SEATTLE — It was the night of the wide receiver. Not so long ago, that would have meant a prosperous night for Air Coryell, but this time it was more like Air Knox, if that's not a contradiction in terms.
They stopped the game when Seattle's Steve Largent set a record by catching a pass in his 128th straight game Monday night at the Kingdome.
They also stopped it when San Diego's Charlie Joiner surpassed the career record of 11,834 receiving yards.
But the most dramatic slowdown came when San Diego had the ball. The Chargers, whose offense had been idling for the past three games, were shut down again, resulting in a 33-7 loss.
There was nothing to slow the Chargers' descent into last place in the conference.
As the game grew one-sided, Seattle Coach Chuck Knox overcame his tendency toward conservatism and permitted Largent to throw a pass to Byron Franklin that set up a touchdown. That alone would have served to make this the night of the receiver.
The Chargers, overcome by a 14-point blitz in a 13-second span of the third quarter along with five second-half turnovers, were left with a 1-4 record. All alone in last place in the AFC West, the Chargers take on unbeaten Denver Sunday in San Diego, their slim playoff hopes fluttering in the balance.
The Seahawks (4-1) are second in the AFC West, a game behind the Broncos. They face the Raiders in Los Angeles this week.
Two fumbles by running back Lionel James contributed to the Chargers' undoing. The Seahawks followed up by twice picking on San Diego cornerback Wayne Davis for touchdowns.
Seattle quarterback Dave Krieg threw scoring passes of 46 yards to Franklin and 15 yards to Largent as the Seahawks opened a 23-7 lead in the third quarter. The Seahawks burned Davis four times in a game last year, and the Chargers had planned to try to hide him by using a combination of players at cornerback Monday night.
That strategy was a notable failure, as was the attempt to improve the output of Air Coryell by eliminating some of the frills, such as motion before the snap.
The Charger offense, which as recently as a month ago Miami's Don Shula had called the most sophisticated he had ever seen, slumped to new depths by failing to score in four attempts from the Seattle four in the third quarter.
Quarterback Dan Fouts, playing with a broken nose, remained in what is perhaps the worst slump of his 14-year career. He completed 20 of 31 throws for 231 yards, but was intercepted three times and was unable to generate any consistency.
"I don't know what has happened," he said. "We're trying hard and I believe we'll get it together. I'm not a finger-pointer. I'm sorry if I sound like a broken record."
Fouts certainly was not alone in his struggle. The Charger offense has produced only two field goals in the second half of its last four games. Of 25 second-half possessions, 14 have resulted in turnovers.
Coach Don Coryell said the outcome was a shock.
"We were really fired up and ready to play," he said. "No excuses. We just didn't do the job. We got beaten soundly and now we have to try to piece it back together in six days. I don't think anyone is going to hang his head and cry."
Defensive coordinator Ron Lynn put it more graphically.
"It's not the end of the earth, but it is a disappointment and an embarrassment to lose in front of a national audience," he said. "I really can't explain what happened, except we couldn't stop them throwing or running and we couldn't tackle them, either."
The Chargers at least had their stories straight. Nobody knew what happened.
"If I knew, I'd probably be in the front office," safety Jeff Dale said.
Somebody is going to have to supply some answers to owner Alex Spanos, who came close to sacking Coryell last season before rehiring him for this year and an option year in 1987.
The record book took a beating from Largent and Joiner.
Largent shattered Harold Carmichael's record for consecutive games with a reception. He had tied the record last week against Washington and surpassed it by running a 14-yard slant in the second period.
Joiner, who has the most catches of any receiver but also has fears of being overtaken by Largent in 1987, became the receiving yardage leader on a 20-yard catch in the third quarter. The record had been held by Don Maynard.
Largent, for one, was glad to get the record out of the way.
"It feels like a big relief," he said. "We tried to get it over in the first quarter, but they had some coverages we hadn't seen so we didn't connect early.
"What I'll remember was being on the same field with Charlie. Ten years from now I'll be able to tell my kids I was on the same field with Charlie Joiner."
The Chargers, working with a slightly simplified game plan light on the usual shifting, established a 7-0 first-quarter lead on a one-yard run by Buford McGee. And that was to be the extent of their offense, although no one knew it at the time.