Happy returns for Seattle
SEATTLE — Leon Washington made sure to thank everyone else before taking a moment to think a little selfishly.
How close was Seattle's dynamic running back from returning three kickoffs back for touchdowns on Sunday?
"A slip away," Washington said.
Two touchdown returns were good enough for the Seahawks.
Washington made up for a Seattle slew of mistakes and missed chances, returning second-half kickoffs 101 and 99 yards for touchdowns to tie an NFL record, and the Seahawks held off Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers 27-20 on Sunday.
Pete Carroll's crew is a surprising 2-1 and tied at the top of the mediocre NFC West. And Washington looks like a colossal steal after Seattle grabbed the versatile back from the New York Jets for a fifth-round pick during April's draft.
With a metal rod in his right leg, Washington was deemed expendable in New York. Sunday, he was invaluable for the Seahawks.
"I really truly appreciate the Jets for letting him go, for sending him here for pretty much nothing," Seattle receiver Deion Branch said.
When Washington was traded, Seattle brought in a bit of an unknown. Washington had 31/2; productive seasons with the Jets, but his entire career was jeopardized by the gruesome compound leg fracture last season.
Thirteen seconds at the start of the second half should put those questions about Washington to rest.
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 (1-2) even with a 12-yard pass to Antonio Gates and 2-point conversion to Legedu 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 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."
Rivers finished with a career-best and franchise record 455 yards passing and a pair of touchdowns. He 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 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 rookie safety Earl Thomas with 6 seconds left.
Finally, the normally exuberant Carroll could smile and get a bear hug from defensive line coach Dan Quinn.
Rivers completed 29 of 53 passes and had two touchdowns and two interceptions. Gates finished with seven catches for 109 yards and a score, one of nine players to catch passes.
"To make it as simple as you can: five turnovers ... two special teams touchdowns, that's a recipe for a loss," Rivers said.
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.