With the Seahawks offense finally showing signs of life the last few weeks using a no-huddle offense engineered by quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, backup Charlie Whitehurst was left to practice the no-huddle on his own.
Whitehurst hadn’t had many opportunities in practice to get acclimated to the team’s new high-paced offense. His experience was limited strictly to work in the preseason and in the team’s hotel rooms on Saturday nights.
“It’s something that I knew we were going to do so you kind of do it in your hotel room by yourself,” Whitehurst said.
It was time well spent as Whitehurst was called upon to take the reins of the offense early in the second half against the New York Giants on Sunday.
Jackson suffered a high grade strain of his right pectoral after getting hit by a trio of Giants defenders on an option run early in the third quarter.
Whitehurst replaced Jackson and the offense struggled to gain a rhythm — taking penalties and struggling to move the ball down field.
Then Whitehurst rounded up the offense on the sidelines and worked to get everyone on the same page.
“He went over to the line on the bench and they talked about the plan — communicate, snap count, this and that,” assistant head coach Tom Cable said. “Then from there on out he was ready to go and he got on their page, or they got on his page, however you want to look at it. But it came together then and from there we started succeeding again. So you have to be very pleased about what he did.”
Whitehurst led the Seahawks to a go-ahead touchdown on a 27-yard pass to Doug Baldwin with just over two minutes to play. An interception that Brandon Browner ran back for a touchdown sealed the 36-25 win minutes later. Whitehurst threw for 149 yards in the second half and the touchdown to Baldwin as Seattle picked up its first win on the road against a New York area team since 1983.
“We got a really good performance from Charlie,” coach Pete Carroll said. “He did the things we needed to do to keep the game moving and then had enough there to finish it off and get the touchdown drive that we needed to win the football game, so we’re really pleased about that.”
The Seahawks have a bye this week, which gives Jackson two weeks to try to recover before the team faces the Cleveland Browns on Oct. 23. Carroll said Jackson will not take any snaps during practice this week with Whitehurst working with the first-team offense in his absence.
“If I’m called to start, I’ll be ready to do that,” Whitehurst said. “I’ll prepare like I’m the starter these next two weeks and if they need me, I’ll be ready.”
Whitehurst led the Seahawks to a 16-6 victory over the St. Louis Rams in the de-facto NFC West title game a year ago. Matt Hasselbeck was sidelined with a strained back then, thrusting Whitehurst into starting duty in a winner-take-all Week 17 matchup with the division title and a playoff spot on the line.
Whitehurst threw for 192 yards and a touchdown as the Seahawks earned the win.
With Hasselbeck departing for Tennessee this offseason, many though Whitehurst would get a chance at the starting job. Instead, the team signed Jackson and gave him the starting nod from day one.
With Jackson’s immediate future still uncertain, Whitehurst could finally have the opportunity he’s been looking for to prove himself as a starter in the NFL.
“It’s not really something that I control,” Whitehurst said. “I can’t control who coach plays, but Tarvaris has done a great job. He’s had a few really good games and you just be ready when your number is called.”