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 when he returned his second-quarter interception for a touchdown in the single most impressive play of Saturday’s game at the Metrodome. And while the Seahawks lost the game 24-13, they saw just how big a playmaker they gained by choosing Thomas in the first round of April’s draft.
“I can’t wait to see that again,” coach Pete Carroll said of the interception. “It looked like he was going a million miles an hour.”
Thomas’ 86-yard interception return was Seattle’s only touchdown, yet the Seahawks never trailed until the final half of the fourth quarter when Minnesota’s backups outscored Seattle’s backups. Sage Rosenfels, the Vikings’ third-string quarterback, threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Javon Walker on fourth down to give Minnesota its first lead. Then Joe Webb, the fourth-stringer, capped the scoring with a 7-yard scoring pass to cap a drive set up when Minnesota’s defense picked off Seahawks backup Charlie Whitehurst.
But while the outcome was decided by the nether regions of the rosters, the lasting impression came from Seattle’s frontline defense. The Vikings fancy themselves a Super Bowl contender, and for three quarters the Seahawks were every bit their equal. They forced three turnovers, sacked Brett Favre twice and made one memorable goal-line stand.
“That’s a lot of real positive things,” Carroll said.
And Thomas was positively fantastic with the interception return and later with a hit hard enough to dent Minnesota’s Percy Harvin in the third quarter.
“Earl came alive a little bit,” Carroll said.
There is a lot of work still for Seattle. The Seahawks’ ground game continues to function like a treadmill, and the offense went more than 16 minutes without picking up a first down in the first half.
Seattle’s biggest offensive accomplishment was keeping Matt Hasselbeck healthy even if it couldn’t always keep him upright. He was sacked twice, but left late in the third quarter having completed 9 of 17 passes for 126 yards. Mansfield Wrotto – who started in place of rookie Russell Okung, who is out with an injured ankle – acquitted himself well, the only noticeable blemish being a second-quarter penalty for a false start.
The third exhibition game is as close as the NFL comes to a dress rehearsal, and Thomas looked plenty ready for prime time. He even wore a tuxedo jacket to the game.
In the second quarter, Favre was trying to throw to Bernard Berrian, but his pass was tipped by Seattle’s Josh Wilson. The ball popped toward Thomas, who caught it at the Seattle 14. He needed only a couple of steps to be at full speed and it was quickly clear Favre would be the only one who had a shot at stopping Thomas.
Turns out it wasn’t much of a shot. Seattle’s Dexter Davis was in position to block, but Thomas wasn’t waiting. He blew by his fellow rookie.
“I’ve seen him on tape so I know how he runs,” Davis said. “It didn’t really surprise me.”
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.
“It felt like Pop Warner when you throw your head back and just run,” Thomas said.