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Thomas’ gamble pays off

Rookie safety seals win with interception, his second of the day

  • Seahawks safety Earl Thomas looks for running room after intercepting a pass in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game. Thomas, a rookie out of the...

    Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald

    Seahawks safety Earl Thomas looks for running room after intercepting a pass in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game. Thomas, a rookie out of the University of Texas, had two interceptions in the game.

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By Todd Fredrickson
Herald Writer
Published:
  • Seahawks safety Earl Thomas looks for running room after intercepting a pass in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game. Thomas, a rookie out of the...

    Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald

    Seahawks safety Earl Thomas looks for running room after intercepting a pass in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game. Thomas, a rookie out of the University of Texas, had two interceptions in the game.

SEATTLE — Earl Thomas said it reminded him of playing against Texas Tech.
The San Diego Chargers were throwing the ball all over the field and piling up yards left and right, and they put Seattle’s defense on its heels time and time again in an NFL game Sunday.
“Every time we played Texas Tech,” Thomas said when asked if he’d ever played in a game like Sunday’s game at Qwest Field. “They throw the ball every down, so they’re going to have 300-plus yards (passing).
“In special situations, you’ve got to bow your neck and make a play,” he said.
Thomas did just that.
The rookie safety, who played college football at Texas, grabbed the first two interceptions of his NFL career. The second one came at Seattle’s 5-yard line with six seconds left and nailed down a 27-20 victory for the Seahawks.
“Their receivers weren’t dropping anything, and finally we were able to make a couple of key plays,” said Thomas, the second of Seattle’s two first-round draft choices this season.
“I never expected this this quick, just to go out there and have the type of game like I did today,” he said. “Things just happened that way, and all I can do is thank God and the D-line.”
Seattle (2-1) bottled up San Diego’s running game in the first half, and when Leon Washington returned the second-half kickoff for a touchdown to put Seattle ahead 17-0, the Seahawks figured San Diego would go to the air.
They weren’t disappointed.
San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers completed 21 of 36 passes for 337 yards — in the second half. For the game he was 29-for-53 for 455 yards and two touchdowns.
The 455 passing yards were a career high for Rivers and the most ever by a Seahawks opponent.
But Seattle forced five turnovers and made several other big plays in special situations to win on a day when San Diego (1-2) racked up 518 yards of total offense.
“It’s just a testament to our resolve,” said defensive end Red Bryant, who had two fumble recoveries, one of them at the Seattle 7-yard line in the second quarter. “If we give ourselves another chance something big might happen. We just need one more opportunity (to make a play), and fortunately we were able to get it.
San Diego drove inside the Seattle 20-yard line six times, including twice in the last three minutes with the Seahawks trying to protect a seven-point lead.
The first time, Seattle held on fourth-and-15 from the 19 when cornerback Roy Lewis broke up a pass at the goal line.
The second time, Thomas sealed the victory when he stepped in front of wide receiver Legedu Naanee on fourth-and-15 from the 17.
Seattle blitzed on the play, which put the secondary in straight man-to-man coverage. Thomas was assigned to a running back, who stayed in the backfield to block.
“I was man up on the back, but he didn’t go out, so I went to the middle of the field and I gambled on a play,” Thomas said. “I was just a bonus player. I just read the quarterback and went with the ball.”
Seattle coach Pete Carroll said it was a great play by his rookie safety.
“The last one, that’s Earl,” Carroll said. “He’s playing back there and he has a chance to make a play, read the quarterback, and he saw it beautifully.
“It was hard on the quarterback to see what was going on, and he lost sight of Earl, and he jumped in and made a great play to end the game.”
The play was set up by a strong pass rush up the middle, which was a staple all day, both with and without blitzes. Seattle sacked Rivers four times and hit him on numerous other plays.
“We knew that if we got pressure up in his face that we’d force him into bad throws, and that was our main focus,” said defensive end Chris Clemons, who had two sacks. “It finally got (to) the point where we (were) able to hit him and you could start seeing him make those throws out of bounds and giving up the ball.”
The five takeaways were a welcome change for the Seahawks, who had none in a discouraging 31-14 loss last week to Denver. That was a point of emphasis in practice this week, and there will never be a better object lesson on that topic than Sunday’s game.
“That’s what our whole philosophy is built around,” Seattle safety Lawyer Milloy said. “It’s all about the ball.
“No matter what happens, if they go for 500 yards and we get that ball, and they don’t score, who wins the ballgame?” Milloy said. “You saw that today.”
Story tags » Seahawks

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