SEATTLE (AP) — Paxton Lynch insisted the opponent provided no extra incentive or motivation. After spending last year out of the NFL, Lynch had his own motivation.
“I just wanted to show myself all the hard work I had put in had paid off,” Lynch said. “I had a long offseason basically. While everyone else was playing I was at home, I wasn’t playing, I was watching on TV. I was working hard. I was building myself up, believing in myself and trying to get back to where I was, and trying to figure out how I could do that.”
Lynch threw for one score and ran for another against his former team as part of an impressive second-half performance, leading the Seattle Seahawks to a 22-14 win over the Denver Broncos on Thursday night.
Competing with Geno Smith for the backup job behind Russell Wilson, Lynch made up for some shaky moments during the first two weeks of training camp by leading Seattle on a trio of second-half scoring drives using both his arm and legs to move Seattle’s offense.
Lynch was 11 of 15 for 109 yards and added another 38 yard rushing. He hit 6-foot-5, undrafted free agent Jazz Ferguson on a 6-yard TD in the third quarter, and added a 9-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter by bulling through Denver defenders at the goal line.
Lynch was a former first-round pick of the Broncos in 2016, only to be released before the start of last season and spent the year out of football.
“He lit up the whole team. It was really good,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said.
Joe Flacco made his Denver debut, although it was a brief appearance for the Broncos’ starting QB. Flacco played just one series and completed 3 of 4 passes for 19 yards, leading to a field goal before turning it over to backups Kevin Hogan and a lengthy look at rookie Drew Lock.
“Obviously you want to put the ball in the end zone there, but we did some simple things very well and it was definitely good to get out there and get live-action,” Flacco said.
Lock struggled in his first outing last week against Atlanta in the Hall of Fame game, but was better against Seattle. Lock was 17 of 28 for 180 yards. He threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Devontae Jackson late in the fourth quarter, but was intercepted after being hit with 2:01 left.
“Obviously, it can be better, but I thought he’d made progress this week both in practice and in the game and I think it showed at times out there,” Denver coach Vic Fangio said. “But you know, it’s still a process for him and I don’t know how long it’s going to take, but I think this past week and this game were great for him.”
Lynch and Smith split duties in the opener with Wilson spending the evening as a spectator. Smith was asked to face a good chunk of Denver’s starting defense initially, including Von Miller, but even against reserves the night was a struggle for the veteran as Seattle’s reserve offensive line couldn’t consistently give Smith time in the pocket.
Smith was 3 of 9 for 58 yards and a passer rating of 56.7, although he nearly had a 34-yard touchdown connection with DK Metcalf late in the first half only to see the pass tip off Metcalf’s outstretched fingers.
Lynch took over at halftime and led Seattle on a pair of third-quarter scoring drives, the first leading to a 43-yard field goal from Jason Myers and the second capped with his strike to Ferguson.
Ferguson finished with four catches for 54 yards.
Carroll said Smith will undergo surgery on Friday to have a cyst removed from his knee. The surgery is minor and Carroll said there is a chance Smith could be back in time for Seattle’s next preseason game on Aug. 18.
Denver lost rookie tight end Austin Fort to an apparent left knee injury after making a 29-yard catch in the fourth quarter. Fort immediately grabbed at his knee after planting his foot and had to be carted off the field. Fangio said Fort would get an MRI back in Denver.
Seattle picked up a pair of notable injuries to offensive tackle/tight end George Fant and running back Bo Scarbrough. Fant left in the first half with what Carroll called a “legit” right ankle sprain after getting rolled up from behind while blocking downfield. Scarbrough, who was expected to get the bulk of carries in the second half, injured his hand in the third quarter. X-rays on Scarbrough’s hand were negative.
Seahawks Duane Brown, Quinton Jefferson and Branden Jackson remained in the locker room during the national anthem, before joining their teammates on the sideline. It was a continuation of what the trio did during the anthem last season.
Broncos: Denver will host San Francisco on Monday, Aug. 19.
Seahawks: Seattle travels to Minnesota on Sunday, Aug. 18.