Washington’s 2 TD returns help Seahawks top Bolts

Philip Rivers threw for a record amount of passing yards for a

franchise known for tossing it all over the field. The San Diego

defense allowed just 26 yards of offense and one first down by

Seattle in the second half.

However, the Chargers had no answers for Leon Washington.

Seattle’s dynamic running back/kick returner returned

second-half kickoffs of 101 and 99 yards for touchdowns to tie an

NFL record, and the Seahawks held off the aerial display from

Rivers to beat the Chargers 27-20 on Sunday.

Washington, acquired in a trade with the New York Jets during

the April draft, made up for a Seattle slew of mistakes, missed

chances and an anemic performance by the Seahawks’ offense to pull

out a most unlikely victory.

”I really truly appreciate the Jets for letting him go, for

sending him here for pretty much nothing,” Seattle receiver Deion

Branch said.

While Pete Carroll’s crew is flying after a surprising 2-1 start

and find themselves tied on top of the mediocre NFC West, the

Chargers are already answering many of the same questions about

underachievement following a 1-2 start that many expected to be

3-0.

”You’re going to ask that question every time we get in this

situation,” Chargers coach Norv Turner said. ”I like this

football team an awful lot. I like the talent we have on the

football team. You can say we’re underachieving, overachieving. …

I guess a guy’s underachieving if he turns the ball over.”

If watching Washington take two kickoffs back for scores wasn’t

frustrating enough for the Chargers, the five turnovers only piled

on to their list of problems. San Diego fumbled three times,

including one by Mike Tolbert at the Seattle 7 in the first half.

Rivers was intercepted twice by Earl Thomas, Seattle’s rookie

safety. Thomas stepped in front of Rivers’ attempt for Legedu

Naanee at the goal line with 6 seconds left.

The interceptions were the only blights on Rivers’ day. He threw

for a career- and franchise-best 455 yards, completing 29 of 53

throws. But the Chargers dropped to 0-3 in games when Rivers has

thrown for more than 375 yards.

”To make it as simple as you can: five turnovers … two

special teams touchdowns, that’s a recipe for a loss,” Rivers

said.

Rivers picked apart Seattle’s maligned secondary for much of the

second half, only to get turned away twice in the final 3 minutes

deep in Seattle’s end.

Rivers led San Diego to the Seattle 14 before a pair of false

starts backed up the offense. On fourth-and-15 at the Seattle 19,

his pass for Antonio Gates at the goal line was knocked away by Roy

Lewis.

Rivers got one more chance after San Diego’s defense held.

Starting at his 45, Rivers completed passes of 16 yards to Buster

Davis and 25 yards to Malcom Floyd. His final chance was

intercepted by Thomas.

”You hate to lose this way,” Gates said. ”Obviously, our

defense did an outstanding job in continuing to give us chances to

come back and tie the game up. This is a tough one to

swallow.”

Washington was the hero for a Seattle offense that made

countless first-half mistakes and never got started in the second

half.

Washington caught the second-half kickoff 1-yard deep in the end

zone, and other than a couple of flailing hands grasping at his

shoes, went untouched for the longest kickoff return in Seahawks

history. Seattle’s time-management meltdown at the end of the first

half that cost them points suddenly didn’t look so bad.

His dash midway through the fourth quarter was the clincher.

Rivers had just pulled San Diego even with a 12-yard pass to Gates

and 2-point conversion to Naanee with 6:39 left.

Fifteen seconds later, Seattle was back in front. Washington got

lost in a pile, squirted free and raced 99 yards to give Seattle

its final advantage. He is the 10th player to return two kickoffs

in for a TD in a game.

He might have gotten a third, but Washington slipped trying to

make a cut during a 33-yard return at the end of the third

quarter.

”My thing is not to get satisfied, don’t get complacent and

always give glory to God and work hard,” Washington said. ”I’m a

talented enough football player to play football, I was born to

play football. I just go out every week and work hard and know

eventually good things are going to happen.”

San Diego played without rookie running back Ryan Mathews

(injured ankle). The Chargers also lost star linebacker Shawne

Merriman to a calf injury in the first quarter and starting right

guard Louis Vasquez to a knee injury. Along with the injuries, San

Diego struggled with the turnovers and Rivers was sacked another

four times.

”We gave up 14 points (on special teams). That shouldn’t have

beat us,” Tolbert said.