to Brian Gilmore, and a clutch 6-yard pass and run to Justin Forsett on third down made it first and goal at the 2. Duckett eventually got it in to raise the margin to 23-9.
That finished Wallace's night, and he ended up 21-of-30 for 255 yards with a 95.8 quarterback rating, and a decent lead for Dalton Bell to make his NFL debut. In between, the defense overcame a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty and 19-yard interference penalty that put the ball inside the 10. But with big plays from defensive tackle Kevin Brown, along with the continual big plays from middle linebacker David Hawthorne and defensive ends Jason Babin and Baraka Atkins, the Raiders ended up with nothing.
The Raiders finally got into the end zone with 1:51 left, when former Washington Husky quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo capped off a 63-yard drive with a 25-yard completion and run to fullback Marcel Reece that cut the Seahawks advantage to 23-16. Their onsides kick was recovered by Kevin Hobbs, and the Seahawks ran out the clock.
The highlight of the early third quarter was the decision by Raiders coach Lance Kiffin for Sebastian Janikowski to attempt a 66-yard field goal four minutes into the half. It was at least six yards short and caught in the end zone by Justin Forsett, who downed it. Had he run it out, the Seahawks would get the ball where he was tackled. Instead, they got the ball on the Raiders 44 where the kick was attempted.
And on the first play from scrimmage, T.J. Duckett rumbled 20 yards to the 24. After a false start, Seneca Wallace hit Logan Payne in the right flat and he danced down the sidelines for 20 yards to the Raiders 10. The drive stalled at the 3, however, and the 41-yard drive resulted in a 21-yard Brandon Coutu field goal that raised the advantage to 16-6 for the Seahawks with 7:52 left in the quarter.
Once again, Walter drove the Raiders down and would have been inside the 10-yard line on his own bootleg, but it was called back on a holding penalty to truncate what was a legit opportunity for a touchdown. Instead, they settled for a Janikowski 37-yard field goal to make it 16-9 with more than four minutes left in the period. And that was the end of the scoring for the quarter.
The halftime glance
The Seahawks had 11 first downs to the Raiders nine, while out-gaining the Oakland 221-195 - despite the Raiders retaining a 16-minute to 14-minute time of possession advantage. Rookie Darren McFadden showed his strength and explosiveness with 50 yards on four carries for the Raiders, and T.J. Duckett had 42 yards on five carries. Seneca Wallace was 10-of-14 for 146 yards passing and a 105.1 quarterback rating, with the Raiders Andrew Walter 13-of-18 for 119 yards and an 89.8 rating.
Don't forget, few starters are playing and this game is all about the bubble guys with their last burst to make the respective teams.
Seneca Wallace picked up right where he left off in the first quarter moving the ball up the field, this time he had Justin Forsett and Michael Bumpus with major assists. They drove 63 yards, and actually had moved to the 1-yard line on a Forsett dive with a swing pass. But it was called back for holding and they had to settle for a 28-yard Brandon Coutu field goal to make it 13-0. Forsett had runs of 7 and 15 yards, along with an 11-yard reception. Meanwhile, Bumpus made the big reception of the drive, a 30-yard catch and run to the Oakland 20. Nonetheless, with just less than 10 minutes left in the first half.
Meanwhile, the Seahawks defense had to fight mightily to contain the Raiders exciting young running back duo of Darren McFadden and Michael Bush. But on short yardage, the linebacker trio of D.D. Lewis, David Hawthorne and Lance Laury was ultimately too much for the Raiders offensive line. So even after a 64-yard drive - highlighted by the exciting McFadden's second 20 yard-plus burst - the Raiders settled for a 40-yard Sebastian Janikowski field goal. That cut the Seahawks margin to 13-3 with 4:36 left.
The Seahawks drove into Raiders territory one more time, but came up short on a tough play including tight end Will Heller. But the highlight of the drive was a stunning hurdle of linebacker Jon Alston by Seahawks rookie fullback Owen Schmitt for a 3-yard gain on a swing pass.
Walter put together another drive for the Raiders in the final minute-plus of the first half - this one 62 yards. And that set up Sebastian Janikowski for a 50-yard field goal with five seconds left to end the half with the Seahawks holding a 13-6 advantage.
Getting off on the right foot, Olindo Mare began the game by kicking the ball through the end zone and the crowd rattled the Raiders into a false start on the first play from scrimmage. The defense held, but Seahawks rookie Justin Forsett fumbled the ensuing punt and Michael Bush recovered for the Raiders on the Seahawks 34.
But the defense responded big time. After Raiders quarterback Andrew Walter overthrew a wide open Todd Watkins on the first play after the fumble, the Seahawks forced a third down and rookie defensive end Lawrence Jackson sacked Walter for an 8-yard loss and a fumble, recovered by Craig Terrill at the same 34-yard line with 12:28 left in the first quarter.
That was just the break the team needed with Seneca Wallace running the offense, and T.J. Duckett the featured back. After Duckett took a pitch and rambled 11 yards around right end on the first play, Wallace completed passes of 15 and 16 yards respectively to the Auburn twins of Courtney Taylor and Ben Obomanu to the Oakland 24. After Wallace and Obomanu just missed collaborating the left corner of the end zone, Duckett busted one tackle at the line of scrimmage and ran the 24 yards on a draw off right tackle to make it 7-0 Seahawks with 10:50 left in the first quarter.
The Raiders appeared on the verge of getting on the board, on the strength of a 58-yard kickoff return by Johnnie Lee Higgins's 58-yard kickoff return and a 24-yard burst from rookie running back Darren McFadden. But when holder Shane Lechler fumbled the snap on Sebastian Janikowski's presumed 21-yard field goal attempt, Lechler threw a pass toward the end zone. It was picked off by Seahawks safety C.J. Wallace and returned 41-yards to the Seahawks 43. And on the second play from scrimmage, Seneca Wallace hit Obomanu running up the seam with a perfectly timed throw for 33 yards to the Raiders 22. The Seahawks appeared to have a first down on the 11-yard line on a Wallace to Logan Payne pass, which he fumbled. Raiders coach Lance Kiffin challenged the call and it was ruled incomplete. Undaunted, Mare booted a 34-yard field goal to make it 10-0 with 4:14 left in the opening quarter to end the scoring.