Has anyone checked Qwest Field after Sunday’s game? Because, I’m wondering if Chargers Coach Norv Turner waited to get back to San Diego or if they just started running special teams drills until the janitor turned the lights out.
I don’t think it wouldn’t surprise anyone if they were still out there drilling after Leon Washington took two kickoffs the entire length of the field to lead the Seahawks to a 27-20 win over the Chargers.
The game wasn’t merely won of the back of Washington’s returns. Seattle’s defense came up huge despite giving up 518 yards. The defense dominated in the first half, forcing two fumbles and shutting down the Chargers attempt to get the running game going.
As close as the game ultimately was, the second quarter provided the Seahawks offense with many opportunities that would have easily put the game out of reach for the Chargers.
The second quarter started with Matt Hasselbeck connecting with Justin Forsett and John Carlson for a couple of big yardage plays. But the offense failed to get the ball into the end zone after getting the ball down to the two. Mare kicked a field goal to get the Seahawks on the board first.
after getting a 30-yard punt return from Golden Tate, Seattle’s very next play was an attempt by Hasselbeck to connect with Mike Williams in the end zone. But the Chargers’ corner had position on Williams and came down with the jump ball.
One of the defense’s first half turnovers kept San Diego off the board, and Matt marched the team back down the field. This time he connected on a deep pass with Deion Branch. Initially called a 42-yard touchdown, the replay showed that the ball was knocked out of Branch’s hands at the one-yard line and was fumbled through the end zone for a San Diego touchback.
With a little bit of luck, Seattle could have been up 21-0 at this point (and probably should have been up at least 17-0). The score remained 3-0 until Matt connected with Carlson on a touchdown on the subsequent drive that took only three plays and 22 seconds off the clock.
With less than a minute left in the first half, San Diego was due to get the ball back but the Seahawks were able to force a fumble givng them the ball on the 24-yard line.
If you happened to be watching the game at this point, you’ll appreciate that reading this recap will take less time than the last minute and a half of the first quarter. With reviews by the officials on the Branch fumble, the Carlson touchdown and the Chargers fumble on the return, it took nearly a half hour to make sure that two relatively easy calls were correct. Yet the refs needed that much time to overturn two of the three calls they made on the field.
It’s a little tough complaining about officiating after a win, but it’s not tough to complain about clock management in the final seconds of the second half. Again Seattle left points on the field as they drove down to the 2-yard line. Instead of attempting a play on second down, the ball was spiked only to try a quarterback sneak with 19 seconds left on the clock and no timeouts. After the failed run, the field goal team couldn’t get set up in time and Seattle went into the locker room with only 10 points.
As fortunate as San Diego may have felt going into halftime, their special teams didn’t look as though they were ready to start the second half. Leon Washington absolutely blew by everyone and was barely touched on his 101-yard touchdown return.
And if you’re wondering how they game was even close after Seattle dominated the first half and after opening with a second half return – it was San Diego’s offense that completely dominated the second half. Did Seattle’s offense even have the ball in the second half? Although it was primarily due to Washington’s two returns, it turns out Seattle only had the ball for less than seven minutes.
After Washington’s first return, San Diego was able to slowly climb back into the game with one of their own touchdown drives. The Seahawks’ defense shut down the following drive in Seahawk territory, but a punt down near the goal line allowed San Diego to put two more points on the board when they sacked Hasselbeck for a safety.
The Chargers then got within five points after a field goal, but thanks to an Earl Thomas interception and return down to the 10-yard line, the Seahawks were able to counter with a field goal of their own to go up 20-12 in the early minutes of the fourth quarter.
The next five minutes of the game were perhaps the most frustrating for Seahawks fans to watch. San Diego was able to quickly drive down to the two yard line. On a 3rd and 2, Seattle narrowly missed intercepting a touchdown pass to Antonio Gates only to be saved by a holding call that brought the ball back to the 12. The very next play was a touchdown pass to Antonio Gates.
Much of the success by the Chargers in the second half was due to Antonio Gates being open on nearly every big third down, including these two passes. It was so blatant that I started to wonder if the Hawks were leaving the guy open on purpose. If that was the case, I clearly don’t have any sense of football strategy, because it seems to me that he’s a guy you want to cover (easier said than done I suppose).
On the ensuing 2-point conversion attempt, Seattle was again saved by a penalty when Chargers receiver Legedu Naanee was called for illegal touching after coming from out of bounds to catch the ball. On San Diego’s second attempt to convert from the 7-yard line, they went right back to Naanee and tied the score at 20.
