Inside the locker room after Sunday’s win, safety Earl Thomas surprised the Seahawks yet again.
There he was — the youngest person in the room and one of the most soft-spoken players on the team — yelling above the cheers and applauding a defense that withstood a final-minute drive from the San Diego Chargers to preserve a 27-20 victory.
“You don’t see rookies come in here and take that kind of action,” defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. “Each day, he’s showing us what kind of person he really is. I’m really proud of his development.”
Thomas, 21, was one of Sunday’s biggest stars, intercepting two passes — including a game-saving pick at the Seahawks’ 5 with 15 seconds remaining.
He tucked the footballs inside his locker. Souvenirs, he said.
One is being shipped back home to Orange, Texas; the other will go on display inside a soon-to-be-built trophy case at his Seattle-area home.
“I’ve never expected this this quick, to go out there and impact the game like I did,” Thomas said. “It just happened that way. I just thank God and the D-line.”
Thomas also credited his father, Earl Thomas Sr.
“My dad had me playing bump-and-run since I was like 4 or 5,” Thomas said. “We did ball drills in the backyard, and I played center field in baseball. That helped.”
Seattle hasn’t seen a ballhawking rookie patrolling the middle of the field like Thomas since Ken Griffey Jr. broke into the big leagues with the Mariners.
Thomas snared his first interception early in the fourth quarter, when a pass slipped through Antonio Gates’ hands. Thomas retrieved the deflection and raced 34 yards to the San Diego 11.
The Seahawks kicked a 23-yard field goal four plays later to take a 20-12 lead.
“We knew they were going to come at us,” Thomas said.
Seattle absorbed 53 pass attempts from San Diego gunslinger Philip Rivers, who torched the secondary for 455 passing yards, the most by a Seahawks opponent.
Without linebacker Aaron Curry (hamstring) and cornerback Marcus Trufant (ankle) in the second half, the Seahawks shrugged collectively.
No problem. Will Herring replaced Curry, rookie Walter Thurmond stepped in for Trufant, and the defense didn’t totally fall apart.
Seattle offset San Diego’s 518 yards with four sacks, three recovered fumbles and two interceptions.
“I don’t think they’ve been hit like that,” safety Lawyer Milloy said. “Don’t talk to me about yards. I don’t care.”
Bradley praised the defensive line, especially end Chris Clemons, who finished with two sacks, and tackle Colin Cole, who played out of position at times.
“The big things were points,” Bradley said. “Yardage? That’s fine. We can be the No. 32-ranked defense in yards, but we had to keep them out of the end zone.”
With time running out and the Chargers set up at the Seattle 17, Bradley dialed up a blitz on third and fourth downs. It didn’t matter the Seahawks were playing with two rookies in the secondary.
“I trust those guys to make plays,” Bradley said.
Lewis knocked a pass away from Gates in the end zone before Thomas made perhaps the biggest play of the game.
He stepped in front of a pass intended for Legedu Naanee, sending Qwest Field into a frenzy.
“I know I made a lot of mistakes today,” he said. “But at the end I think I made up for it.”
The same can be said for the Seahawks.