SEATTLE – Through it all – the early deficit, the nonexistent running game, his stunning interception late in the game and the wondrous Houston rookie Deshaun Watson looking like or even better than him – Russell Wilson simply refused to lose.
“Just having that confidence. And having that belief,” Wilson said.
This one, though, was close to unbelievable.
Seemingly outgunned by Watson’s 402 yards passing, Wilson bulled through two Texans and stiff-armed cornerback Marcus Williams at the end of a 21-yard run to get Seattle to Houston 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 turnover with 2:42 left. That kept Seattle down 38-34.
Yet Seattle finally got a defensive stop, after one first down. The Seahawks had 1:39 to go 80 yards without timeouts. Richardson made a 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 rolling grab 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 of Wilson, speaking after his two-touchdown game to a media group for the first time 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 team-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 seven 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…
“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, two days after he skipped Texans practice to protest his team owner saying the league “can’t let the inmates run the prison.” Seattle had two 100-yard receivers, 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 Thomas Rawls chop-block 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. 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 gave Seattle seven plays inside the Houston 10-yard line. 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 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. Rookie QBs are now 1-7 in Seattle since 2010. The only one to win: Andy Dalton with Cincinnati in 2011.
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.
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.”
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