Preseason week two looked a lot more like the defending Super Bowl champions than week one.
In a 41-14 win over the visiting San Diego Chargers, the Seattle Seahawks got back to their roots, using a rejuvenated offensive line to rush for 243 yards and five touchdowns while their first-team defense pitched a shutout during its time on the field.
Seattle led 24-0, scoring on its first four possessions with its starting offense, before the reserves took over.
"I thought we played real hard and ran fast and it looked like we had full energy tonight across the board," said coach Pete Carroll. "Really happy with the first-team offense to move the ball like that and score four times, it was great. The first-team defense held up and didn't give up a score all night, gave up a couple of first downs. So, that's about as much as we can hope for."
Seattle hadn't been able to run much in a 21-16 opening loss at Denver the previous week with the offensive line playing at less than full strength.
That was still the case against the Chargers, as center Max Unger and left tackle Russell Okung sat out. But the return of left guard James Carpenter and another week of improvement for rookie right tackle Justin Britt resulted in a better-looking line throughout -- though it helped that the Seahawks were going against a San Diego defense that last year ranked 23rd in the NFL and was playing without a handful of key players.
Still, it was a tour de force for Seattle's quarterbacks, who rushed for four touchdowns -- two by Russell Wilson (who was also 11-for-13 passing) and one each for Terrelle Pryor (a spectacular 44-yarder on a bootleg) and B.J. Daniels.
"I can't remember a game where four quarterback touchdowns were scored in a game," Carroll said.
The gradual return to health of the offensive line, as indicated by the play against the Chargers, might have been the biggest story of the week for the Seahawks.
While Unger and Okung sat out the game, each practiced all week and could return next Friday when the Seahawks host the Chicago Bears.
Carpenter has drawn raves from coaches since the spring due to his improved condition and health -- he's battled knee injuries throughout his four-year Seattle career. But the San Diego game was the first evidence on the field that there might be some substance behind the hype. Britt, a second-round pick from Missouri who the team hopes can replace the departed Breno Giacomini, has struggled at times in pass protection. But he was steadier against the Chargers.
The line also helped pave the way for Robert Turbin's 81 yards on 12 carries as he took a lead in the battle with Christine Michael to be Marshawn Lynch's backup.
Michael fumbled for a second straight week and had 45 yards on eight carries.
Seattle also got Percy Harvin involved early as he caught four passes for 31 yards in about a quarter-and-a-half.
Pryor had the one big run to highlight his time on the field, but was inconsistent throwing, going 1-for-4 for 10 yards. Pryor is battling with Tarvaris Jackson for the backup quarterback job. Jackson did not play because the team wanted to get B.J. Daniels some snaps, but Jackson will play next week against the Bears.
--Seattle's Steven Hauschka went 6-for-6 with the longer extra points the last two weeks. But Seattle coach Pete Carroll noted the eight misses that there were in 136 attempts around the league and said there is little doubt that the rule would "change the game. ...I can't even gauge how many misses that would amount to over the course of a season, or if somebody lost a game or had a chance to tie a game up and they missed it. So I think the experiment was well done and we know what we got. Now whoever makes those decisions has to figure out if they want to do that or not." Carroll says he's fine with whatever is decided. "I don't care," he said. "Whatever it is, doesn't matter."
--Carroll says he expects the NFC West to be even more difficult this season than a year ago, when three teams --- Seattle, the 49ers and Cardinals --- all won at least 10 games. "I can't imagine it not being," he said. "I think Arizona's better, the Rams are loaded with talent, they got all kinds of guys. We know the 49ers have been great. I think it's just as hard as it can get. It'll be good, good for us, it's the kind of challenges that we need. If you're going to have a good team you're going to have to deal with these guys and these good teams, so that's what we're faced with. Whoever comes out on top of the division is really going to be ready to play anybody."
BATTLE OF THE WEEK: The battle for the strong-side linebacker spot has been largely dormant with Malcolm Smith and Bruce Irvin sitting out all of camp so far due to injury. That has had fourth-year player Mike Morgan starting the first two games. But Smith returned to practice on a limited basis Monday, and Irvin could be back next week. Also back this week on a limited basis is Korey Toomer, who can play both the weak and strong sides. There likely won't be room for all of them on the roster, with Smith and Irvin likely to battle it out for the starting job once each is healthy. Smith was the MVP of the Super Bowl but was essentially a backup all last season, starting eight games when others were out due to injury or suspension.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--RG J.R. Sweezy showed up to camp having put on about 10 pounds of good weight. And the added bulk has paid off so far as Sweezy is having the best camp of his three year career. Sweezy combined with left guard James Carpenter to help the Seahawks have what coach Pete Carroll called one of the best performances by an offensive line he had ever seen in the 41-14 win over San Diego Friday night.
--WR Paul Richardson could be a candidate for kickoff return duty, but likely won't factor into punt return duty, coach Pete Carroll said. Richardson, a rookie, would be a complement at kickoff chores to Percy Harvin, who is expected to take over that role this season on a full-time basis now that he's healthy.
--S Earl Thomas remains a viable candidate for the punt return job, remaining listed as a starter on the depth chart. But he's had few attempts so far, with just two returns for five yards. WR Bryan Walters, not regarded as a lock to make the team, is listed as the backup and had two returns for 33 yards against the Chargers.
--RB Christine Michael has fumbled twice in 15 attempts in two games. But while coach Pete Carroll says the fumbles are a concern, he said he has not lost confidence in Michael and says that otherwise, he has run well. Each fumble came when a defender came from underneath Michael to pop the ball out with his helmet. Carroll said it is the type of scenario difficult to practice in camp these days -- Seattle has had no to-the-ground workouts of its own.
--DE Michael Bennett sat out after experiencing some tightness in his hamstring during pregame warmups. But it wasn't portrayed as serious.
--Rookie free-agent LB Horace Miller left after hurting his knee. He was due to have an MRI.
--C Max Unger had been expected to play heading into the game, but was held out with coach Pete Carroll saying they wanted to rest his groin injury for one more week.
--WR Kevin Norwood, a fourth-round pick from Alabama, appears to be making rapid progress from surgery last week to repair a bone spur, and could return by the beginning of the season.
--DT Cassius Marsh saw lots of action after having left practice early on Wednesday with a knee injury. An MRI, though, showed no damage.
--The team hopes that linebackers Bobby Wagner, Malcolm Smith and Korey Toomer will return to practice next week. Wagner, the team's starting middle linebacker, has not played in the preseason due to a hamstring injury while Smith, the Super Bowl MVP, has not played while recovering from offseason ankle surgery.