The defense made all kinds of mistakes and Seattle had no running game, but QB Russell Wilson willed one of the most amazing victories in team history Sunday.
Many are the ways to look at the menagerie that unveiled Sunday at the Clink, a spectacle of puppies, porcupines, kittens and skunks. Just when it seemed Seahawks fans were ready to embrace the warm and fuzzy, it was all needles and stink.
The whipsaw was most intense with two minutes remaining when, trailing 38-34, QB Russell Wilson came up ugly, an interception at the six-yard line with 2:49 left — his first in 103 pass attempts — killing a dramatic drive that seemed the last, best chance to beat the Houston Texans and their splendid young QB, Deshaun Watson.
Amid wailing and gnashing of teeth among the 12s, the freakishly imperturbable Wilson gathered his receivers on the sidelines and explained what was going to happen.
“Hey, we’re probably going to get the ball back with 1:30 left, something like that, maybe no timeouts,” he said he told them. “Be ready for these plays. Just have your head cleared and go win the game.'”
So it happened. After one first down, the Texans inexplicably ran the ball three times and stopped, punting the Seahawks to their own 20. Wilson threw 48 yards to WR Paul Richardson, 19 yards to WR Tyler Lockett and 18 yards to Jimmy Graham for the game-winner, 41-38.
All heads were cleared. A round for the house, bartender.
Eighty yards in a buck-oh-eight.
All the mistakes by the defense and the incompetence of the running game no longer mattered. All the astonishing feats by Watson and the Texans were negated. No one was thinking about the pre-game protests by Texans players that drew national attention.
For the 23rd time in his career, and rarely more spectacularly, Wilson willed a win from a fourth-quarter deficit. Even Graham had a hard time grasping.
“At those moments, 3 has the most confidence you’ve ever seen,” he said. “His actions and demeanor in the huddle were unbelievable.”
Wilson’s play stood further in relief because of how it compared to Watson, the rookie who helped shred a prideful defense for 509 yards much in the way Wilson has done it to the NFL for six years — throwing deep well, extending plays with rollouts and gaining first downs with aggravating scrambles at the most critical times.
Seven games into his pro career, he’s already Wilson — minus just a handful of mistakes likely to be cured with experience.
“I know how other teams feel now,” said CB Richard Sherman of the comparison. “We definitely know how other teams feel. He was poised. He’s back there like (Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers), ducked from one, stepped back from another, spins off another one, and hits the open guy.
“Has there ever been a rookie who’s done that? It would be hard to find.”
Yet Wilson and the Seahawks beat him. It took every bit of his A-game deep ball — his career-best 452 yards came on just 26 completions — as well as his four scrambles for 30 yards. which made him the team’s leading rusher. And Watson out-gained him on the ground, 67 yards on eight carries.
“They were swashbuckling out there, man,” said coach Pete Carroll, beaming. “It was something.”
Wilson’s ability to hit consecutive strikes quickly under pressure left the Texans defense discombobulated. It was never more apparent than on the final play when they had no idea what to do. Graham was so alone he could have waited for a bus to take him to the end zone.
“For some reason, no one guarded me, which is awesome,” he said. “So, I scored.”
In fact, he scored twice in the game. As did Richardson, who had 105 yards on six catches. Lockett had 121 yards on six catches.
Much significance rests in these game feats by Graham, Richardson, Lockett and Wilson — all four were lessened in some degree by injuries in 2016. Sunday represented a breakthrough for all individually and for the offense collectively — it was able to win a game to save the defense, not the other way around.
They did it without any pretense of a running game. Running backs Thomas Rawls, Eddie Lacy and J.D. McKissic collectively carried 16 times for five yards. A drunk falling down a flight of stairs figures to gain that much.
“It was so obvious we weren’t able to run the football,” Carroll said. “We didn’t think that was going to happen at all. But I think it’s worth noting that when we realized we were struggling (assistant coaches Darrell Bevell and Tom Cable) did a great job to go ahead and go where we could go, and fight it.
“So many great calls, so many great plays, and so aggressive in his mentality, even though we weren’t feeling aggressive at the line of scrimmage.”
It must be said that the Texans defense was missing three premier starters: DE J.J. Watt, DT Whitney Mercilus (both injured) and LB Brian Cushing (suspended). It is no stretch to imagine they could have been worth four points of difference Sunday.
But that is the old if/then game that can go on to infinity. The remaining Texans had the game in hand, and could not hold it. The Seahawks, despite all manner of vulnerabilities, mistakes (how about those 10 penalties for a 120 yards?) and confusion, still had the wherewithal to prevail.
“You put in the work,” Wilson said, “and you have no fear.”
Apparently so. No better proof is available than eighty in a buck-oh-eight. Even Wilson was able to take a half-step back and admire his work.
“Just to win in that fashion,” he said, grinning. “How fun was that?”
More fun than roomful of kittens and puppies.