SAN DIEGO — The team bus just left Qualcomm Stadium.
It only seems like the Seahawks’ defense is still on that field.
After running just 40 plays – 35 fewer than San Diego did in its pitch-and-catch, first-down fest between Philip Rivers and revitalized tight end Antonio Gates – Seattle’s offense was left more idled than inert.
The defense was just in exhaustion.
“We were trying to keep number three (Russell Wilson) off the field as much as we could,” Chargers coach Mike McCoy said.
Mission accomplished — for San Diego, that is, not Seattle.
“We weren’t on the field much,” Seahawks wide receiver Percy Harvin said, summing up San Diego’s 42:15-17:45 edge in time of possession and control of the game all day, which ended with the Seahawks losing 30-21 at roasting Qualcomm Stadium on Sunday.
Days after saying “I need the ball,” Seahawks All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman saw Philip Rivers complete five passes at him for 60 yards. All the completions came on routes cut in front of Sherman.
“I’m not talking,” Sherman said as he walked the long tunnel from the Seahawks’ locker room to the bus.
“Tough day for us,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said.
The final two of San Diego’s 25 first downs that the Seahawks’ defense allowed pushed the ball to midfield late, and eventually pinned the Seahawks (1-1) at their own 11. On 4th and 11 with 1:46 and one time out left, down 27-21, Russell Wilson’s pass over-shot double-covered Jermaine Kearse by a few yards.
San Diego (1-1) added a field goal with 16 seconds left.
So ended just Seattle’s fifth loss in 26 regular-season games dating to the middle of the 2012 season.
“We definitely aren’t used to this,” middle linebacker Bobby Wagner said after he had 10 more tackles . “But at the same time … we lost A GAME. It’s not the end of the world. It doesn’t mean we are out of it. It doesn’t mean our season’s over. It’s one game.
“That’s what we do. We lost this game. It’s, ‘What’s next?’ Next game is Denver.”
Chances are it won’t be 120 degrees on the CenturyLink Field next Sunday, as it was here. That’s not an excuse, as San Diego played in it, too. But it was the factor that made the Chargers converting 10 of 17 third downs and controlling the ball for more than 42 of the game’s 60 minutes decisive. And debilitating to Seattle’s worn-down defense.
Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor and Byron Maxwell, three-fourths of a starting secondary that was already thinned by injuries coming in, left the field during the second half to get intravenous fluids in the locker room before returning.
Wilson finished 16 for 23 passing for 188 yards and two touchdowns. Marshawn Lynch had just six carries for 36 yards, as Rivers, Gates and the Chargers controlled possession and thus the game.
River completed 28 of 37 passes for 286 yards and those three touchdown throws to Gates.
San Diego converted nine of its first 12 third downs into first downs. The last of those nine was a gift: Seahawks rush end Bruce Irvin chased Rivers to the sideline well short of the first down but then needlessly shoved the quarterback in the back beyond the boundary. Instead of a 44-yard field goal try, Irvin’s 15-yard foul got San Diego to the Seahawks 11. Then Rivers avoided a sack with a step up and flipped a pass over the head of linebacker K.J. Wright to tight end Antonio Gates. Gates caught the ball at the goal line ahead of late-arriving Kam Chancellor, who like fellow safety Earl Thomas got slowed by leg cramps with temperatures on the field above 100 degrees.
That touchdown put San Diego ahead 27-14 late in the third quarter.
But then Wilson put the Seahawks’ offense, which watched 33 of the game’s first 48 minutes on the sideline, into hurry-up mode on a 70-yard drive. Against a blitz Wilson flipped a pass out to ignored running back Marshawn Lynch. Lynch just about walked into the end zone for a 14-yard score that cut San Diego’s lead to 27-21 entering the rockin’ final quarter.
Given the Seahawks had the ball for less than nine of the game’s first 30 minutes, that they had just eight of the game’s 23 first downs, they were probably OK with being down just 20-14 at halftime.
Despite Rivers’ 15-for-19 passing in the opening half and San Diego’s 15 first downs, two field goals and two touchdowns on its four drives, the Chargers’ lead was only six points because of Russell Wilson’s deft, 43-second drive to a touchdown that ended the half.
Doug Baldwin made a great, leaping catch to get Seattle from its own 31 to the 45. Then Wilson made a smooth, improvisational play, flipping a pass outside to backup running back Robert Turbin, who had initially stayed in to block. Baldwin’s downfield block got Turbin 10 more yards at the end of a catch and run to the San Diego 21. Wilson then avoided another sack and scrambled for a gain — which became 1st and goal at the Chargers 3 when the side judge called the Chargers for holding wide receiver Percy Harvin 50 yards away from the play on the opposite sideline.
That was plenty of time for Wilson to find Turbin wide open in the right flat for the touchdown that keeps Seattle within one score of the Chargers here at the break.
Rivers was wise in reading Seattle’s defense, which was reluctant early to play as much nickel as it did last week against Green Bay when San Diego goes to three- and four-wide receiver sets. That’s because the Seahawks had Marcus Burley, who’s been on the team for just two weeks, filling in for injured Jeremy Lane at nickel back. When the Seahawks have been in base defense against the extra wide receivers, that’s forced linebackers Bobby Wagner and Malcolm Smith to cover wide outs or tight end Antonio Gates. Rivers has also, as promised, gone at Richard Sherman, completing three passes in three targets for 31 yards, all to Keenan Allen. And when the Seahawks have gone to nickel, Rivers has checked into draw plays and screens.
Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor and Byron Maxwell all left the game in the second half with cramps.
Lynch had an issue with his helmet early in the game that cost him a few plays. That and San Diego controlling possession time has left Lynch with just three carries halfway deep into the third quarter.
Harvin had a 51-yard score on a sweep-toss left, a zooming sprint past flat-footed Chargers, for Seattle’s first score two drives into the first quarter.