Unsung is an understatement for the guys who lifted the Seattle Seahawks to victory yesterday.
Doug Baldwin, Brandon Browner, and Charlie Whitehurst were the unlikely stars as Seattle beat the New York Giants at their own game: with a fourth-quarter rally.
Backup quarterback Whitehurst threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Baldwin with 2:37 to play and Browner returned an interception 94 yards to thwart a desperate, late challenge by the Giants as the Seahawks won, 36-25, yesterday in East Rutherford, N.J.
“We believe in ourselves and we believe in each other,’’ Baldwin said after making eight catches for 136 yards. “It’s believing the guys next to you will do it.’’
Whitehurst, who replaced the injured Tarvaris Jackson in the third quarter, led the Seahawks (2-3) on an 80-yard touchdown drive that was capped by his pass to Baldwin on a play in which the Giants seemed to stop after defensive end Osi Umenyiora jumped offside.
“I did notice that,’’ Whitehurst said of the offside. “Leon [Washington] picked him up and they kind of stopped dead and I got the ball out of my hand quickly. Doug was wide open.’’
The Giants (3-2), who had rallied for victories in their last two games, mounted another late drive and had first and goal at the Seahawks 5 after consecutive completions of 41 and 19 yards to former UMass star Victor Cruz. A procedure penalty on first down pushed the ball back to the 10, then Eli Manning looked to Cruz one more time. His pass tipped off Cruz’s hands, bounced off safety Kam Chancellor, and was picked off in the air at the 6-yard line by Browner, who went the distance to ice the game.
“I thought I gripped it, but as soon as I went to grip it in, I got hit and it bobbled up in the air,’’ Cruz said. “I knew it was all downhill from there because there were two guys there and one of them was going to pick it off.’’
It was Manning’s third interception of the game, though he finished 24 of 39 for 420 yards and three touchdowns.
Whitehurst was 11 of 19 for 149 yards in relief of Jackson, who was 15 of 22 for 166 yards and a touchdown before going out with a chest injury after being tackled on a third-quarter run.
Chargers 29, Broncos 24 Philip Rivers overcame two big turnovers to lead San Diego over host Denver despite Tim Tebow’s best efforts to rally the Broncos from a 16-point deficit. Tebow ran for a touchdown and threw for another after replacing Kyle Orton to start the third quarter, and had one final shot for the win before his pass fell incomplete in the end zone on the last play.
Nick Novak kicked five field goals and Ryan Mathews ran for a career-best 125 yards for San Diego, which takes a 4-1 record into its bye week. Rivers was 18 of 29 for 250 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Denver (1-4) is full of questions heading into its break, chief among them: Is this Tebow’s team or was this just a temporary fix? Orton was awful in the first half, completing 6 of 13 passes for 34 yards with no touchdowns and an interception.
Tebow was cheered the instant he trotted onto the field for Denver’s first possession in the third quarter. He had not thrown a single pass all season, and he bobbled his second snap under center. But on his third series, Tebow scored on a 12-yard run, and Willis McGahee’s 2-point conversion run cut San Diego’s lead to 26-18 with 6 1/2 minutes left.
Following a Rivers fumble, Knowshon Moreno turned a short screen pass from Tebow into a 28-yard touchdown. However, Brandon Lloyd couldn’t come down with the 2-point conversion pass. Novak’s final field goal, from 35 yards, made it 29-24 with 24 seconds remaining.
Tebow completed 4 of 10 passes for 79 yards and ran six times for 38 yards.
Steelers 38, Titans 17 Playing with a sprained left foot, Ben Roethlisberger tied a team record by throwing for five touchdowns - including two to Hines Ward - and host Pittsburgh (3-2) silenced its critics by getting into the end zone on its first three possessions and ending Tennessee’s three-game winning streak.
Other than a slight limp when he ran, Roethlisberger appeared to have no issues with his foot, also hitting Mike Wallace, Heath Miller, and David Johnson for scores. He completed 24 of 34 passes for 228 yards, his only hiccup coming on an interception late in the first half. The five TD passes matched the record Roethlisberger already shares with Mark Malone and Terry Bradshaw.
Chris Johnson ran for a score but finished with 51 yards on 14 carries as the Titans (3-2) couldn’t take advantage of a Pittsburgh defense missing injured starters James Harrison, Casey Hampton, and Aaron Smith.
