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Rivers and Chargers dominate time of possession in 30-21 upset win over Seahawks

The Chargers controlled possession for over 42 minutes to hand Seattle their first loss of 2014.

Donald Miralle

The Seattle Seahawks couldn’t handle the California heat on Sunday, falling to the San Diego Chargers 30-21 at Qualcomm Stadium.

The Chargers dominated time of possession. Dominated isn’t even a strong enough word, to be honest. San Diego had the ball for 42:15. That’s 70 percent of the game. Now, as someone who watched the Oregon ducks for the last five years, I’ll be the first to say that time of possession is the most useless, irrelevant stat in all of football. Oregon rarely ever wins the time of possession battle and has more wins in the past decade than any team in all of college football. But when it’s pushing 120 degrees on the field and your defense can’t get off of it, time of possession matters.

Phillip Rivers had his way with the Seahawks, completing 28 of 37 passes for 284 yards and three touchdowns. Antonio Gates was the star of the day with seven catches for 96 yards and all three touchdowns.

When the Seahawks actually had the ball, Russell Wilson looked in control for the most part. Wilson completed 17 of 25 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns, with the majority of those incompletions coming at the end of the game.

This was a game played through the air as neither team’s running backs broke 40 yards on the day.

Seattle had a good start to the opening drives with a couple of big passes, including a 30-yard lob pass to Jermaine Kearse on third down. Seattle would have to punt after Wilson couldn’t escape an all-out blitz from the Chargers on 3rd down. Dwight Freeney was credited with the sack, but it was Donald Butler who caused the problem as he came in completely unblocked. When Wilson turned to scramble, Freeney was right there to meet him.

Seattle employed the "bend, don’t break" strategy as the Chargers drove into Seahawks territory, but had to settle for a 50-yard field goal from Nick Novak after a drive that lasted – plays and almost eight minutes. The Seahawks struggled to stop San Diego on third and short early as the Chargers converted three straight third downs where they needed two yards or less. The points were the first Seattle had given up on an opening drive since the 2012 season.

On Seattle’s next drive, Pete Carroll continued to show his creative play calling. Wilson initially sold a fake to Lynch who ran up the middle before pitching it off to Percy Harvin. You know what happens next. Harvin bolted down the sidelines 51 yards for the touchdown, proving once again how lethal his speed is. However, the Seahawks caught a lucky break as a replay clearly showed Harvin stepped out of bounds while running down the sideline. All touchdowns are supposed to be reviewed. Apparently, the guys in New York did review and confirm the touchdown. Oops.

Phillip Rivers continued to pick apart Seattle on defense, completing five straight passes to get the Chargers to the 6-yard line. A touchdown run on the ensuing play by Ryan Matthews was called back after a holding penalty. On 3rd and 5, Antonio Gates beat Kam Chancellor in 1-on-1 coverage for the touchdown to take a 10-7 lead.

At this point, Rivers was off to a near-perfect start in the game.

The Chargers continued to put pressure on Wilson, sacking him to effectively end Seattle’s next drive as quickly as it started. Last week against Green Bay, Wilson was sacked just once all game, and didn’t even lose any yards off it. That wasn’t the case early on in San Diego.

After another field goal from Novak, Percy Harvin fumbled the football on the ensuing kickoff. Harvin did nothing wrong on the play, he covered up with both arms like he needed to, he just simply coughed it up. I credit the fumble to the football gods who were angry about the blown call earlier.

The Chargers capitalized with another touchdown pass to Antonio Gates as Phillip Rivers escaped a sack on 3rd down.

With 1:01 left in the half, Seattle ran their first offensive play in nine and a half minutes. Russell Wilson dumped a pass off to Robert Turbin who took off 32 yards downfield to get the Seahawks into field goal range with 43 seconds left. On the very next play, Turbin (not Lynch, who was almost entirely absent from the first half) broke up the middle on a 10-yard run. A defensive holding call moved the ball to the 3-yard line, creating an easy touchdown pass, by far the biggest touchdown of Seattle’s young season. The touchdown was also the first of Turbin’s career.

