Running back Leon Washington returned a pair of kicks for touchdowns, and the defense forced five turnovers, helping the Seattle Seahawks to a 27-20 win over the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.
Seattle used three Chargers’ fumbles and a 9-yard touchdown pass from Matt Hasselbeck to John Carlson to jump out to a 10-0 lead at halftime.
Despite the edge on the scoreboard, the Seahawks entered the locker room feeling that the left at least 10 points on the field.
Wide receiver Deion Branch scored what appeared to be a 42-yard touchdown, only to have Chargers cornerback Paul Oliver knock the ball loose from Branch’s right arm inches from the goal-line. The ball rolled through the back of the end zone for a touchback.
With the ball at the San Diego 2-yard line at the end of the first half, Seahawks offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates curiously called for Hasselbeck to run a quarterback draw with no timeouts and just 19 seconds remaining on the clock. The Seahawks’ picked up the first down, but could not get the field goal unit on the field in time, and came away with no points.
Red zone miscues aside, the Seahawks' offense played well at times in the first half. Hasselbeck was 16-of-25 for 203 yards and a touchdown, Justin Forsett rushed for 45 yards on 11 carries, and Carlson, Branch, and rookie Golden Tate each had four receptions.
The Seahawks were 5-of-8 on third downs and enjoyed a nearly two-minute edge in the time of possession.
Seattle's offense went south in the second half, gaining just 26 yards on 18 plays in 8 minutes of possession. The Seahawks needed the defense and special teams to come through, and both units did so in a big way.
Washington, a former Pro Bowl return specialist who missed most of 2009 with a gruesome leg injury, returned the opening the kick a franchise-record 101 yards for a touchdown, increasing the Seahawks’ lead to 17-0.
As they would throughout the second half, the Chargers responded quickly, with Philip Rivers needing just three passes to matriculate the ball down the field, capping off a four-play drive with a three-yard touchdown pass to Malcolm Floyd.
San Diego added a safety and a field goal to enter the fourth quarter trailing by just five points.
Early in the fourth quarter, Seahawks rookie safety Earl Thomas picked up his first NFL interception, snaring a tipped pass intended for Antonio Gates and returning the ball 34 yards to the Chargers’ 11-yard line.
Seattle’s red zone offense once again struggled, though, failing to take advantage of the excellent field position extend their lead to two scores, as Olindo Mare drilled a 23-yard field goal.
Rivers would again respond, engineering a 9-play, 65-yard drive that ended with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Gates. Rivers would hit Legedu Naanee for the two-point conversion that would tie the score at 20.
The Chargers' special teams opted to kick the ball deep to Washington, who received some excellent blocks as he returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, giving the Seahawks the decisive touchdown in the 27-20 win.
Rivers, who passed for a team-record 455 yards, which also happened to be the most the Seahawks have allowed in their history, drove the Chargers to the Seattle 12-yard line before Thomas leaped in front of a pass intended for Naanee at the goal-line to grab his second interception that would preserve the win.
Notes: Aaron Curry (hamstring), Marcus Trufant (ankle), and Mike Williams (shoulder) all left the game with injuries. Of the three, Williams would return, and Williams and Curry tweeted after the game that their injuries were not serious…Chris Clemons had a pair of sacks and four total hits on Rivers…Red Bryant recovered two of the three fumbles the Seahawks forced…Rookie safety Kam Chancellor forced a fumble…36-year old safety Lawyer Milloy had a team-high 12 tackles.