SEATTLE — With the offense not clicking and the defense struggling to stop San Diego’s passing game, the Seahawks needed a spark.
Leon Washington gave them two.
Washington, who the Seahawks acquired in a trade this offseason, returned two kickoffs for touchdowns, including a 99-yarder in the fourth quarter for the go-ahead score, as the Seahawks knocked off the Chargers 27-20 in front of 67,106 fans at Qwest Field.
Washington also opened the second half with a 101-yard return, and ended the day with 253 return yards. His efforts, along with those of a defense that forced five turnovers, were enough for the Seahawks to win despite numerous flaws.
The Seahawks were outgained by the Chargers 518-271, they had 14 fewer first downs, 12 minutes less time of possession, and managed just one offensive touchdown despite forcing five turnovers. Seattle also let time run out in the first half with no points to show for a drive that reached the 1-yard line. That came not long after Deion Branch fumbled on his way into the end zone with what appeared to be a 42-yard touchdown, so even though the Seahawks went into the locker room with a 10-0 halftime lead, they felt like it could have been 24-0.
And with San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers putting up big numbers, that lead wasn’t enough for a comfortable win, even after Washington made it 17-0 on the first play of the second half. Rivers, who finished with a franchise-record 455 passing yards, led the Chargers to two second-half touchdowns, but with his team needing one more score to tie the game late, he was intercepted by Earl Thomas at the goal line, ending the comeback hopes.
“It’s not the way you draw it up, but it is what it was,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “You can live with those mistakes and still beat them, because we did. Obviously this is not the way we want to do it.”
But even if it wasn’t how the Seahawks wanted to win, the fact remains that they managed to improve to 2-1 this season by beating a team that won 13 games last season, and did so despite playing far from their best football. For a franchise that won only nine games over the past two seasons, that has to be viewed as a positive.
As for how the Seahawks could manage a win despite being outgained by 247 yards, defensive end Chris Clemons offered up the simplest explanation.
“Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers,” he said. “And oh, man, Leon. Thank God for Leon.”
If not for Washington, the Seahawks likely would be kicking themselves for letting one slip through their hands. A week after the Seahawks failed to force a turnover, the defense did just that on the game’s first possession. The offense followed with a three-and-out. Two possessions later the Seahawks moved the ball to the San Diego 2-yard line, then went backward on the next two plays and had to settle for a field goal. After the defense forced a three-and-out, Golden Tate gave Seattle a short field with a 31-yard punt return, but Matt Hasselbeck threw an interception on the next play.
The list goes on and on – and includes a second half that featured just one first down and 26 yards of offense – but in the end it didn’t matter.
The defense came up with stops on Chargers’ final two possessions. Aided by back-to-back false start penalties, the defense stopped the Chargers on fourth down with 2:28 left in the game when Roy Lewis broke up a pass in the end zone. Following a three-and-out by the offense, the defense made one final stop when Thomas came up with his second interception of the game on fourth-and-15.
“We’re not going to win like that all the time,” Carroll said. “It took something out of the ordinary, and that’s where the kicking game stepped up and came through for us.”
Seahawks 27, Chargers 20
Sea—FG Mare 23
Sea—Carlson 9 pass from Hasselbeck (Mare kick)
Sea—Washington 101 kickoff return (Mare kick)
SD—Floyd 3 pass from Rivers (Kaeding kick)
SD—FG Kaeding 29
Sea—FG Mare 23
SD—Gates 12 pass from Rivers (Naanee pass from Rivers
Sea—Washington 99 kickoff return (Mare kick)
|Total Net Yards||518||271|
|Time of Poss.||36:04||23:56|
RUSHING—San Diego, Tolbert 17-73, Sproles 1-16, Rivers 1-2, Naanee 2-(minus 2). Seattle, Forsett 17-63, Hasselbeck 3-5, Washington 1-0.
PASSING—San Diego, Rivers 29-53-2-455. Seattle, Hasselbeck 19-32-1-220.
RECEIVING—San Diego, Gates 7-109, Floyd 6-97, Naanee 4-53, Davis 3-82, Crayton 3-57, Tolbert 3-17, McMichael 1-28, Sproles 1-10, Hester 1-2. Seattle, Carlson 5-61, Branch 5-60, Tate 4-33, Forsett 3-31, Williams 2-35.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—None.