Richard Sherman found Russell Wilson. They hugged and were smiling and jumping while talking on their way back into the Seattle Seahawks tunnel.
For once, it felt it was the Seahawks’ offense that won a game.
“I told him he bailed us out,” Sherman said. “He bailed us out.”
It was the first time all season the Legion of Boom was tested like this, and by a rookie Houston Texans quarterback who maybe just didn’t know any better in a 41-38 Seahawks win.
Deshaun Watson threw for 402 yards and finished with 469 total yards of offense. Only Ben Roethlisberger (456 yards) and Philip Rivers (455) had ever thrown for more against the Seahawks’ secondary since Pete Carroll took over in 2010.
But for all the points (five touchdowns), yards (509) and mistakes, this defense that’s had been maybe the best in the NFL entering Sunday’s game still made enough plays of its own to give Seattle a chance at the end — including Sherman’s first two interceptions of the season.
“We deserve a good share of criticisms today,” Sherman said. “That’s fair. But also give credit to our offense because they executed today.”
The Seahawks had only allowed two first-quarter points to its six previous opponents. But on Houston’s opening drive, Watson surprised Seahawks safety Earl Thomas and hit Will Fuller for a 59-yard touchdown off play-action .
That had Thomas so ticked. So what did he do the next drive?
He baited Watson into throwing a pass over the middle of the field, and Thomas raced from his “robber” position to pick it off and return it 78 yards for a pick-six.
Asked if he set that up:
“Yeah,” Thomas said. “Just savvy vet move.”
“That was great because Earl is so hard on himself,” Seahawks rookie cornerback Shaquill Griffin said. “He’ll tell you personally he will make up for it and that’s what he did.”
It was Thomas’ second interception of the season. He was supposed to be over-the-top help for Griffin on the Texans’ opening drive.
“That one was on me,” Thomas said. “It was a deep threat and the matchup was against the rook, and I got to understand that. I got too greedy.”
Though, Griffin said the opposite.
“It was on me,” he said. “At the end of the day, we work together on that route.”
But Watson had more. He spun out of what looked like was a sure-sack at the Seahawks 2 to find Lamar Miller for a touchdown. Sherman compared that to what Aaron Rodgers does.
And Watson later hit DeAndre Hopkins, who had 224 receiving yards, for a 72-yard TD on a wide-receiver screen with 4:49 to play to give Houston a 38-34 lead.
Thomas and Watson share the same agent, David Mulugheta. He said they spent a lot of time together over the summer.
“I think I ran my mouth too much this summer when we chilled,” Thomas said. “But I expected this out of him. He did it against Alabama (when he led Clemson to a college football national championship) in a big game and he tried to do it today and he had some success.
“We knew that when the quarterback scrambles like that — that’s something we ain’t used to. We got to do a better job when we face quarterbacks like that.”
Thomas pulled up holding his right hamstring on Hopkins’ TD. He didn’t return, though he said he tried to.
“The coaches just didn’t let me,” he said. “We’ll see. Hopefully I can get back out there as soon as possible.”
What Watson showed, though, reminded Sherman of another quarterback — his own.
“I know how other teams feel now,” Sherman said. “We definitely know how other teams feel.
“The kid was using the same formula Russell does. Avoiding pressure, stepping out of the pocket, and once he stood up he found the open man. Our group is resilient, though. We have a lot of great players and thankfully we made a lot of great plays when we needed.
Sherman said he couldn’t remember the last time a team threw his way as many times as Houston did on Sunday.
“But, usually when it comes over there I leave the game with a couple picks,” he said.
Like the game-sealing one on Houston’s final desperation drive. His third-quarter interception led to a Seahawks field goal — and Seattle’s first lead of the game, at 27-24. That lead to four more fourth-quarter lead changes.
The last time a game had combined for this many points at CenturyLink Field was a 42-39 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in 2001.
“It was some stuff we went through that humbled us,” Griffin said. “Stuff like that happens, but I’m glad we had that game because it humbled us.”
“I think we’re great,” Sherman said. “We’re fine. Some of those plays — when you extend the pocket 7-8 seconds, you know, I have to go back and look at it, but it’s cutting across the field this way, cutting across the field that way and you have to deal with that. But overall, we’re a great group and we’re as good as we’ve ever been.
“Just a number of dumb mistakes and their quarterback played good football. Not taking anything away from them, but we also didn’t execute. In the past it might have been just one we let get away. But (Wilson) didn’t stop fighting. He stayed poised and he executed and he bailed us out. He bailed us out in a big way.”