OAKLAND, Calif. – And now for the real thing.
The Seattle Seahawks won their final preseason game of the year Thursday night, beating the Oakland Raiders 23-21 on the road in a game that in no way resembled what fans will expect to see when the team opens the regular season against Miami on Sept. 11.
That Seattle managed to come up with a win in a sloppy game populated by second- and third-stringers was mostly beside the point. Mostly what mattered was that the Seahawks escaped the preseason with no serious injuries, and can now head back to Seattle to begin preparing for the Dolphins.
“Ready to play some football that actually counts,” Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril said. “That’s the biggest thing.”
The final preseason game usually sees little play by the starters, and Thursday night was no exception. Russell Wilson attempted three passes and Thomas Rawls ran twice as Seattle didn’t score for the first time until the third quarter.
What the game will likely be remembered for, in fact, happened before kickoff. Cornerback Jeremy Lane didn’t stand during the National Anthem, prompting unconfirmed speculation that he was throwing in his lot with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protest against racial injustice.
Perhaps the most intriguing action on Seattle’s part was Garry Gilliam and J’Marcus Webb’s apparent battle for the starting job at right tackle, as the two rotated series through most of the game.
There were some bright spots: Troymaine Pope had another nice game at running back, carrying the ball 8 times for 52 yards and a touchdown, and Alex Collins had nine carries for 40 yards and a touchdown of his own.
Pope also had a standout game on special teams, returning three kicks for a total of 107 yards, including a stellar 60-yarder. He'll likely be one of several players to come under heavy discussion by the Seahawks' front office tomorrow, as Seattle’s immediate challenge is to trim its roster to 53 players before the season starts.
Avril said he’s put in time trying to convince some of the team’s fringe players that getting cut in the coming days doesn’t mean the end of the world.
“Each game, especially during the preseason, is a resume,” Avril said. “If the Seahwks don’t keep you, there are 32 other teams.”