SEATTLE Through it all--the early deficit, the nonexistent running game, his stunning interception late, wondrous Houston rookie Deshaun Watson looking like or even better than him--Russell Wilson simply refused to lose.
“Just having that confidence,” Wilson said. “And have that belief.”
This one, though, was close to unbelievable.
Seemingly out-gunned by Watson’s 402 yards passing, Wilson bulled through two Texans and stiff-armed Houston cornerback Marcus Williams at the end of an amazing, 21-yard run to get Seattle to the Texans 20-yard line. But then he tried to throw to Paul Richardson on the far left sideline. Williams got his revenge, stepping in front of Richardson for a massive turnover with 2:42 left. That kept Seattle down 38-34.
Yet Seattle got a stop after one first down. The Seahawks had 1:39 to go 80 yards without time outs. Richardson made a ridiculous, leaping catch inside Marcus Gilchrist for 48 yards to the Houston 37. It was the same play Richardson and Wilson ended every day working together in Los Angeles in this month’s bye week and last offseason. Tyler Lockett next made a catch to the 18.
Then Wilson connected with left-alone Jimmy Graham, the subject of trade rumors until his general manager torpedoed them before this game, for an 18-yard touchdown with 21 seconds to go. That shook CenturyLink Field and the Texans 41-38 on a zany, unforgettable Sunday in Seattle.
“First off, (number) 3 is special,” Graham said, speaking after his two-touchdown game for the first time to the mass media since his previous two-score day, last November against Buffalo.
“I knew right then when he made a mistake he was going to come back and make up for it. His will to win and his will to overcome is like no other. It is unbelievable, who he is as a person...
“I mean, it’s crazy because at those moments, 3 has the most confidence you’ve ever seen. It’s just unbelievable, his mindset and his focus at those times, how upbeat he is.
“You believe every time.”
With absolutely no running game to support him or keep the Texans from targeting him--Seattle ran for just 33 yards on 21 carries--Wilson completed 26 of 41 throws for a Seahawks-record 452 yards passing. He threw for four touchdowns with one interception. Matt Hasselbeck had held Seattle’s record with 449 yards at San Diego in 2002.
Richard Sherman’s second interception of the game, with 7 seconds left at the Seahawks 37, ended the highest-scoring game in Seattle since Dec. 6, 2004, when Dallas won here 43-39.
“If there was ever any doubts about Russell, what he can do, there is no limit,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said.
Seattle’s league-leading defense entered leading the NFL in allowing just 15.7 points per game. Watson shredded it with 402 yards, four touchdowns but also three interceptions.
Wilson saved it.
“I told him he bailed us out,” Sherman said after he had two interceptions but gave up some of those 402 yards passing. “Freakin’ bailed us out.”
There were five lead changes, four in the mind-boggling final quarter. The Seahawks (5-2) won for the fourth consecutive time despite allowing Houston (3-4) 509 yards. Watson looked like an elite mad bomber in just his sixth NFL start, leaving Sherman to marvel the kid was making Wilson-like plays that few if any elite QBs of any age can make.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Watson said of Houston’s defeat.
When it was heart-stopping, Wilson was best. Again.
“I told the guys when we went out there (at the Seattle 20 with 1:39 left), ‘Have no fear. Let’s go do this thing,’” Wilson said. “Sure enough, guys made some big plays.
“It was a true testament of our team. The character showed up. All the work that you do. ...
“In terms of the back and forth, back and forth, I mean, Deshaun Watson’s special. Go ahead and give him rookie of the year.”
The teams combined for 988 yards. Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins had eight receptions for 224 yards, the second-most ever against the Seahawks by anyone. Seattle had two 100-yard receivers, Tyler Lockett (121) and Richardson (105). Richardson would have had three touchdowns Sunday, one more than he had in his career entering this season, if his third hadn’t been called back by a penalty, in the fourth quarter.
“Today the defense really needed the offense,” Carroll said. “And we’ve been in a lot of games on the other side of it--and they all know it.”
The Seahawks had two chances to take a wider lead than 27-24 into the final quarter. They ran seven plays inside Houston’s 10-yard line, after a 66-yard catch and run by left-alone fullback Tre Madden and Sherman’s first interception of the season and return into the red zone. But the Seahawks got no touchdowns off those chances, just two field goals.
