It won't quell the pains of last year's Super Bowl, but the Denver Broncos earned a 21-16 win over the Seattle Seahawks during Thursday's preseason opener.
Despite the fact that second- and third-stringers were playing most of the time, it didn't really feel like a preseason game. But then again, what would you really expect between these two teams?
Beforehand, Pete Carroll explained the intrigue behind the rematch, via Sportspress Northwest's Art Thiel:
It’s a really cool matchup. I’m sure there’s a lot of people who will have a lot of interest in this thing.
It’s going to be fun. It’s a great opportunity to play an incredible football team. They’ve got some great additions to their team I know they’re really excited about seeing. We’re anxious to see what they look like too, knowing that we’re going to see them in the season.
He wasn't wrong. There were four lead changes, the yardage battle was close (298-274 in favor of Seattle), and it came down to the final possession when Steven Johnson sealed the win for Denver with an interception of Terrelle Pryor in the end zone.
Both Russell Wilson and Peyton Manning got two series, and both produced similar results: a shaky first drive that quickly sputtered out after inaccurate throws, and a methodical second drive that lasted over nine minutes and was capped by a one-yard scoring run.
First up was Manning. The reigning MVP marched the Broncos 61 yards on 14 plays, converting three third downs in the process. Every single conversion, a bit unsurprisingly, went to the electrifying Demaryius Thomas. Nine yards on 3rd-and-4. Seven yards on 3rd-and-7. Nine yards on 3rd-and-7.
USA Today's Lindsay Jones put it simply:
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say the Peyton Manning-Demaryius Thomas thing is still working pretty well.— Lindsay Jones (@bylindsayhjones) August 8, 2014
Manning finished with 78 yards on 10-of-13 passing, while Thomas had 52 yards on five receptions before Ronnie Hillman finished the march with a plunge from the 1-yard line.
After an extensive lightning delay that kept the teams off the field for about an hour of real time, Wilson and the 'Hawks finally got a chance to respond. They did so with a 14-play, 90-yard drive.
While Wilson and Christine Michael made some nice plays, the real hero of the drive was that little yellow flag. Denver committed four penalties on the drive—two of which extended and another that put the Seahawks on the 1-yard line for Michael's touchdown.
As The Seattle Times' Jerry Brewer joked, Denver may have just been trying to play in Seattle's 2013 image:
Well, if the Broncos want to be more like the Seahawks, they're accomplishing it in one area -- penalties.— Jerry Brewer (@JerryBrewer) August 8, 2014
With Tarvaris Jackson under center, Seattle ended the first half with a 41-yard field goal to take a 10-7 lead at the end of the first half.
Paced by the running game, though, the Broncos quickly took the lead back. On Denver's first possession of the second half, Juwan Thompson rattled off runs of 15 and 20 yards during a 57-yard drive that ended with a three-yard scoring run from Kapri Bibbs.
And you think emotions aren't running high during the preseason? Think again. Following the touchdown, there was a scuffle in the end zone and Seahawks corner back Tharold Simon was ejected for tossing a punch.
Congrats, Tharold Simon, on the dubious distinction of being ejected from a preseason game.— John Boyle (@johnpboyle) August 8, 2014
Not a smart move for a young player, who has been gaining momentum during camp but is still fighting for a roster spot.
Back to Thompson, though. CBS4's Vic Lombardi sees big things ahead for the rookie out of Duke:
Every year a RB becomes a cinderella story in camp. This year it's Juwan Thompson.— Vic Lombardi (@VicLombardi) August 8, 2014
He finished with a game-high 59 yards on six carries.
The 'Hawks, this time with Pryor running the show, responded with a pair of field goals to take back the lead at 16-14. The second three-pointer was the result of an A.J. Jefferson interception of Brock Osweiler, but the backup QB bounced back with a 10-play, 80-yard touchdown drive.
Highlights of the drive from the third-year QB included a 15-yard scramble on 3rd-and-14 and a 34-yard touchdown strike to Jordan Norwood to put the Broncos back in front, 21-16.
Pryor, who finished with a game-high 137 passing yards, appeared to be leading the 'Hawks on a game-winning drive, but an interception in the end zone secured the win for the Broncos.
Brewer noted what the 'Hawks need to work on moving forward:
Biggest #Seahawks takeaway from tonight: Several key players on OL & DL have a loooong way to go. Back to training camp ...— Jerry Brewer (@JerryBrewer) August 8, 2014
Seattle will now turn its focus toward San Diego (Friday, Aug. 15), while Denver gets ready for a trip to San Francisco (Sunday, Aug. 17). However, you can bet both teams have Sunday, Sept. 21 circled on the calender.
That's when these teams will meet for the third time in seven months. That's when it really counts, that's when the Broncos get an opportunity for real revenge, and that's when this burgeoning rivalry will surely take another Osweiler-sized step forward.