The NFL is not figure skating or gymnastics. Points are not awarded for degree of difficulty. If they were, Chargers receivers Tyrell Williams and Mike Williams would have earned extra credit for their touchdown catches in the first half of Sunday’s 25-17 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in CenturyLink Field.
Tyrell Williams capped a 10-play, 94-yard drive with a lunging catch of Philip Rivers’ 12-yard, back-shoulder pass as he fell in the left side of the end zone with Seahawks cornerback Tre Flowers draped over his back. That cut Seattle’s lead to 7-6 on the last play of the first quarter.
Mike Williams made a leaping catch of another back-shoulder pass from Rivers late in the second quarter, did a 360-degree spin after absorbing a lower-body hit from Flowers and tip-toed down the left sideline, somehow staying inbounds for a 30-yard touchdown that gave the Chargers a 19-7 lead.
“If we ain’t got the best group of receivers in the National Football League, who does? Tell me,” receiver Keenan Allen asked reporters after catching six passes for 124 yards, the 21st 100-yard game of his career.
When his question was met by silence, Allen said, “That’s what I thought.”
Tyrell Williams’ fourth touchdown catch in three games produced the same reaction from the famously boisterous CenturyLink crowd. Silence.
The Seahawks opened the game with a 13-play, 75-yard drive capped by Jaron Brown out-jumping and out-wrestling Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward in the end zone for a 10-yard catch en route to a 7-0 lead.
The Chargers responded with a drive that took almost seven minutes off the clock, Rivers completing all five of his passes for 45 yards and Allen and Austin Ekeler combining for 44 yards on a pair of jet sweeps.
After Tyrell Williams caught Rivers’ third-and-seven pass for a touchdown, he looked into the crowd and put his right hand to his ear.
“I was just trying to see if I could hear them still,” Williams said. “That kind of quieted them down a bit.”
So did a 54-yard pass from Rivers to Allen on the Chargers’ next drive, Allen using a double move to race by cornerback Shaquill Griffin and turn a third and 15 from the Chargers 12 to a first down at the Seattle 34.
Melvin Gordon — who rushed for 113 yards on 16 carries — took a pitch from Rivers on the next play and raced 34 yards around the right side, bursting through a hole created by the line and getting a block from fullback Derek Watt for a touchdown and a 12-7 lead with 11:36 left in the half.
“Phil told me to pump it. We just got the flag,” Allen said of his long reception after a delay-of-game penalty. “It was third and 15. We knew they would be playing on the sticks, they would be squatting on it, and we got them to bite.”
Allen’s 12- and 23-yard catches set up Mike Williams’ only reception of the game, a high-wire act of a touchdown catch that was confirmed after a lengthy replay review.
On second and 10 from the Seattle 30, Rivers threw down the left sideline to Williams, who made a leaping catch at the 15. Flowers got a hand on Williams’ thigh at the 10, twirling the receiver around, but Williams managed to stay on his feet and continue to the end zone.
Four times Williams appeared close to touching the sideline with his heels, but his ability to remain on his toes and keep his heels from touching the sideline apparently swayed the replay officials.
“I don’t practice that play, but I do work on my calves, and my calves probably helped me out a bit,” Williams said. “I watched the replay. The last one they had up there, I thought I was out. But my heel never touched, though. They couldn’t overturn it.”
Rivers didn’t have one of his better games, completing 13 of 26 passes for 228 yards against the Seahawks’ stellar defense, but the two superb scoring catches helped push his passer rating (105.9) into triple digits.
“We had two touchdown passes on contested plays,” Rivers said. “Tyrell did of a heck of a job. I was afraid he wasn’t going to have enough room, but he stayed in bounds.
“And then Mike’s catch, I knew we were good with the completion, and then, I don’t know how his heels didn’t hit [out of bounds]. I’m sure some would argue that they did, but when you can’t see ’em, you can’t overturn it.”