Thiel: Wilson chills, defense hot in Seahawks win

Thiel: Wilson chills, defense hot in Seahawks win

Credit: Otto Greule Jr / Getty Images

Defensive end Bruce Irvin is congratulated by Jaye Howard after pressuring Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor.


by Art Thiel


Posted on August 31, 2012 at 9:03 AM

Updated Saturday, Sep 1 at 3:30 PM

Starting a quarterback in the first game of his NFL career is a rare, large deal, so the saga of Russell Wilson will continue to deserve the hubbub. He's no God particle, but he's several atoms up from rookies Dan McGwire and Rick Mirer, a couple of black holes in the Seahawks' early QB universe.

The arrival of Wilson has tended to obscure the club's biggest virtue: the defense's grumpy, agile ferocity. Wilson can't help his giant, 5-foot-11 shadow, of course, nor can a comprehensive verdict on the Seattle defense be rendered when the opposing offense is as feeble as that of the Oakland Raiders, who spit up copious amounts of mess upon themselves Thursday night at the Clink.

After three quarters, the Raiders had no points, four first downs and 77 yards of total offense. We all realize this was an exhibition game, and we all realize it's the Raiders, but at least have the common courtesy to close the bathroom door.

Whatever the qualifiers, the Seahawks' 21-3 slapping of Oakland was another argument that a team built on defense seems to get sturdier in that department by the week.

The Raiders finished with 101 yards of total offense, and the three points came with 15 seconds left when the Seahawks had in the ushers and the stats crew. Even rookie defensive end Bruce Irvin got into the act, picking up a sack and half in the second half -- the first known contact in the preseason with an opposing quarterback.

His ability to render inert the gunslinger was the primary reason he was drafted No. 1 by the Seahawks. His arrival at his destiny was almost, well, gestational.

"It felt like I had a newborn baby," Irvin said of his first sack. "I felt I got better each game. Tonight, everything was working my favor. The first couple games I didn't know what to expect. But I've been getting better in games and in practice.

"I'm comfortable now."

So, it would appear, is the entire defense. The first unit gave up just 17 points in the 4-0 preseason, only the second unbeaten fake season in club history.

"Being unbeaten feels good, but it doesn't mean anything," Irvin said. "It's something to feed off at the start of the season."

The Seahawks in 2011 finished ninth the NFL's defensive rankings, and nothing in the preseason suggested any decline. Especially after the quarterback rating of Raiders' No. 2 thrower Matt Leinert was noted -- 1.7. Bad as that number would be for a drunk driver, it's worse for a quarterback.

New Raiders coach Dennis Allen was halfway shocked.

"It was obvious by our execution tonight we weren't ready for prime time," he said. "We didn't play good. So I see that as significant.

"We got over-matched, upfront and on both sides of the ball."

If Oakland's puny output in the first half wasn't enough evidence of over-match, the Seahawks, ahead 19-0 in the the third quarter, pinned a safety on the Raiders when backup tackle Jaye Howard slammed running back Mike Goodson two yards deep in the end zone.

For whatever it's worth in dominating the Titans, Broncos,  Chiefs and Raiders in the preseason, the Seahawks allowed averages of 248 yards of total offense and 15 first downs in a combined 122-44 domination of the scoreboard. Leading the NFC in takeaways before the game with seven, the defense recovered another fumble and added an interception.

"It's exciting, but you have to take it with a grain of salt," said cornerback Richard Sherman. "Every (offense) is vanilla, they're not doing much different. No schemes. But we have extremely high expectations for ourselves."

The offense has less swagger, but it is proving efficient and competent, even in the absence of No. 1 rusher Marshawn Lynch and No. 1 receiver Doug Baldwin, each of whom are expected to be healthy enough to play in the season opener Sept. 9 at Arizona.

Wilson played the first two series and one quarter, and didn't have his previous wow factor, completing 5 of 11 passes for 72 yards and leading the Seahawks to a single field goal. Nor did he feel compelled once to take off running. There simply was no need to risk anything in the final exhibition when the defense was in charge the entire game.

For those inclined to offer a pity party for Matt Flynn, the heir apparent to the starting QB job who was usurped by the upstart, there is no need to bother. Taking over in the second quarter, he evinced no depression, moving the club on touchdown drives of 78 and 90 yards. He completed 11 of 13 passes, one touchdown and no picks for a QB rating of 125.0.

A couple of running backs looking for steady employment, Kregg Lumpkin and Vai Taua, made impressions, Lumpkin with 71 yards and Taua with 49 and a two-yard TD run.

Football fans understand about the futility of diving meaning from exhibition results. That doesn't mean that Seahawks fans can't get excited about the fact that, whether they are labeled ones or twos or threes, the Seahawks have assembled the most talented roster of the Pete Carroll regime, and it plays harmoniously to his priorities of defense and rushing.

Then there's the magnum curiosity that no ceiling has been found for one of the roster's shortest guys.

More Art Thiel