Seattle's return unit provided some stellar blocking for Washington, who sprinted through the lane, avoiding would be tacklers with ease. San Diego's coverage unit was barely able to get their hands on Washington. The only Charger with a chance to tackle Washington was kicker Nate Kaeding. All it took was a little juke move and Washington eluded Kaeding and sprinted down the middle of the field for the score.
That score was critical, as San Diego began to mount a comeback. While the score was 17-12 in favor of the Seahawks by the end of the third quarter, it was the Chargers who had all the momentum. They had scored 12 unanswered points and the Seattle offense was being stifled by the Chargers defense.
The only points the Seahawks offense could muster in the second half was a 23-yard Olindo Mare field goal following rookie safety Earl Thomas' interception of Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.
So when Rivers connected with Antonio Gates on a 12-yard touchdown pass and the subsequent two-point pass to Legedu Naanee to tie the game at 20, it seemed as if it was just a matter of time before the Chargers scored again to put this one away.
But on the ensuing kickoff, Leon Washington struck again, returning it 99 yards to the house. The touchdown put the Seahawks up 27-20 and was ultimately the winning touchdown, as the Seahawks defense held off Rivers and the Chargers offense in the final six minutes.
The second return was much like the first. The Seahawks provided excellent blocking for Washington, who broke a tackle, bounced off some of his blockers, and once again put a simple move on kicker Nate Kaeding to break into the open field for the score.
That return capped off a day where Washington returned four kickoffs for a total of 252 yards.
The touchdown coming out of the half was Washington's first touchdown since October 19, 2008, when Washington was still a member of the New York Jets.
It's been a long road to recovery for Leon Washington, who suffered a compound leg fracture in the seventh game of the 2009 season against the Oakland Raiders.
That play effectively ended Washington's Jets career. Prior to the start of the 2009 season, the Jets and Washington's agent, Alvin Keels, were involved in acrimonious contract negotiations. The Jets felt Keels' asking price was too high. There were reports that the Jets were offering around $2.5 million a season with $10 million guaranteed, but Keels has denied any such offer was made.
Whatever the case, Washington went into the 2009 season without a new contract. He was playing on his rookie contract and earning $535,000 for the season.
When Washington suffered the gruesome injury—reportedly the bone broke through the skin—there was no way the Jets were going to give Washington the contract he was looking for. Indeed, there was no way the Jets ever really intended to keep a third down back they were not really sure could ever be effective again.
Going into the offseason, Washington was a restricted free agent. The Jets placed Washington on waivers with a second round tag, but no team would bite. The Jets added future Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson in the offseason and drafted USC's Joe McKnight in the fourth round.
Even with the departure of Thomas Jones, the Jets backfield was suddenly crowded, and Washington looked like the odd man out.
It didn't take long for the situation to work itself out.
The Jets traded Washington to Seattle for a fifth-round pick. The Jets used the pick to select fullback John Connor and the Seahawks signed Washington to a one-year deal worth $1.759 million.
Washington had effectively lost himself millions in guaranteed money with the injury and the fear of suffering a similar disaster is part of what spurred the Jets star cornerback Darrelle Revis, a good friend of Washington's, on in his extended holdout this past summer.
Meanwhile, Leon Washington worked as hard as he always had for the Jets. At one point, Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum seemed cryptic when talking about Washington's ability to return to full strength this season.
After Sunday there can be no doubt about Washington's recovery. When asked about Washington's performance Sunday, Jets head coach Rex Ryan remarked, "Glad we traded him to an NFC team."
For some reason, people will keep saying Wes Welker will win the comeback player of the year award. How does once have a comeback year the season after posting 123 catches the previous season?
If Leon Washington keeps returning kicks like this and begins to contribute running the ball and catching passes, then there's no doubt he will deserved to be mentioned in the discussion of comeback player of the year.
Here's hoping the versatile Washington keeps up the resurgence.
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