DENVER — As might have been expected of two teams last seen playing in the Super Bowl, there were more than a few sparks Thursday night.
As it turned out, there was also some actual thunder and lightning, forcing a 45-minute delay in the first quarter as Denver and Seattle met at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, a rematch at least in name of the Seahawks’ 43-8 win in the Super Bowl.
Ultimately, though, it played out as first preseason games usually do, with lots of sloppy and uneven play.
And it ended in an unfamiliar feeling for Seattle as the Broncos held on to win 21-16, snapping the Seahawks’ nine-game exhibition winning streak.
“We hate to lose, so that’s disappointing,” said Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson. “At the same time, we understand we are trying to get better.”
One area of improvement was both obvious and somewhat understandable — a makeshift offensive line that had Wilson and fellow quarterbacks Tarvaris Jackson and Terrelle Pryor spending much of the game running for their lives.
Seattle played without three injured starters — center Max Unger, guard James Carpenter and left tackle Russell Okung — leaving J.R. Sweezy as the only starter from a year ago lining up against the Broncos.
“We are just surviving right now, really surviving,” said coach Pete Carroll. “There are some guys on the second team that have been here three or four days. We are not very sharp right now, and it all showed.”
Carroll also bemoaned the sloppiness of a game that featured 25 combined penalties, 13 on the Seahawks.
Still, Seattle had a chance to win, facing a third-and-goal from the 3-yard-line with 2:49 left and the Broncos ahead 21-16. But Pryor, again scrambling, tried to squeeze a pass into Ricardo Lockette that was tipped and picked off by Steven Johnson.
On the play before, Pryor had just missed connecting with running back Demitrius Bronson, who couldn’t handle a screen pass on which he almost certainly would have scored.
“I’m just upset with the decision I made on the last play,” Pryor said. “I was just trying to force it and make a touchdown and made a poor throw, and I’ve got to be better.”
The result allowed Denver at least some measure of atonement for the Super Bowl loss. “It felt great to convert,” said Denver receiver Demaryius Thomas. “We really weren’t able to do that the last time we played.”
Emotions appeared to run high during the first quarter when the starters were on the field.
“They did a great job of coming out and challenging us,” said Seattle safety Earl Thomas.
There were eight penalties in the quarter, with Seattle getting called for one taunting call, and also an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The latter came after Denver’s touchdown when Seahawk Michael Bennett and Demaryius Thomas grappled on the ground in the end zone. Seattle linebacker K.J. Wright rushed in to defend Bennett and drew a flag. Later in the game, cornerback Tharold Simon was ejected for striking Denver’s Winston Justice.
“It’s bad football when we’re doing that,” Carroll said, adding that the penalties “kind of shrouded the game.”
Not much separated the two teams when the main units were on the field.
Each team played its starting quarterback and primary offensive and defensive starters for two quarters. And each team responded with one long touchdown drive and a punt on those series, to leave the game tied at 7 before the reserves took over.
Denver drove 61 yards on 10 plays the second time it had the ball, with Peyton Manning hitting 9 of 11 passes for 63 yards.
After a 45-minute lightning delay, Seattle responded with a somewhat-bizarre 14-play, 90-yard drive in which the Seahawks got four first downs thanks to Denver penalties. It ended with a 1-yard run by Christine Michael that tied the score at 7.
That capped the night for Wilson, who was 4 of 6 for 37 yards.
“I thought the ones did OK,” Carroll said.
Tarvaris Jackson led a drive for a field goal that gave Seattle a 10-7 halftime lead.
After Denver took a 14-10 lead, Pryor led a drive for a field goal, and an interception led to another that put Seattle ahead 16-14. Denver quickly responded with a Brock Osweiler 34-yard TD pass to Jordan Norwood to take a 21-16 lead with 7:22 remaining.
Pryor then drove Seattle 86 yards, but couldn’t get the final 3.
The two teams won’t have long before they renew hostilities. Denver comes to Seattle for a regular-season game on Sept. 21.
“It’s going to be a battle,” Wilson said.