SEATTLE — Tennessee Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck had a rocky return to the Pacific Northwest, throwing two interceptions in his limited appearance, while Seattle rookie Russell Wilson dazzled with touchdowns running and throwing in the second half to help the Seahawks open the NFL preseason with a 27-17 victory Saturday night.
Hasselbeck, who was Seattle’s anchor at quarterback for nearly a decade, saw the first play of the game — a pass intended for Nate Washington — get deflected into the arms of Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner and returned 23 yards for a touchdown. Seattle went ahead 17-3 on the first drive of the second half when Wilson, in a three-way competition for the Seahawks’ QB job, threw a 39-yard scoring pass to Braylon Edwards. Wilson added a 32-yard bootleg touchdown run with 1:51 left to cap an impressive debut.
Matt Flynn got the start at quarterback for Seattle while incumbent Tarvaris Jackson was left to watch this week. Coach Pete Carroll has given no indication how the rotation will be next week when Seattle travels to Denver.
Hasselbeck barely had time to be acknowledged by the Seattle crowd before watching the Seahawks take the lead. He was adorned with cheers and signs before the game with plenty of fans still donning No. 8 Seahawks jerseys. Hasselbeck said he got choked up speaking to his former teammates before the game.
“The reception I got from the fans in both the pregame and during the game was humbling,” Hasselbeck said.
Hasselbeck threw a quick out for Washington on the first play from scrimmage. But Hasselbeck’s throw was poor — low and too far behind Washington. The receiver tried to pull in the pass, but instead knocked it into the arm, off the arm of safety Earl Thomas and into Browner’s arms. The 23-yard interception return gave Seattle a 7-0 lead just nine seconds into the preseason.
“It was kind of a freak thing,” Hasselbeck said. “It reminded me of my first pass the last time I was in this stadium which was intercepted against the Saints. ... It was disappointing it started that way, not at all how I envisioned it.”
That came in the NFC wild card game when Hasselbeck was still the Seahawks’ franchise quarterback and he engineered an upset of the defending Super Bowl champions when Seattle got into the playoffs with a losing record. Seattle opted to go a different direction at quarterback before the start of the 2011 season and Hasselbeck ended up in Tennessee, where he finds himself this preseason battling Jake Locker for the starting job.
In terms of appearance Locker, who played his college ball across town at Washington, got the better of Saturday night albeit against the Seahawks’ backups.
Hasselbeck ended up with 15 snaps, right about what Tennessee coach Mike Munchak had hoped. He finished 5-of-9 passing for 45 yards and two interceptions, his second a glorified punt that Richard Sherman hauled in along the sideline at the Seattle 6.
Locker got 18 snaps, playing the rest of the first half before giving way to Rusty Smith in the second half. Locker looked decisive and confident in the pocket, although against Seattle’s second-team defense. Locker completed 7 of 13 passes for 80 yards — including a couple of drops — and led the Titans to Rob Bironas’ 32-yard field goal in the closing seconds of the first half. Locker completed his first five passes on the Titans’ final drive for 60 yards.
Flynn played the entire first half but was highly conservative with his throws. His final throw of his Seattle debut was the only one to hit the ground despite hitting Anthony McCoy in the stomach. He finished 11 of 13 for 71 yards, but never once challenged the Titans’ secondary downfield. Most of Flynn’s throws were short tosses underneath the coverage. His longest completion was a 16-yard throw to Zach Miller, but five of his completions were for 5 yards or less.
While he didn’t take chances, Flynn mostly didn’t make mistakes either. He was sacked twice — once holding the ball too long — and his biggest miscue came on his 10th throw when his slant pass to Ben Obomanu, was intercepted by linebacker Colin McCarthy dropping into coverage.
Wilson also had a blunder. Following a Titans turnover deep in its own end, Wilson proceeded to give the ball right back throwing an interception in the end zone trying to force a throw to tight end Sean McGrath. Overall, Seattle was more aggressive in its play calling with Wilson, who was 12 for 16 passes for 124 yards. He added 59 yards rushing.
Will Batson missed a 36-yard field goal with 4:46 left for Tennessee that would have tied the game at 20.
Backup running back Darius Reynaud scored on a 21-yard TD run midway through the third quarter, just sneaking his arm inside the pylon. He followed with an 85-yard punt return for a touchdown the next time the Titans touched the ball after Wilson had an ugly three-and-out that included two false-start penalties.