The Steelers got a big boost from reserve running backs Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer, pressed into service after starter Rashard Mendenhall dressed but did not play because of a sore hamstring. Redman got the start and ran for 49 yards while Dwyer ran for 107 yards on 11 carries in just his second career game.
Saints 30, Panthers 27 Drew Brees found Pierre Thomas wide open on the right side for a 6-yard touchdown with 50 seconds left, helping visiting New Orleans (4-1) rally past Carolina for its fourth straight win. Brees threw for 359 yards and two scores, including a nearly flawless final drive in which he completed 8 of 9 passes for 80 yards to take back momentum after the Panthers had taken their first lead earlier in the period.
Carolina (1-4) reached midfield on its last possession before Cam Newton’s desperation heave fell incomplete on the final play. Newton threw for 224 yards and two touchdowns, including the go-ahead 5-yard pass to Greg Olsen for a 27-23 lead with 12:32 to play. He also scored on a 1-yard sneak late in the third quarter.
Mark Ingram ran for a second-quarter touchdown for the Saints. Brees’s biggest target was tight end Jimmy Graham, who had eight catches for 129 yards, his third straight game with more than 100 yards receiving.
Chiefs 28, Colts 24 Matt Cassel threw four touchdown passes - two each to Dwayne Bowe and Steve Breaston - in leading Kansas City back from a 17-point first-half deficit in Indianapolis. The Chiefs (2-3) tied the largest comeback in franchise history, while the Colts fell to 0-5.
After trailing, 17-0 and 24-7, in the first half, the Chiefs offense woke up. Cassel moved Kansas City 80 yards in six plays, hooking up with Breaston for a 16-yard touchdown with 13 seconds left in the half. That got the Chiefs within 24-14.
In the final minute of the third quarter, Cassel found Bowe for a 5-yard TD pass to make it 24-21. Cassel then went back to Breaston, whose 11-yard score with 5:15 left gave Kansas City its only lead.
The injured Peyton Manning stood on the sideline for the Colts’ latest loss. He was often seen folding a paper and consulting with Curtis Painter and the Colts’ receivers. Whatever he said worked brilliantly in the first half when Painter was 12 of 17 for 237 yards with two touchdowns. But it in the second half, Painter went 3 of 10 for 40 yards.
49ers 48, Buccaneers 3 Host San Francisco (4-1) is off to its best start in nine years after crushing Tampa Bay. Alex Smith threw two of his three touchdown passes to Vernon Davis, Frank Gore ran for a score in his second straight 100-yard rushing game, and Carlos Rogers returned an interception 31 yards for a TD.
A 2 1/2-point favorite coming in, the 49ers delivered a shocking blowout. Smith went 11 of 19 for 170 yards and no sacks or interceptions before giving way to rookie Colin Kaepernick midway through the fourth quarter. Holding a 24-3 lead, San Francisco came out of halftime with an 80-yard, seven-play scoring drive capped by Davis’s 23-yard grab.
The Buccaneers (3-2) were a step behind in a short week after beating the Colts last Monday night. Josh Freeman was 17 of 33 for 187 yards with two interceptions and two sacks, and Rogers’s return early in the second quarter stopped any momentum Tampa Bay might have gained after Gore fumbled deep in Bucs’ territory.
Vikings 34, Cardinals 10 Adrian Peterson powered in for three first-quarter touchdowns to build a lead large enough even Minnesota couldn’t lose it, and the host Vikings finally earned their first victory by beating bumbling Arizona. Peterson rushed 29 times for 122 yards and Donovan McNabb jogged in for a 4-yard score as the Vikings (1-4) went ahead, 28-0, less than 12 1/2 minutes in.
Kevin Kolb had three turnovers for the Cardinals (1-4) and finished 21 of 42 for 232 yards and one touchdown. The Cardinals had six possessions in the first quarter, only once crossing their 30-yard line and punting four times.
Bengals 30, Jaguars 20 After Andy Dalton threw two TD passes, visiting Cincinnati benefited from a poor punt that sparked a come-from-behind win. The Bengals (3-2) took advantage of Matt Turk’s 22-yard punt into the wind to set up the winning score. Dalton hooked up with Jermaine Gresham to convert on fourth and 6, and on third down from the 2, Bernard Scott scored with 1:56 remaining. Jacksonville (1-4) has lost four straight.