Seattle, WA (Sports Network) – Leon Washington returned a pair of kickoffs for touchdowns, including the go-ahead 99-yard burst with 6:24 remaining in the fourth quarter, as the Seattle Seahawks held off San Diego, 27-20, at Qwest Field.
Washington, who was traded to Seattle from the New York Jets in April, rumbled a team-record 101 yards for a score in the third quarter for the Seahawks, who forced five turnovers. Two of those were interceptions by rookieEarl Thomas, including a pick of Philip Rivers inside the Seattle 10-yard line in the waning seconds.
"It's important for us to show that we can play against a team like this," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "Leon was just magical today."
Rivers threw for a career-high 455 yards, going 29-of-53 with two scores and the two interceptions. Antonio Gates had seven receptions for 109 yards and a TD for the Chargers (1-2), who played a good portion of the game without star linebacker Shawne Merriman. He suffered a calf injury in the first quarter.
"Every team has issues, we have issues, we have to protect the football and cover kickoffs," Chargers coach Norv Turner said. "We have some young guys who have not been as consistent as they should be. We need to make some personnel changes. If you turn the ball over you are underachieving, we cannot make that many turnovers."
Thomas' first interception of the day led to Olindo Mare's 23-yard field goal with 11:27 left in the fourth quarter, expanding the Seahawks' lead to 20-12.
The Chargers then overcame a pair of penalties to tie the game. Rivers engineered a nine-play, 65-yard march, finishing it with a 12-yard TD pass to Gates in the middle of the end zone. The catch came after Gates made an end zone reception from two yards out, as offensive tackle Brandyn Dombrowski was whistled for holding. On the two-point conversion try, Legedu Naanee made the end zone catch, but was ruled to go out of bounds first. On the next play though, Rivers hooked up with Naanee in the right side of the end zone to even the score with 6:39 remaining.
Washington, though received the ensuing kickoff and stayed on his feet despite being hit by Jacob Hester while running up the middle. Washington then raced past defenders for his sixth career kickoff return for a touchdown.
The Chargers, though, forced a punt and got the ball back with 1:38 left. Rivers moved his team from the San Diego 45 to the Seattle 17, but the drive stalled. On 4th-and-15, Rivers threw toward the end zone for Naanee, but Thomas came up with the ball at the five and was tackled at the Seattle 26 to seal the outcome.
Naanee fumbled the ball away on San Diego's first possession of the game and Seattle broke on top early in the second on Mare's 23-yard field goal.
San Diego had another miscue, this time costing the Chargers points in the second quarter. David Hawthornestripped Mike Tolbert of the ball at the Seattle five and Red Bryant recovered for the Seahawks.
Deion Branch then scored on a 42-yard pass play from Hasselbeck with 1:38 left in the half, but the Chargers challenged the call as free safety Paul Oliver punched the ball away just as Branch was crossing the goal line. San Diego won the challenge and got the ball at the 20, as it went out of the back of the end zone.
After a punt, though, Seattle did expand its lead to 10-0 on Hasselbeck's nine-yard TD connection to tight endJohn Carlson with 53 seconds left in the half.
The Seahawks forced another fumble on the ensuing kickoff, but ran out of time for a field goal try while at the San Diego two.
After Washington ran back the second-half kickoff for a score, Rivers got the Chargers within 17-7 on a three-yard TD pass to Malcolm Floyd. It came one play after a Buster Davis 49-yard catch.
Brandon Siler sacked Hasselbeck in the end zone for a safety with 4 1/2 minutes left in the third and Nate Kaeding split the uprights from 29 yards away to get the Chargers within five points going to the fourth.
Mare extended his team record with his 24th straight made field goal...Seahawks cornerback Marcus Trufantleft the game with an ankle injury, while Chargers guard Louis Vasquez departed with a knee injury...Floyd had six catches for 97 yards...Tolbert rushed 17 times for 73 yards, while Justin Forsett led the Seattle ground game with 63 yards on 17 attempts...San Diego had 518 yards of offense...The two kickoff returns for TDs ties an NFL record.