HOUSTON — Video work provided the game-changing play.
Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn knew the Houston Texans liked to leak tight end Owen Daniels into the flat for third-and-short plays.
Just that situation came up late in the fourth quarter Sunday, when the Seahawks were on the ropes.
Friday, when the Seahawks had the scout team run the play in practice, Richard Sherman came up with an interception.
The same thing happened Sunday. Though, the stakes were a tad higher.
On third-and-4 from the Seahawks’ 40-yard line, Daniels went in motion and settled into a stack formation. That tipped Sherman. It also tipped safety Kam Chancellor.
That was Chancellor’s cue to blitz off the right side. He ended up in the face of Texans quarterback Matt Schaub who lofted the ball toward Daniels. Sherman went hard to the flat, knowing just what Daniels was going to do.
He grappled with Daniels, then pulled the ball away. When it was secured, Sherman looked up to see nothing but green and teammates. He scored 58 yards later, shocking almost everyone in the building.
“It was like the world stopped for a second there,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said.
Sherman ran into the end zone, sans one shoe, while two stunned sidelines watched.
“Trying to make a play to win the ballgame,” Schaub said. “We had Owen (Daniels) there and I should have probably just ditched it at his feet or held it and just live to punt and let our defense play.”
Sherman touts his preparation and knowing what was going to come.
That doesn’t mean it was the safe play.
Jumping Daniels’ route left safety Earl Thomas, one-on-one with a receiver. Schaub didn’t go there, Sherman pushed hard into the flat, the game changed.
“It’s a high-risk, high-reward kind of play,” Sherman said. “We stand up when we need to.”
The game was a slog for the Seattle passing game.
The Seahawks converted just three third downs all game. Doug Baldwin caught two of those.
He barely caught the first. It was crucial.
Faced with a third-and-7 from their own 5-yard line early in the fourth quarter, Russell Wilson hit Baldwin up the left sideline.
The catch was at first ruled incomplete. Carroll chucked the challenge flag, and upon review, it turned out Baldwin had both feet down by the tips of his toes.
“It was right in front of all of us,” Carroll said. “Honestly, I saw it the way the official saw it. It was the right thing to do to challenge because, at the time, we were reaching and clawing and scratching a bit.”
Later in the same drive, Baldwin picked up 8 yards on third-and-7. At the end of it, Marshawn Lynch trotted into the end zone from 3 yards out.
The Seahawks went 98 yards on the drive, gaining more yards than they had in the entire first half.
CUSHING CHANGES THINGS
Carroll recruited Houston linebacker Brian Cushing to play for him at USC. Earlier in the week, Carroll said Cushing was one of the most talented players he recruited to the Trojans.
That showed up Sunday when Cushing led the Texans with nine tackles. He left in the third quarter because of a concussion.
Seattle — notably Wilson — benefited from his absence. Wilson found more room to run with Cushing out.
“It’s like anything else,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. “Like having a backup quarterback going into the game, the communication system and you’re working through a new guy.”
HAUSCHKA WAS READY
Though there was a pregame downpour and cloudy skies over the field, none of that affected Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka. The roof at Reliant Stadium was closed.
Hauschka was 3-for-3, hitting from 48, 39 and, for the winner, 45 yards out.
“My goal is treat (a winning field goal) like any other kick,” Hauschka said. “We decided that the 36-yard line would be the normal range for the entire game and we could stretch it out to 60 or 62 yards if we needed to.”
There wasn’t a need and Hauschka banged it through from 45 yards for the win.
RT Breno Giacomini (knee), C Max Unger (arm), FB Spencer Ware (ankle), S Jeron Johnson (hamstring) and DT Jordan Hill (biceps) were inactive for the Seahawks. Asked if he was going to replace Schaub at quarterback, Kubiak said, “No. I think we’ve got some things to fix. I have to fix me. I have to be better for him.” After practicing little during the week, Houston wide receiver Andre Johnson started and was a handful for Sherman and the secondary. Johnson had nine catches for 110 yards.