SEATTLE - Several key Denver Broncos starters were injured in Saturday's preseason loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
Peyton Manning played the first 1½ quarters and threw an 11-yard touchdown to Wes Welker, and Von Miller played briefly after missing his first training camp practice Thursday to consult with the union's lawyers over the appeal of his suspension.
But those appearances were secondary for the Broncos. Starting defensive end Derek Wolfe was taken off the field on a stretcher after injuring his neck in the first quarter. Denver later saw starting right guard Louis Vasquez leave with a left knee injury. The Broncos already had lost center Dan Koppen for the season with a torn ACL early in camp.
"We need to get a few guys that have been injured back on the field, try to form the identity and the chemistry of this team," Manning said. "We haven't had all of our players at full speed, so hopefully that can start a little more this week, I know there were a few injuries tonight, but we still have work we need put in and improvements we need to make."
Wolfe was hurt with 9 minutes left in the quarter on Seattle's first offensive drive when he was blocked on a running play during which the Seahawks' Robert Turbin gained 8 yards. The Broncos said Wolfe was being evaluated for a cervical spine injury and had movement in all of his extremities.
Denver coach John Fox said a CT scan showed no broken bones and the team said Wolfe was expected to fly on the team charter back to Denver tonight.
Wolfe was initially cut on the play by Seattle's Luke Willson. As Wolfe was getting back up, fullback Michael Robinson collided with Wolfe and appeared to compress his head and neck. Wolfe remained on the ground and appeared to be moving his legs initially, but medical personnel strapped him to a backboard and took him away in an ambulance.
"It's a scary situation," Welker said. "You're just praying for him and hoping that everything is OK and you definitely get concerned when you see the ambulance come out and things like that. Just hoping for the best."
A year ago, Wilson was still fighting to earn the starting job. After getting two series last week against San Diego, Wilson played the entire first half and looked ready for the regular season. He finished 8 of 12 passing for 127 yards and two touchdowns. He hit Kearse to cap the Seahawks' first drive and Sean McGrath juggled and caught a 3-yard TD from Wilson late in the first half.
Manning appeared just as ready, with Denver rolling up 209 offensive yards in the first half, mostly against Seattle's starting defense and most of that coming from Manning. He finished 11 of 16 for 163 yards and his TD toss to Welker, but neither Ronnie Hillman (13 carries for 34 yards) nor Montee Ball (six carries, 28 yards) was able to establish much in the run game.
The turnovers led to Seattle make it a blowout.
Denver tight end Julius Thomas was stripped by Browner following a 20-yard completion in Seattle territory in the first quarter. Heath Farwell later caused Hillman to fumble as he tried to stretch across the goal line and Browner returned the fumble from deep in the end zone to put Seattle up 24-7.
"I thought I was over the goal line, but anytime anything comes loose you don't want to have it picked up by anybody else," Hillman said. "I should have held on to the ball."
Late in the first half, Schofield was able to knock the ball out of quarterback Brock Osweiler’s hand and fall on the fumble. That led to Wilson's TD toss to McGrath and a 33-7 lead at halftime.
Stephen Williams added a 39-yard TD catch in the second half for Seattle, his second long TD reception in two games.
With Percy Harvin out after hip surgery, it seemed very likely wide receiver Jermaine Kearse would end up on the Seattle Seahawks final roster.
He likely cemented his spot Saturday night, showing off skills he last displayed in high school.
Kearse caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from Russell Wilson and returned a kickoff 107 yards for a score and the Seahawks used big plays to rout the Denver Broncos 40-10 in a preseason game.
Kearse last returned kicks at Lakes High School less than an hour south of Seattle. He was approached this week about giving it a shot, with the return game one of Seattle's main question marks with Harvin out.
"They came to me and asked if I could return and I wasn't going to say no," Kearse said. "I got some reps during the week and on Friday coach Carroll told me I was going to be able to get the first one. It was definitely a blessing."
Brandon Browner added a 106-yard fumble return for a touchdown, one of three turnovers forced by the Seahawks in the first half. Browner earlier forced a fumble and O’Brien Schofield also had a forced fumble and recovery.
"When I looked up I saw nothing but green ahead of me," Browner said. "I only saw offensive linemen and I'll always take my chances against offensive linemen."