SEATTLE -- Nate Burleson and Deion Branch speeding for scores on perfect throws from Matt Hasselbeck. Shaun Alexander sprinting for key first downs. And Deon Grant making plays for the first time as a Seahawk.
After months of waiting, and one week after Hasselbeck and Alexander fumbled away a win, the Microsoft millions of team owner Paul Allen finally paid off.
Burleson caught a 22-yard touchdown pass from Hasselbeck with 1 minute remaining as Seattle's playmakers resurfaced to rescue the sputtering Seahawks in a 24-21 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
"Man, I'm just thinking 'Get in the end zone! We need this!"' Burleson said after running past cornerback Johnathan Joseph on Hasselbeck's third touchdown pass.
Burleson had six catches for 76 yards -- his best day since signing for $49 million with his hometown team before last season -- but had dropped a touchdown pass earlier in the final quarter. This time, he pranced into the end zone after Joseph hesitated while apparently expecting help he never got from safety Madieu Williams.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh took advantage of Seattle double-teaming Chad Johnson for most of the game and tied his career high with 12 catches. He had 141 yards receiving and a touchdown for the Bengals, who lost for the 31st time in 43 trips to the West Coast.
Seattle had just 210 total yards and 14 points after three quarters against a defense that Cleveland shredded for 51 points and 554 total yards last week. But ultimately, the Bengals' defense faltered again.
"I'm not satisfied with anything that we did today," Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis said, tersely.
After Burleson's touchdown, Glenn Holt got hit with a flying shoulder from Lance Laury while returning the ensuing kickoff. Grant, signed for more than $11 million guaranteed last spring, recovered the fumble with 54 seconds remaining to seal the win for Seattle (2-1) in what was far from the expected shootout.
Grant also had the first of two interceptions from Carson Palmer, who completed 27 of 43 passes for 342 yards and one touchdown -- but rued not getting a final chance to add to 412 total yards of offense for the Bengals (1-2). Cincinnati had taken a 21-17 lead with 2:42 remaining when Kenny Watson, subbing for ineffective and then injured Rudi Johnson, ran 8 yards.
The Seahawks began the ensuing drive at their 40, thanks to Shayne Graham shanking the kickoff out of bounds.
"That was helpful," Hasselbeck deadpanned.
Palmer, the league's leader with eight touchdown passes coming in, said he was "very disappointed not to get the ball back because we were going to take the ball down the field."
Added Johnson, boldly: "We could beat them on anything we wanted to beat them on."
Hasselbeck's 15-yard pass to Burleson put Seattle in Cincinnati territory. On fourth-and-1 with 1:41 to go, Alexander ran 14 yards off tackle to the 22.
Alexander, playing his second consecutive game with a covering over his sprained left wrist, started slowly but finished with 100 yards on 21 carries.
Brian Russell, signed from Cleveland for $3 million guaranteed to join Grant, intercepted Palmer with an over-the-shoulder catch in the end zone to deny Johnson a touchdown in the third quarter.
"We haven't been doing anything," Grant said of he and Russell. "They gave us this money ... but we haven't done nothing.
"So I said, 'Let's turn it on.' From here on out, that's what you're going to be seeing from B-Russ and myself."
The Seahawks took a 17-15 lead with 6 minutes left when Josh Brown put a partially blocked field goal through from 23 yards. Brown got into position because of Bobby Engram's third-down catch and a 15-yard facemask penalty on Deltha O'Neal that put the ball on the Cincinnati 11.
The Seahawks were poised to increase their lead of 14-12 at the start of the fourth quarter. But Hasselbeck underthrew Burleson. The ball bounced off the chest of the prone receiver and into the arms of Williams, who returned the interception 35 yards to the Seattle 44. The Bengals converted that into a 15-14 lead on a 24-yard field goal by Graham with 9:57 left.
Cincinnati had closed to 14-12 early in the third quarter thanks to that maligned defense. Linebacker Lemar Marshall blitzed and dumped Hasselbeck in the end zone for Cincinnati's first safety in seven years.
Seattle victimized Cincinnati's woeful coverage on the opening kickoff, which rookie Josh Wilson returned 72 yards to the Cincinnati 24. Three plays later, Hasselbeck found Engram for an 18-yard touchdown.
Cincinnati responded with a 14-play, 83-yard drive. The last 35 came on Houshmandzadeh's easy touchdown catch.
Palmer completed 13 of his first 14 throws. His 15th throw deep to Houshmandzadeh was picked off by Grant at the Seattle 31.
Three players later, Branch beat Joseph on a post pattern for a 42-yard touchdown, Branch's first score of the season.
- Rudi Johnson left with a hamstring in the third quarter and LB Anthony Schlegel, starting for Ahmad Brooks, left with what the Bengals said was a back injury. Lewis said "I can't tell you right now" the severity of the injuries.
- The lack of healthy LBs forced third-string veteran Dhani Jones, signed this week, into the game and Cincinnati into five defensive linemen looks.