(Reuters) - Kam Chancellor's game-saving effort on Monday against the Detroit Lions rescued the Seattle Seahawks' season and proved his ultimate value to the franchise.
The Seahawks were a yard away from defeat in the final minutes as Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson lunged toward the end zone for a go-ahead touchdown, when Chancellor swooped in from behind and knocked the ball loose for a touchback.
Chancellor's superb effort secured the 13-10 victory for Seattle (2-2) and restored their campaign back to level ground.
"I knew what was coming," Chancellor told reporters. "I jumped (the play) fast. I just ran to the ball, and you know it's never over until you cross that end zone, so I punched at it."
Chancellor's punch was just the knockout blow Seattle needed.
Chancellor, a Pro Bowl safety who missed the first two games because of a contract dispute with the team, has pulled the Seahawks out of a 0-2 start and helped return the teeth to a defense known as the "Legion of Boom".
Since Chancellor returned to the field in a 26-0 shutout of the Chicago Bears last week, the Seahawks defense has not allowed an offensive touchdown and are again the feared unit that reached the past two Super Bowls.
"He has made us a whole defense. We had a missing piece and when he came back we started getting in a groove," said Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner.
"The play at the end (tonight) was a big play. He showed what a big-time play maker he is."
Detroit (0-4), trailing by three points, had driven the length of the field before quarterback Matt Stafford hit Johnson on his route toward the end zone.
Seattle safety Earl Thomas made a hit on Johnson but the receiver's momentum was taking him over the goalline when Chancellor emerged from nowhere.
"Watching my team play (the first two games without me) I knew I could be a factor in a lot of plays," Chancellor said.
"Coming back at this time feels good, and I'm blessed to be with this team."
(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)