Russell Wilson walked into his huddle with just under 7 minutes left. His scuffling offense was backed up to its own 15-yard line. His team with little margin for error trailed a desperate foe by two points. The Seahawks’ hopes to turn around this uneven season were where most of their first two months had been: in peril.
“We’ve been here before,” the two-time Super Bowl quarterback told his teammates Sunday amid the roars of 91,486 at AT&T Stadium, perhaps stunned that Dallas, on a four-game losing streak, was leading the Seahawks 12-10 in the fourth quarter.
Wilson then turned to his coach, the man who cast the franchise’s and his own, Seattle fate back in 2012 when he handed the undersized third-round pick the starting job from Game One.
“This,” Wilson told Pete Carroll on the sidelines before the final drive, “is what we are here for.”
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Wilson proceeded to account for 73 of Seattle’s 79 yards on a march lasting 17 plays and including conversions on three third downs. That trek to salvation — preservation? — ended with Steven Hauschka’s 24-yard field goal with 1:06 remaining. That’s how the Seahawks headed into their bye at .500 with a 13-12 win over the depleted Cowboys on Sunday.
It was as essential as it was ugly.
And it took the longest scoring drive by plays in 51 games for Seattle, dating back to Dec. 16, 2012, the final scoring march of a 50-17 rout of Buffalo in Toronto. Wilson has his gray jersey and pants from that game encased in the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, for on that day becoming the first NFL player to rush for three touchdowns and throw for one in a first half.
His blue outfit from Sunday should at least be encased at team headquarters in Renton.
“Crazy game,” Wilson said.
Crazy usual for him.
It was the 16th game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime in Wilson’s career. That’s the most in the NFL since 2012. And it’s why the Seahawks gave him $87.6 million in a four-year contract extension in August.
“We could count on Russell,” Carroll said.
“I don’t think we played great,” the coach said, in a recurring theme this season. “We played the way we needed to, to win.”
Wilson ensured the offense that kept marooning its defense in treacherous positions all day — all season, really — held up its end of a season-saving bargain when it absolutely had to.
The Seahawks overcame a scary concussion to hugely respected wide receiver and special-teams ace Ricardo Lockette — he stayed back Sunday night at a hospital in the Dallas-Fort Worth area after being laid out in the second quarter. They bulled through their offense going AWOL from the middle of the second quarter until the final drive. They preserved momentum and good vibes heading into this coming bye week and the Nov. 15 home game against NFC West-leading Arizona.
Never has 4-4 looked so good.
“We had to do it,” Doug Baldwin said after his catch for 15 yards along the Seahawks’ sideline got them to the Dallas 31, into range for the winning field goal. “There were no excuses. We had to get it done.”
And — hallelujah! — Wilson wasn’t sacked for the first time since the February 2014 Super Bowl win over Denver.
That was after stellar-again K.J. Wright, Cliff Avril and the thumping defense did everything to win this game except play offense themselves. The defenders said they didn’t doubt, even as their offense went into yet another lull from the second quarter into the fourth: five drives, four punts, three three-and-outs.
“We had faith in them,” All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner said. “They came through when we needed them.”
Wilson began the drive to salvation with an 11-yard completion to rookie Tyler Lockett. On third-and-6 from the Seattle 30 and with 5:38 left, Wilson threw an inside slant that Jimmy Graham caught for a first down. It was the last of seven catches on 10 targets for 75 yards for the prized tight end.
Third-and-3 from the Seattle 45, Wilson threw quickly outside left to Lockett for another first down. Then came the throw to Baldwin on a rollout right, the No. 1 wide receiver cradling the ball as he fell to the sideline boundary at the Cowboys 31.
That would normally be enough for kicker Steven Hauschka, who had kicked one field goal in the first quarter to leave him 17 for 17 this season. But Hauschka had a 46-yard field-goal attempt blocked earlier in the fourth quarter, which could have given Seattle its 13-12 lead then. So the Seahawks needed more.
They got more. Marshawn Lynch ran for 8 and 6 yards, part of his 21 carries for 71 yards. On third-and-7 from the Dallas 17 with 3 minutes to go, Wilson dropped back to pass, then scrambled around right end for 10 yards. From there, the Seahawks ran the ball, forcing Dallas to use all its timeouts before Hauschka’s winning kick.
Bruce Irvin and Avril sacked Cowboys’ Plan-C quarterback Matt Cassel on consecutive plays to ruin any idea Dallas would miraculously rally. And the Seahawks, who had blown fourth-quarter leads in all four of their losses this season, including to undefeated Cincinnati and Carolina, finally held one.
“We needed it,” Irvin said.
Wilson threw an interception on a screen pass that Dallas defensive end Greg Hardy tipped to himself and returned to the Seattle 16. That set up the Cowboys (2-5) for the go-ahead field goal by Dan Bailey 30 seconds into the frantic fourth quarter.
Wilson was trying to throw a screen pass left to Lynch. Alvin Bailey, the fill-in left tackle because Russell Okung missed the game with a sprained ankle, flailed in his attempt to cut-block Hardy. The 6-foot-5 Hardy stayed upright. Wilson’s shoe tackle saved a touchdown and what would have been a 16-10 lead for Dallas.
“I don’t think I’ve ever tackled anyone that big before,” Wilson said.
The Seahawks’ defense hasn’t allowed a touchdown in any of Seattle’s four wins this season, and none in the last eight quarters. Of course, that’s been against awful San Francisco and a Dallas team that was without Tony Romo.
The Cowboys did have All-Pro wide receiver Dez Bryant, back from a broken bone in his foot. Seahawks All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman shut him down, shadowing him all over the field.
Bryant finished with two catches for 12 yards on six targets, with four passes defensed by Sherman and an offensive-interference foul on Bryant. That broke up what would have been an interception.
“Today, going on the break coming up, it gives us a chance to have an opportunity to control the season,” Carroll said, knowing that Seattle is two games behind first-place Arizona with two games still to play against the Cardinals.
“Where we are right now, I feel OK. I know nobody else probably does, but I feel like we’re OK,” the Seattle coach said.
SUNDAY, NOV. 15: Arizona (6-2) at Seattle (4-4), 5:30 p.m., Ch. 5, 710-AM, 97.3-FM