EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Unsung is an understatement for the guys who lifted the Seattle Seahawks to victory Sunday.
Doug Baldwin, Brandon Browner and Charlie Whitehurst were the unlikely stars as Seattle beat the New York Giants at their own game: with a fourth-quarter rally.
Backup quarterback Whitehurst threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Baldwin with 2:37 to play and Browner returned an interception 94 yards to thwart a desperate, late challenge by the Giants as the Seahawks won 36-25 on Sunday.
"We believe in ourselves and we believe in each other," Baldwin said after making eight catches for 136 yards and the critical score. "It's believing the guys next to you will do it."
Baldwin is an undrafted free agent from Stanford who leads the team with 20 receptions. Browner is a first-year NFL player who spent four years in the Canadian Football League before joining the Seahawks. His romp down the right sideline – with coach Pete Carroll sprinting along with him for a few yards – finished off New York (3-2), which had rallied for victories in its last two games.
"It was almost like slow motion, the tipped ball and it landed in my hands and it was a footrace from there," Browner said.
Whitehurst, who replaced the injured Tarvaris Jackson in the third quarter, led the Seahawks (2-3) on an 80-yard touchdown drive capped with his pass to Baldwin on a play in which the Giants seemed to stop after defensive end Osi Umenyiora jumped offside.
"I did notice that," Whitehurst said of the offside. "Leon (Washington) picked him up and they kind of stopped dead and I got the ball out of my hand quickly. Doug was wide open."
The Giants mounted another late drive and had first-and-goal at the Seahawks 5 after consecutive completions of 41 and 19 yards to Victor Cruz. A procedure penalty on first down pushed the ball back to the 10, then Eli Manning (24 of 39 for 420 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions) looked to Cruz one more time. His pass tipped off Cruz's hands, bounced off Kam Chancellor and was picked off in the air at the 6-yard line by Browner, who went the distance to ice the game.
Cruz had eight catches for 161 yards, including a 68-yard TD after Chancellor misplayed what should have been an interception and tipped the ball into the air. Cruz stuck out his right arm for a one-handed catch and sped the final 25 yards to score, making it 22-19 for New York.
But Cruz couldn't hold on to the biggest throw.
"I thought I gripped it, but as soon as I went to grip it in, I got hit and it bobbled up in the air," Cruz said. "I knew it was all downhill from there because there were two guys there and one of them was going to pick it off."
Whitehurst finished 11 of 19 for 149 yards in relief of Jackson, who was 15 of 22 for 166 yards and a touchdown before going out with a chest injury after being tackled on a third-quarter run.
Marshawn Lynch rushed for 98 yards and a touchdown, and Steven Hauschka had field goals of 51 and 43 yards.
Manning's touchdown passes covered 13 yards to tight end Jake Ballard, 19 to Hakeem Nicks just before halftime and the long one to Cruz, which seemingly had the Giants on the road to their fourth straight win.
Seattle dominated the third quarter with defense. It took a 16-14 lead on a safety by Anthony Hargrove on a tackle on a play that started at the Giants 5.
"I came inside and beat the guard and all I saw was a guy in blue in the end zone," Hargrove said.
The lead grew to 19-14 on the long field goal by Hauschka, and then the fun started in the fourth quarter.
The Seahawks should have gone to the locker room at halftime with at least a seven-point lead, but instead found themselves tied at 14 after Giants cornerback Aaron Ross picked off Jackson's throw at the New York 41 with less than a minute to play. Manning then completed four straight passes, the final one covering 19 yards to a diving Nicks in the right corner of the end zone.
The interception wasn't the only mistake for Seattle, which lost two fumbles deep in Giants territory. Lynch lost one at the 11 in the first quarter and Michael Robinson lost the other on a first-and-goal from the 2 in the second quarter.
The Seahawks also let a golden opportunity slip away just before halftime when Manning could not handle a low snap from center Kevin Boothe. It appeared linebacker Leroy Hill had a chance to recover the ball, but he missed and Boothe fell on it.
Still, Seattle scored more points in the first 12 minutes of this game than it did in the last two games against New York, when the Seahawks were outscored 85-13.
The game opened with the teams exchanging lightning-fast 80-yard touchdown drives.
Ben Obomanu scored on an 11-yard pass in the flat that caught the Giants in a blitz, while Ballard carried linebacker David Hawthorne the final 2 yards on a 13-yard TD pass up the middle.
Notes: Two Giants, guard Chris Snee and long snapper Zak DeOssie, sustained concussions. ... Baldwin had 12 receptions coming into the game for 194 yards. ... The game was a relative sackfest: New York had six, led by Jason Pierre-Paul with 2 1/2, and Seattle had three, two by Chris Clemons.