Despite the first half being totally one-sided, the Seahawks trailed just 20-14 going into the half, an absolute miracle considering how Rivers and the Chargers completely took control of the game in the first half.

After initially forcing a three-and-out to open the half, Malcom Smith was called downfield for defensive holding, giving the Chargers an automatic first down. Self-inflicted wounds is what we call those types of plays, ladies and gents.

Josh Thomas came up big on his first ever play with the Seahawks, breaking up a pass on third down intended for Eddie Royal. Seattle couldn’t stop San Diego from scoring on any drive in the opening half, so it was a huge play for the new guy in town.

Seattle would be forced to punt it away on their first drive of the second half, but fortunately the Seahawks are blessed with Jon Ryan’s robotic leg. After a holding call against K.J. Wright, the Chargers made the Seahawks punt it again, because Ryan couldn’t do better than his 61-yard punt, right? AU CONTRAIRE. Ryan booted it downfield 66 yards, pushing the Chargers further back than if they had taken the penalty. What a little troll.

Seattle’s stupid penalties continued for the Seahawks as Bruce Irvin was flagged for a late hit against Rivers, who was already running out of bounds. More self-inflected wounds. The Chargers capitalized with yet another touchdown to Antonio Gates, his third of the afternoon.

For some mysterious reason, the Seahawks went no-huddle on their next drive. It’s ok, the defense had only spent over 31 minutes on the field. You’d think with over a full quarter left, they’d give the defense some much needed rest. After a few plays though, the Seahawks went back to the huddle. Wilson dumped a third down pass off to Lynch, who strolled into the end zone for the touchdown to make it 27-21 with three seconds left in the third quarter.

On another third and short, Rivers took off running for the first down. His legs came in handy for San Diego on several occasions, something I’m sure the Seahawks weren’t expecting from a guy who is not the most mobile quarterback in the league, to say the least. The Seahawks nearly came up with a massive turnover after Ryan Matthews muffed a handoff, but Eddie Royal was able to come in to retain possession for the Chargers. Matthews was also injured on the play and would need to be carted off the field. Seattle would manage to finally stop the Chargers on third down, forcing them to punt for just the second time all day.

After a false start penalty, the Seahawks were faced with a 3rd and 15. Russell Wilson did everything he could by taking off, but fell one yard short, forcing Seattle to punt. All day long, the Chargers beat up on Seattle’s offensive line to put constant pressure on Wilson, forcing him to scramble and make rushed decisions. Had it not been for J.R. Sweezy’s false start, Wilson’s run would’ve been a first down.

I could go into elaborate detail on what happened during San Diego’s next time, but it’s really nothing new. Rivers has all day to throw and finds Gates for the first down. On their next third down, the Seahawks finally got pressure on Rivers forcing him to scramble, nearly coming up with a sack.

Down by six. Three minutes to play. 89 yards to go. This had Russell Wilson written all over it.

On the first play of the drive, Harvin came across for the jet sweep but was taken down in the backfield for a loss of six yards, forcing Seattle to use their second timeout of the half. The Chargers brought the pressure with Wilson standing in the end zone and all he could do was flip it to Lynch for a few yards, setting up a 3rd and 12 on their own 9-yard line.

It was the same exact story on 3rd down as Wilson was forced to flip it to Lynch as he was going down. Wilson would go back onto the field for the 4th down.

Needing 11 yards, Wilson overthrew Jermaine Kearse, ending an ugly, ugly day in San Diego.

If you need a positive takeaway from the game, Pete Carroll said afterwards that (despite a couple of scares) the Seahawks walked away with no injuries, nothing short of a miracle in an NFL game where it was 100 degrees out.

The Seahawks return home next weekend for a Super Bowl rematch against the Denver Broncos. Kickoff at CenturyLink Field is set for 1:25 pm PT.