By John Boyle & Rich Myhre Herald Writers
SEATTLE — Before the game, Seattle Seahawks linebacker David Hawthorne was unsure he’d be able to play because of a nagging knee injury.
And in the midst of a 77-yard interception return for a game-clinching touchdown, Hawthorne was unsure he’d be able to run the entire distance to the end zone.
“It was definitely the longest run I’ve ever run in my life,” he said with a grin after the game. “I felt like the end zone was never going to get there.”
Hawthorne’s interception and runback with 4½ minutes to play in Thursday’s game provided the final points in Seattle’s 31-14 victory over Philadephia at CenturyLink Field. And it was extremely important—had the Eagles scored a touchdown on the drive, they would have cut Seattle’s lead to 24-21 with over four minutes remaining.
“It was a pivotal play,” Hawthorne said, “and I’m just glad I was on the receiving end of it.”
Philadelphia had a first-and-10 at Seattle’s 22-yard line when Eagles quarterback Vince Young rolled out to his right, felt pressure from the Seahawks pass rush, and threw back to his left, intending to connect with running back LeSean McCoy in the flat.
Instead Hawthorne stepped in front for the interception. The only Philadelphia player with a chance to tackle Hawthorne was Young, but Seattle defensive end Chris Clemons provided a nice block — actually, it was more of a shove that knocked Young off balance — and Hawthorne went untouched to the end zone.
In a happy Seahawks locker room after the game, his teammates had some fun at Hawthorne’s expense.
“It was the slowest runback I’ve ever seen in history,” teased Seattle safety Kam Chancellor, “but he got (to the end zone). That’s all that matters.”
Hawthorne has been slowed all season by a knee injury suffered in the preseason that kept him out of the Sept. 11 season opener against San Francisco, and one he appeared to aggravate in Sunday’s loss against Washington.
His status for Thursday’s game was “last-minute,” he said. “It was a workout right before the game that allowed me to get out, and I’m glad I did.”
Returning an interception for a TD is something of a dream scenario, he added, “but in my dreams I usually run like 20 or 30 (yards). I usually don’t put myself in a situation where I have to run like 70 yards.”
Hawthorne nearly ran back another interception for a touchdown against Baltimore in a Nov. 13 game, but he was tackled after a 34-yard return by Ravens QB Joe Flacco at the 8-yard line.
A big win wasn’t entirely without bad news for the Seahawks. Left tackle Russell Okung left the game in the fourth quarter with what Carroll called “a pec injury that doesn’t look good right now.”
The injury happened on what Carroll called an “unnecessary play” when Eagles defensive end Trent Cole threw Okung to the ground away from the play. Okung will be further evaluated Friday.
Browner bounces back
Less than a week after being the goat in Seattle’s loss to Washington, cornerback Brandon Browner had one of his best games. Browner, who was victimized by Redskins receiver Anthony Armstrong on a 50-yard touchdown that put the Redskins up for good on Sunday, responded with two interceptions Thursday night, including one he returned 55 yards to set up an eventual touchdown.
“I really felt bad,” said Browner of his play last week. “I felt like I lost the game from us last week.”
With Seattle up big late, Browner got his second interception when the Eagles tried to test him deep. Unlike last week, he made the play.
“I learned from it,” Browner said. “I had the same scenario pretty much—they threw it up but I got my head around today and was able to make the play.”
After committing 56 penalties in their last five games, the Seahawks committed just five Thursday, and only one after halftime. Seattle came into the game having committed 105 penalties this season, a total that ranks second to only Oakland.
“No question we did (improve),” Carroll said. “That’s one night. We have to come back and do it again.
Tate comes up big
Receiver Golden Tate was late getting on the field for his first career start, but he made the most of his opportunity after that first-play mix-up. The game kicked off a bit ahead of schedule while the 12th Man Flag was being raised by NBA legend Bill Russell, and Tate nearly didn’t get onto the field in time for the play.
The rest of the game, however, went much better for Tate, who was starting in place of an injured Sidney Rice. The second-year player caught four passes for 47 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown in the third quarter that gave Seattle some breathing room.
“This is what we see in practice all the time,” Carroll said. “We just haven’t got him in there as much to give him focal-point opportunities. But with Sidney going down, we’re looking to see who is going to pop up and be active.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: email@example.com. For more Seahawks coverage, check out the Seahawks blog at heraldnet.com/seahawksblog