The momentum was clearly in San Diego’s favor at this point, and maybe the Chargers’ special teams thought Washington was still gassed from running the length of the field a short time ago, because they decided to kick it to him again. This time they were able to get a few hands on him, but none were able to bring him down on his 99-yard touchdown run. So not only did Washington become first AND second on the list for longest Seahawks kickoff returns, he also became the franchise leader in kickoff returns for touchdowns. The Jets let this guy go for a fifth round draft pick?
That return left no rest for a defense that had been on the field for most of the half, and Phillip Rivers continued to roll up the passing yards as he drove the team into the red zone.
The 12th man then served the team in outstanding fashion, as the Chargers were backed up 10 yards on two consecutive false start penalties.
Although the Chargers were able to get some of those yards back, they were forced into a tough decision on fourth down on whether to kick a field goal with 2:30 left or go for the touchdown. They decided to go for it and again the fans brought the noise. Rivers was unable to get the play off in time and that backed them up again before failing to convert, and the Chargers turned it over on downs.
In getting the ball back, Seattle wasn’t able to do anything besides forcing San Diego to use up all of their timeouts and punting it away with a little more than 90 seconds on the clock. Forcing them to use all their timeouts came in handy when San Diego again made it inside the red zone and the Chargers had what would have been a touchdown pass if the play clock had not reached zero.
After the delay of game, Seattle then had Gates well covered when Rivers went back to him on third down in the end zone. Finally, the guy was covered on third down!
That brought up fourth down with 15 seconds left on the clock and the Chargers needing the touchdown and extra point to tie. This time Rivers went back to Naanee, and Earl Thomas stepped in front of him to haul in the interception and preserve the win for the Seahawks!
After the game, Coach Turner commented on the noise and its affect on the delay of game calls, “It’s loud and then it gets loud and then it gets louder when the game’s on the line so we did everything we could to manage it. Two of the plays I think Philip thought he got the ball off right at zero. Obviously, there were a couple we didn’t.”
Say all you want about the defense giving up 518 yards. It was defense that helped put the team in the position to win the game with five turnovers and four sacks.
Lawyer Malloy agreed that the focus shouldn’t be on the yardage numbers, “We had turnovers, we hit them. I don’t think they’ve been hit like that. So you can focus on the 500 yards, I’m focusing on the win, and that’s what we’re all about.”
As well as the defense played to get the win, the hero of the day was clearly Leon Washington. And the one guy who needs to write Leon a fat check is Deion Branch. After losing the ball right at the goal line and costing the team a big first half score, he doesn’t even make the highlight reels.
With the win, Seattle continues to hold the top spot in the NFC West at 2-1. They would have sole position of first place if not for a missed chip shot by the Raiders as the clock expired in Arizona. The Rams were able to pick up a win against the Redskins and for the first time in a while do not hold the distinction of being last in the division. That position belongs to the 49ers who were absolutely destroyed, 31-10, by the Chiefs. The loss sealed the fate of San Francisco’s offensive coordinator who was fired the day after the loss. And one has to wonder if things don’t turn around that there might be more heads rolling considering the expectations piled on the team at the start of the season.
The schedule doesn’t get any easier for San Francisco who faces off against the Falcons in Atlanta next week. The Falcons beat the Saints in New Orleans this week on an overtime field goal. Arizona now has the pleasure of facing the Chargers in San Diego, who will no doubt be fired up at home and going for the win. Seattle will travel to St. Louis.
Finally, I just want to mention that it wasn’t just the 12th man that played a part in the Seahawks win this week. I can’t help but think our own Military Sea Hawkers President Traci Williams had something to do with Washington’s performance in the big win.
While on the field prepping the honor guard before kickoff, Washington just about knocked Traci to the ground after grabbing her and yelling, “ARE YOU READY FOR THIS GAME!!???” In return, she grabbed him and pounded on his back yelling back to him, “YOU better be ready! It’s YOUR game today! GO GET ‘EM!!!”
I think Traci and Leon need to start running into each other before every game. I know if I were Leon, I would be doing the same routine before EVERY game after that performance even down to making sure I used the same number of toothbrush strokes and having the exact tension on my shoelaces.
As good as Traci’s motivational quote was, the best quote of the day honor goes to Golden Tate, who tweeted out, “I wanna be like Leon Washington when I grow up.”
Me too, Golden. Me too.