When: Sunday, 1:15 p.m., Qwest Field
Records: Chargers 1-1, after last week’s 38-13 win over the Jaguars in San Diego; Seahawks 1-1 and tied for the NFC West lead after last week’s 31-14 loss to the Broncos in Denver.
TV: KIRO/7, with Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts
Radio: 97.3 FM and 710 ESPN, with Steve Raible, Warren Moon and Jen Mueller
Seahawks FS Earl Thomas vs. Chargers QB Philip Rivers: It’s not a matter of if the Chargers will go deep; it’s when – and how often. They give Rivers the time to complete a seven-step drop, which gives his receivers time to run their longer routes. Rivers has thrown a touchdown pass in 15 consecutive games, the longest current streak in the NFL. He hooked up with Legedu Naanee on a 59-yarder in the opener and had a 54-yarder to Malcolm Floyd last week. The streak also includes completions of 66, 58 and 53 (twice) yards. That will put the pressure on Thomas, the rookie who is the Seahawks’ last line of defense. Thomas has 13 tackles to share the team lead with MLB Lofa Tatupu and, more importantly, has not yielded a deep TD pass.
One to watch
Seahawks defense vs. Chargers TE Antonio Gates: This all-day-sucker of an assignment won’t fall to only SS Lawyer Milloy; or strong-side LB Aaron Curry; or even Thomas. It will be a by-committee approach, because the Chargers will scheme ways to try and create mismatches for Gates – who caught two TD passes last week, giving him three for the season and 62 for his career. As Rivers’ go-to receiver, especially in the red zone, Gates leads the Chargers with 10 receptions for 133 yards. Last season, he caught 79 passes for 1,157 yards and eight TDs. Here’s the problem: He’s faster than Milloy, bigger than Thomas and will be difficult for Curry to contain in one-on-one situations.
Fun to watch
The Seahawks vs. Darren Sproles: This matchup is even more across the board than the one presented by Gates, because Sproles is involved not only in the offense as a runner and receiver but also the return game. How involved? Last week, he had 156 all-purpose yards (63 receiving, 56 returning kicks and 37 rushing). With rookie RB Ryan Mathews iffy, at best, with a high ankle sprain, the Seahawks could see even more of Sproles – and for the defense that starts with finding the 5-foot-6 Sproles behind a line that goes 6-5, 323 (LT Brandyn Dombrowski); 6-4, 320 (LG Kris Dielman); 6-4, 305 (C Nick Hardwick); 6-5, 335 (RG Luis Vasquez); and 6-6, 320 (RT Jeromey Clary).
One tough task
Matt Hasselbeck: The Seahawks’ QB has presented a predicament in the first two games. He threw an interception on his first pass of the season, only to bounce back and complete the highest percentage of passes in the league on the opening weekend (18 of 23). Last week in Denver, he drove the Seahawks from their own 20 to the Broncos’ 1 and later from their own 20 to the Broncos’ 28 – only to throw wish-I-had-them-back passes that were intercepted at the 4- and 9-yard lines. The Seahawks’ will need an error-free performance from their offensive leader if they’re going to pull off an upset against the Chargers. It helps that the game is being played at Qwest, where Hasselbeck is 28-10 since the 2005 season.
Rivers is 11-5 as a starter against the NFC, with 309 completions in 482 attempts, 3,592 yards, 28 TD passes and eight interceptions for a 99.0 passer rating. Not surprisingly, the Chargers have won five consecutive games against NFC teams, including three in a row on the road. … The Seahawks’ offense leads the NFC in third-down conversion percentage (.545, 12 of 22). … Hasselbeck had not scored a rushing TD since Nov. 6, 2005, but has one in each of the first two games. … Seahawks K Olindo Mare is riding a franchise-record string of 22 consecutive field goals. … SS Steve Gregory leads the Chargers with 19 tackles. … The Seahawks are facing one of their old rivals from the AFC West for the second week in a row.