MINNEAPOLIS — Looking to catch up on what happened in Seattle’s exhibition game at Minnesota on Saturday night?
Well, that’s going to be difficult considering the speed of Seattle safety Earl Thomas.
No one on the Vikings’ offense was able to catch up to him during his second-quarter interception return that was the single most impressive play of Saturday’s game at the Metrodome.
Because while Seattle lost to Minnesota, 24-13, after two late touchdowns, the Seahawks showed the playmaker they gained at the back end of the defense by drafting Thomas in the first round last April.
The game was decided by Minnesota’s two touchdowns in the final half of the fourth quarter, but by then the starters were resting. Seattle’s biggest accomplishment Saturday was keeping Matt Hasselbeck healthy even if it couldn’t always keep him upright. He was sacked twice. The Seahawks’ defense forced three turnovers and made an impressive goal-line stand, forcing a turnover on downs at their own 2 in the first half.
Seattle held the lead halfway through the fourth quarter, but Minnesota’s third-string quarterback, Sage Rosenfels, threw a touchdown pass on fourth down to give the Vikings the lead. Charlie Whitehurst was intercepted on Seattle’s subsequent possession, setting up Minnesota for one more touchdown by fourth-string quarterback Joe Webb.
The third exhibition game is as close as the NFL comes to a dress rehearsal and Thomas looked plenty ready for prime time when he returned a second-quarter interception. A rookie from Texas, he’s a different caliber of playmaker on the back end of a defense that hasn’t had a safety intercept more than three passes since 2004.
Brett Favre was trying to throw to Bernard Berrian, but his pass appeared to be tipped by Seattle’s Josh Wilson. The ball popped toward Thomas, who caught it at the Seattle 14 and needed only a couple of steps to be at full speed and it was quickly clear Favre would be the only Minnesota player who had a shot at stopping Thomas.
Turns out it wasn’t much of a shot.
Thomas veered about 10 yards in front of Favre, who at 40 is almost twice Thomas’ age. The youngest player on Seattle’s roster was clocked at 9.8 seconds from interception to end zone, pretty impressive considering it wasn’t a straight line.
Thomas has more than speed. He showed that with a third-quarter hit that left Vikings receiver Percy Harvin woozy. Thomas was on the turf for a moment, but got up gesturing wildly and ran off the field as Minnesota prepared to punt. It was his last play.
Thomas’ interception return was Seattle’s only touchdown.
Seattle was outgained 223-98 in the first half yet the score was tied at 10.
Seahawks defensive end Chris Clemons sacked Favre in the first quarter, forcing a fumble that Colin Cole recovered, but Seattle also went 15 minutes without getting a first down in the first half. It was the first of two sacks for Clemons.
Favre committed a turnover on Minnesota’s first possession of the second half, too. He heaved a deep throw that cornerback Marcus Trufant had defended so well he could have fair caught the interception.
Hasselbeck completed a 42-yard pass to Mike Williams on the first play of the next possession, which set up a 34-yard field goal by Olindo Mare that put the Seahawks back in front, 13-10.
The concern in Seattle was whether it could keep starting quarterback Matt Hasselbeck upright against the Vikings pass rush with Mansfield Wrotto starting at left tackle in place of rookie Russell Okung.
Wrotto played well, Seattle passed quickly and Hasselbeck was knocked down only twice in the first half. Favre got hit as often as Hasselbeck, losing one fumble and he was also intercepted twice. Hasselbeck was sacked twice before he was replaced by Charlie Whitehurst with just under 6 minutes left in the third quarter. Hasselbeck completed 9-of-17 passes for 126 yards.