Congratulations, Seattle Seahawks fans. Congratulations, Oakland Raiders fans. You made it to the part of the calendar where the focus completely turns to the regular season.
Seattle handled Oakland on Thursday to the tune of 31-21 in each team's final preseason contest. Few starters of significance even saw the field for more than a handful of plays, and the game was no longer in doubt after the Seahawks pushed the lead back to double digits late in the third quarter.
Seattle controlled most of the first half as well and took a 17-7 lead into the locker room. Oakland's Derek Carr did not play, but his quarterback counterpart Russell Wilson did and wasted little time putting on a show for the home crowd with a 63-yard touchdown strike to Tyler Lockett.
The NFL shared a highlight of the play and noted Lockett is already in midseason form in the celebration department:
It was Wilson's only throw of the contest, and he at least gave the fans something to cheer about on day when Marshawn Lynch remained on the sidelines and the backups took most of the snaps.
The Seahawks kept the momentum rolling when defensive end Frank Clark stripped the ball and Jordan Hill recovered it for a touchdown. The rookie Clark appeared ready to contribute during the regular season, and Curtis Crabtree of Sports Radio KJR and ProFootballTalk pointed out how dominant he was against an overmatched opponent:
Sheil Kapadia of ESPN ackowledged that Clark was a menace for more than just that touchdown play:
The Raiders may have struggled blocking Clark in the early going, but they played their way back into the game when Matt McGloin hit Seth Roberts for a touchdown right before halftime. McGloin kept the momentum rolling in the third quarter with a 28-yard touchdown pass to Rod Streater to cut the lead to 17-14.
Streater dealt with injuries and poor production for most of last year and finished with 84 receiving yards. It was a far cry from the 888 he put up in 2013, and Scott Bair of CSNCalifornia.com praised the receiver for his ability to bounce back Thursday:
As for McGloin, he appeared comfortable in the pocket (albeit against backups) and made a statement in the race for the No. 2 quarterback spot behind Carr. Christian Ponder finished 7-of-11 for 99 yards against the Seahawks, while McGloin led Oakland right back into the game and went 16-of-24 for 186 yards and two touchdowns.
Steve Corkran of RaiderBeat.com thinks McGloin has shown enough to earn the nod:
McGloin commented on his status in the race with Ponder and understood he had to perform if he wanted the backup job, per Eddie Paskal of Raiders.com:
You have to understand at the end of the day that once you step on the field, it’s on you. You have to make plays. You have to complete the ball. You have to make good decisions. You have to know the offense.
You can’t be blaming different players, blaming a coach. It’s on you at the end of the day, and if you don’t make plays, it’s a performance-based business, and if you don’t perform, you’re not going to be around very long as a quarterback in this league.
Seattle put an end to McGloin's momentum with a late-third quarter touchdown when B.J. Daniels hit Kasen Williams for a 15-yard strike to open up a 24-14 lead.
It wasn't just Seattle's offense that put the game away in the second half. Its defense locked McGloin down for the remainder of the meaningful drives, and Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times pointed out it was a solid effort considering the earlier struggles:
Seattle put the proverbial nail in the coffin when Thomas Rawls dashed in from six yards out to push the lead to 31-14 with less than six minutes remaining.
The Raiders actually put Ponder back in to finish the game at quarterback, and he led the offense down the field in garbage time. Michael Dyer punched it in from a yard out, and Oakland recovered the subsequent onside kick, but it was too little, too late. Seattle closed the preseason with a 31-21 win.
Next up for both the Raiders and Seahawks is the start of the regular season.
The two teams are on the opposite sides of the expectation spectrum this year considering the Seahawks reached the last two Super Bowls, while the Raiders are still in the process of building around a young nucleus.
The first test for that young Oakland nucleus comes at home against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, Sept. 13. The Seahawks also play Sunday, Sept. 13, but they will travel to St. Louis to face the NFC West rival Rams.
The biggest thing for Oakland in the opener and the rest of this season is staying healthy and developing Amari Cooper, Carr and Khalil Mack. Those three players alone represent a solid future, and individual strides are more important than the overall record for a team that is likely a year or two away from playoff contention.
The first game of the 2015 season is much bigger in Seattle's eyes in terms of the postseason picture. The NFC West figures to be one of the most competitive divisions in the league after it sent two teams to the playoffs last year. Division games could be a factor in tie-breaking scenarios for Seattle, and that opener is the first of six such showdowns.
The Rams are also looking to make strides behind a strong defensive line and rookie running back Todd Gurley. They beat Seattle in St. Louis last year and could very well do the same again in 2015 if the Seahawks aren't prepared.