DENVER – The opportunities were there. Maybe once the new-look Seahawks have played together a bit more, they'll be able to take advantage.
There were plenty of reasons for optimism in a wild game against a tough opponent, but the Seattle Seahawks ultimately couldn’t take advantage of enough of them in a 27-24 loss to the Denver Broncos in both teams’ season opener at Mile High Stadium on Sunday.
The Seahawks got encouraging performances from some of their younger players, but Russell Wilson spent too much of the day on his back, Chris Carson coughed up a huge fumble, and the officials appeared to blow the call that handed the Broncos’ the winning touchdown.
Seattle was feeling good about itself early in the fourth quarter when the refs made that fateful call. Quarterback Case Keenum connected for a 4-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas, but it appeared Thomas’ feet were out of bounds when he made the catch. The call stood, however, and the Seahawks couldn’t regain their mojo.
It was a wild game of fits and starts, as the teams traded leads at a breakneck pace.
The Seahawks got off to a slow start, as had been there custom in recent years. Wilson was sacked for a 6-yard loss on the first play of the game as he looked to take a shot downfield, and had to throw it away on the next play to avoid the same fate as Seattle went three-and-out.
But Earl Thomas quickly got to work in his return from his training camp holdout, intercepting a Keenum pass and running it back to the Broncos’ 25-yard line.
"It’s terrific having him back," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "He’s a great football player. He handled the return - and the players handled the return - perfectly."
On the very next play, Wilson connected with University of Washington graduate Will Dissly for a 15-yard touchdown to put the Seahawks up 7-0 with just over 9 minute left in the first quarter.
"Will was on fire," Carroll said. "I was shouting 'Ditka!' He looked like Mike Ditka out there."
Denver answered immediately, however, driving 75 yards capped by a 29-yard touchdown hookup from Keenum to Phillip Lindsay that tied it at 7 with 6:10 to play in the first quarter.
The Seahawks jumped ahead again, albeit after giving up great field position. Brandon Marshall was called for offensive pass interference, negating what would’ve been a 7-yard touchdown reception, and the Seahawks had to settle for a 35-yard Sebastian Janikowski field goal to make it 10-7 a minute into the second quarter.
The Broncos again drove 75 yards on their next possession, most of it coming on Keenum’s 43-yard touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders, which Sanders capped with a somersault into the end zone with 10:24 to play in the first half.
Janikowski had a sequence in the second quarter he'd certainly like to forget. The Seahawks’ new kicker missed a 51-yard field goal late, but it was called back on an offsides penalty. He still couldn’t hit it however, missing a 46-yarder that kept the Seahawks down 17-10.
McDougald’s second interception of the game led to the Seahawks’ second touchdown. McDougald picked off a Keenum pass with about 8 minutes left in the third quarter, returning it to the Broncos’ 41-yard line. That set off a quick drive that saw Seattle move back ahead as Marshall scored his first touchdown as a Seahawk, a 20-yard reception from Wilson with 6:02 to go in the third.
Tyler Lockett showed why the Seahawks rewarded him with a three-year contract extension late last month. From the outset, Lockett looked faster than he did last year – when he was coming off a broken leg, to be fair – and he hauled in a 51-yard touchdown reception from Wilson that put the Seahawks up 24-20 early in the fourth quarter.
"I’m sitting here in the locker room thinking that’s the play that should’ve won it for us," Carroll said.
There were plenty of positive takeaways. Dissly, for instance, looked stellar with three catches for 105 yards and that touchdown. Chris Carson showed flashes, carrying the ball seven times for 51 yards - but he did have that fumble on the Seahawks' 40-yard line in the third quarter.
The Seahawks' defense even looked Legion of Boom-ish at times with their takeaways, as McDougald picked off two passes and Thomas had one.
And, of course, there was Michael Dickson. The Seahawks rookie continued to somehow get fans excited for punts, winding up with six for 354 yards - an astounding 59-yard average. His long of the day was 69 yards.
Wilson's day was a mixed bag. He completed 19 of 33 passes for 298 yards and three touchdowns, but he also had two interceptions, two fumbles (both of which the Seahawks recovered) and a handful of questionable decisions. It didn't help that he was on the run often, absorbing six sacks for 56 yards.
There was another piece of bad news, although it remains to be seen just how bad. Receiver Doug Baldwin injured his knee in the first half, and though he returned, he was ultimately pulled at halftime and didn't return.
Carroll said Baldwin had "a little MCL sprain in his other knee," and that coaches had to talk him into leaving the game. There's no word on the prognosis.
The Seahawks play again Sept. 17, when they travel to Chicago to play the Bears at Soldier Field on Monday Night Football.