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Chargers Surge By Seattle


The wacky AFC West has been turned on its head.

The San Diego Chargers, who finished last in the division each of the last two years, are alone at the top after a 13-10 win Sunday over another surprising contender, the Seattle Seahawks.

Up until the final 3 minutes, it was a pretty ugly day for the Chargers, from Erik Kramer's four interceptions in the second half to linebacker Junior Seau's garish blond dye job, which was on display for all to see as he walked out to midfield for the pregame coin toss.

Somehow, despite all the offense's misfiring, the Chargers managed to get into position for John Carney, who kicked two field goals in the final 2:54, including the game-winning 41-yarder as time expired.

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Game Summary

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  • The Chargers, under rookie head coach Mike Riley, improved to 4-1. Seattle, in its first year under Mike Holmgren, dropped to 3-2.

    "This was a big win. I can't overemphasize that," said Seau, who rattled Seattle quarterback Jon Kitna in the first half and threw running back Ricky Watters for a big loss in the second half. "It will carry us a long way."

    "To be 4-1, it doesn't happen often in San Diego," Seau added. "These young guys here really need to appreciate this because winning in this league is hard to do."

    Seau had to dye his hair Saturday night it looked more neon orange than blond because his alma mater, Southern Cal, lost to Carney's school, Notre Dame.

    "I tell you what, I love Notre Dame right now," Seau said. "I will wear this hair anytime John Carney does that for me. It' just a great feeling. I'm so happy right now."

    The Chargers could just as easily have ended up as pretenders, although their defense once again came up big by holding Seattle to just 201 yards. Pro Bowl safety Rodney Harrison missed the second half with a bruised left shoulder.

    Kramer was intercepted on San Diego's first four drives of the second half, but the Seahawks capitalized on just the first one, by Brian Walker, setting up Jon Kitna's 1-yard TD pass to backup tight end Itula Mili for a 10-7 lead with 5:37 left in the third quarter.

    Carney kicked a 28-yard field goal with 2:54 left to tie the game at 10. After struggling to find his wide receivers all day, Kramer threw a 41-yard pass to Jeff Graham on the drive's first play.

    Kramer suddenly turned perfect on the winning drive, completing four straight passes to move the Chargers from their 32-yard line to the Seattle 23, where Natrone Means ran it once to set up Carney's kick.

    The Chargers called timeout with 3 seconds left, then Carney, who had missed badly left on a 42-yard try in the first quarter, had a perfect kick to set off a wild celebration.

    Carney said the earlier miss was due to misreading the wind and pulling the ball. As he lined up for the final time he was thinking, "Don't do what I did in the first quarter, think positive thoughts, put a good foot on the ball and make sure I had the wind figured out this time."

    "I give a lot of credit to Erik Kramer for hanging in there and doing the job at the end," Carney added.

    After all the turnovers, "it was a matter of relaxing and just letting it happen," Kramer said. "A lot of times it was not pretty, but there are games that will be pretty coming up."

    Riley said only one of the interceptions was due to a bad decision by Kramer, and he never thought about taking him out.

    "I like to let veteran quarterbacks play their way out of it," Riley said.

    San Diego's anemic offense finished with 330 yards, 90 coming on the last two drives. Kramer, making his second straight start in relief of injured Jim Harbaugh, was 27-of-44 for 296 yards.

    San Diego had lost five straight to the Seahawks.

    "We should have won this game," Watters said. "We had the perfect opportunity. As an offense we're really frustrated right now because we know we are better than this."

    Chris Canty, Cortez Kennedy and Willie Williams also intercepted Kramer, but the Seahawks followed those pickoffs with a punt, a missed 48-yard field goal attempt by Todd Peterson and another punt.

    San Diego had led 7-3 after Means' 5-yard touchdown run with 42 seconds before halftime. Means bounced off a pile and beat a defender to the right pylon.

    That touchdown was set up by Darryll Lewis' interception.

    Kitna was 17-of-29 for 151 yards, with one interception.

    Seattle's Ricky Watters was held to 54 yards on 21 carries, the 24th straight game in which the Chargers have not allowed a runner to gain 100 yards.

    Peterson kicked a 40-yard field goal in the second quarter.

    Notes

  • The last time the Chargers started 4-1 was 1996, when they promptly lost their next three games en route to an 8-8 finish that led to coach Bobby Ross being forced out.
  • San Diego has scored one or fewer touchdowns 26 times in its last 37 games.
  • Kitna is 6-4 as a starter. His losses have been by a combined 19 points.
  • Seattle has gone five games without a rushing touchdown for the first time since the 1992 season.

    ©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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