By the grace of Jahleel Addae’s right middle finger went the Chargers on Sunday, their second straight game coming down to a tipped pass in the end zone with either a few seconds or no time left on the clock.
This time it was Addae who came up with the game-saving play, the free safety diving across the end zone to get a fingertip on a Russell Wilson pass that bounced off the chest of receiver David Moore to close a tense 25-17 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in the din of CenturyLink Field.
“I don’t know if it affected the path of the ball, but I got a finger on it, I felt it,” Addae said after the Chargers (6-2) held on for their fifth straight win. “We have a lot of hard work and God on our side.”
Two weeks after Adrian Phillips tipped away a two-point conversion attempt with 31 seconds left to seal a 20-19 victory over the Tennessee Titans in London, the Chargers nearly collapsed in the final moments against the Seahawks before they survived another game of inches.
Seattle, trailing by eight, took over on its 22-yard line with no timeouts and 1:24 left. The Seahawks drove to the Chargers’ one-yard line with the help of a Melvin Ingram roughing-the-passer penalty and a Michael Davis pass-interference penalty in the back corner of the end zone as time expired.
The Seahawks were awarded one play from the one-yard line but were pushed back to the six because of left guard J.R. Sweezy’s false-start penalty.
From there, the elusive Wilson — who had scrambled for 16 yards on one play earlier in the drive — avoided a heavy rush, stepped up in the pocket and fired a laser of a pass that got a piece of both Addae and Moore but careened out of the back of the end zone.
“We have a lot of great players who make big plays in big situations,” Chargers strong safety Derwin James said. “When the situation calls for a play, we’re used to doing it in practice, and it transitions well into the games.”
The Chargers were in zone coverage, but when it appeared Wilson might take off, each defensive back glommed onto the closest receiver. James flashed across the back of the end zone with Moore but was not in a position to make a play.
“That was a good route because he jitterbugged away from me on the baseline,” James said of Moore. “That was a great play by Jahleel. We were in a cover-two, and he ran to another zone. That’s why he was able to get a hand on it.”
No one was more relieved than Davis, who made his first start of the season in place of struggling cornerback Trevor Williams. Davis appeared to win a wrestling match with Seattle’s Tyler Lockett on Wilson’s 20-yard pass into the end zone as time expired, going up with the receiver and deflecting the ball away.
The elation Davis felt after what he thought was a game-ending pass breakup was doused by the yellow flag that flew his way.
“He held me,” Davis said of Lockett. “I was [ticked], to be honest. I couldn’t believe it. We both went up for the ball, and I came down with it. I thought it was a clean play. I saw the flag, and I was like, ‘Damn, no way!’ It was super emotional. I’m just glad we came out with a win.”
Davis, who was credited with eight tackles, was beaten down the left sideline on a 42-yard pass to Doug Baldwin in the second quarter, and he would have been beaten on a 61-yard touchdown pass early in the third quarter had Wilson not badly underthrown an open Jaron Brown.
But Davis did have a hand in slot cornerback Desmond King’s game-turning 42-yard interception return for a touchdown that gave the Chargers a 25-10 lead with 6:44 left.
Davis was lined up opposite of David Moore near the left sideline, and King appeared to be covering Baldwin in the slot. As Wilson fired a quick out toward Moore, King left Baldwin, jumped the route on Moore and picked off Wilson for the score.
“It’s a zone coverage,” King said. “I got a read to my corner. [Davis] told me, ‘China, China,’ letting me know someone was in the flat. The first thing I thought about when he said it was just turn your head and run straight to the sideline. When l looked back, the ball was there, and I turned it into six points.”
King’s interception return for a touchdown and Addae’s tipped pass were the highlights of a stout defensive effort that included 11 tackles each by Jatavis Brown and James, four sacks — by Addae, Ingram, Isaac Rochell and Damion Square — and three tackles for lost yardage by lineman Corey Liuget.
After the Seahawks opened the game with a 13-play, 75-yard scoring drive that consumed 8:05 of the first quarter, the Chargers held the Seahawks to 281 yards on 62 plays and kept them out of the end zone until the final two minutes.