Wilson’s first pass on third down into the end zone and left flat went over the shoulder and off the hands of running back Thomas Rawls. His second one was another clunky jump-ball pass that didn’t take advantage of 6-foot-6 tight end Graham’s size advantage outside and fell incomplete.
Blair Walsh’s two short field goals felt like consolation prizes, and Seattle led only 27-24 instead of 31 or 35-24 entering the final quarter.
Just five minutes into the third quarter, Watson had 243 yards passing. That was more yards than any of the eight rookie quarterbacks who have started at Seattle since 2010.
After Watson settled for a check-down completion for one of the few times Sunday, on a third and 20, Houston took a 24-21 lead on a short field goal early in the third quarter.
The wildness started right away. Sunday’s was the first time in 12 years a Seahawks first half included at least 20 points by each team.
Watson threw for 216 yards in the half. He had the Texans poised to go up 14-0 early in the first quarter. Then Earl Thomas happened for Seattle. Yet again.
The three-time All-Pro safety baited the rookie QB into throwing across the middle to a seemingly open Hopkins on third down from the Seahawks 29. As soon as Watson threw it to his trusted third-down receiver, Thomas bee-lined in front of Hopkins to intercept the pass. He then cut inside Watson near midfield and outran everyone else to the other end zone. Seattle was tied at 7 instead of being in a deep hole right away.
Watson impressively answered on the next drive with a 6-yard run and two completions for 26 yards. A 22-yard pass-interference penalty on Seattle nickel back Jeremy Lane, who complained last week about being benched from his starting-cornerback job, set up Lamar Miller’s 3-yard touchdown run. Houston led again 14-7.
The Seahawks responded with their first offensive touchdown in a first quarter this season.
Indicative of what they think about their running game, they passed on third and 1 and third and 2 on the ensuing drive. Tyler Lockett made a tumbling catch for 27 yards. Then on the second third down, Seattle benefited by its offensive line getting beaten again in pass protection. Houston defensive end Jadeveon Clowney slammed into Wilson so hard off the left edge Wilson’s forearm pushed the ball well upfield for what was initially ruled an incomplete pass. Carroll challenged that call, and a replay review determined Wilson’s arm was not going forward and it was a fumble Seattle recovered past the line to gain.
Instead of a 49-yard field-goal try, Seattle converted its gift first down into Wilson’s latest playground scramble for a score. He eluded Texans all over him then looked to throw to Doug Baldwin, he’s top target who had broken off his curl route into a go to the end zone. Wilson threw to Baldwin. Then Richardson ran faster than anyone else from the far right of the end zone to pick off the ball before it even reached Baldwin for an unlikely touchdown. That tied the game at 14.
Watson’s second touchdown pass of the half to Fuller, of 20 yards, gave Houston the lead again.
Wilson’s second TD throw of the half to Richardson, of 7 yards, re-tied the game.
The half ended 21-21, even though Houston out-gained Seattle 281 to 163.
The Seahawks had 10 carries for 3 yards in the first half. Sunday starter Eddie Lacy ran four times for minus-1 yard. Clowney bulled through Madden and pushed him into Lacy for a 6-yard loss that typified the Seahawks’ running game right now.
Thomas left the game in the fourth quarter after he pulled up and grabbed his right hamstring while he was chasing Hopkins at the end of his 72-yard catch and run for a touchdown. That put Houston back up 38-34 with 4:49 left.
Carroll said he doesn’t know yet if Thomas will be able to play next Sunday at home against Washington (3-4).
He does know he has an irrepressible, undaunted quarterback who was worth all of his $87.6 million to the franchise on Sunday. Like so many Sundays before.
"Yeah, I felt so on it today—and then that one play happens," Wilson said. "You are frustrated for a split second. And then you clear your head and then you realize ‘OK, here is the scenario…’
"Just having that confidence and that belief. A minute 30 left? I love nothing more."
Both teams made news before kickoff. About 30 of the 53 Texans took a knee along their sideline during the national anthem, two days after an ESPN story revealed their team owner Bob McNair said at an NFL meeting of fellow owners “we can’t let the inmates run the prison.”
On the Seahawks’ sideline, Michael Bennett again sat during the anthem, as he has since the preseason opener in mid-August to protest for better treatment of minorities and the need for police reform in the U.S. As they did last weekend at the New York Giants, eight of Bennett’s fellow defensive linemen sat with him.