HOUSTON — Red Bryant stood shirtless in the locker room, tears welling in his eyes. The 323-pound Seahawks defensive end hugged every teammate within reach, and even though hip-hop music blared in the background, his voice overtook the area.
“We step up to every challenge,” Bryant yelled. “Leaders, playmakers, role players — we have it all. We fight. We continue to fight. That’s all we know is to fight.”
Twenty minutes earlier, the Seahawks had completed a belief-affirming 23-20 comeback victory Sunday over the Houston Texans in overtime. At first, it wasn’t amazing as much as it was arduous, a slow grind from a 20-3 halftime deficit at Reliant Stadium that took the entire regulation and nearly 12 minutes of overtime to finish.
The Seahawks trailed 20-6 as late as midway through the fourth quarter, but a rally was still possible. They felt it. They knew it. And then they took it.
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It didn’t matter that the Seahawks were outgained 476-270, or that the offensive line was missing three starters and played like it, or that their healthy, No. 1-ranked defense yielded 324 yards in the first half. The Seahawks are too competitive to ponder the insurmountable.
This game didn’t reveal their virtue, but it did expose what they have on the inside. And while the Seahawks would prefer to impress by playing a more fluid and complete game, this triumphant recovery says as much about them as any blowout of San Francisco.
“When things are going great, it’s easy,” said wide receiver Golden Tate, who made a bold, no-no-no-yes decision in overtime, not letting a punt go into the end zone and instead returning the kick 32 yards to assist the Seahawks on their game-winning drive. “But looking in our eyes at halftime, when we’re getting dominated on both sides of the ball, and seeing that we’re still confident, that tells you who we really are.”
Bryant, not of the show-don’t-tell ilk of communicators, shouted from the back of the locker room: “We’re men of great character!”
The comeback required three adjustments: The defense had to find itself after quarterback Matt Schaub and the Texans embarrassed the Seahawks in the first half. Marshawn Lynch had to be featured more prominently on offense. And Russell Wilson, under pressure all game behind a makeshift offensive line, had to use his legs.
Seattle came through in all those areas. Houston gained only 152 yards after halftime, and the Seahawks’ pass rush became a factor with four sacks of Schaub in the second half and consistent pressure from Chris Clemons, Clint McDonald, Tony McDaniel and Cliff Avril. Lynch, who finished with 98 rushing yards, had 12 touches in the second half, 10 of them runs. And Wilson ran for all 77 of his rushing yards in the second half. Seventy-four of those yards came in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Wilson was a magician, making positive plays out of nothing and willing the Seahawks’ offense to just enough production to get back in the game. After Houston linebacker Brian Cushing left in the third quarter with a concussion, the Texans’ defense wasn’t the same.
When Lynch scored a 3-yard touchdown with 7:43 remaining in regulation, he cut the deficit to 20-13 and set up a dramatic ending. Later, All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman, who couldn’t shut down Texans star receiver Andre Johnson (nine catches, 110 yards), shook off his struggles and made the biggest play of the game — a 58-yard interception return for a touchdown to tie the score at 20 with 2:40 left.
It was a Texans play that Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn had his team prepared for all week. He had the perfect defensive call in mind if the Texans ever showed the look: Blitz safety Kam Chancellor, disguise cloud coverage and bait Schaub into throwing a dangerous pass into the flat. On Friday, the Seahawks had practiced the coverage against their scout team. The result: a Sherman interception.
When Sherman saw the same situation with the game on the line, he thought only one thing: Make a play. He jumped the route as Schaub tried to loft the pass to tight end Owen Daniels, wrestled the football from Daniels and saw nothing but grass in front of him.
“It was like the world stopped for a second there,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of the play.
Unlike last season’s playoff game in Atlanta, the Seahawks wouldn’t let a comeback result in heartbreak. They rallied from a 20-point deficit last January in Atlanta, only to watch a conservative defense blow the game in the final 31 seconds. This time, the defense remained aggressive, especially on a third-and-four situation at Seattle’s’ 43-yard line with 34 seconds left in regulation.
The Seahawks blitzed, McDaniel got good pressure, Schaub’s pass fell short, and the Texans punted. Overtime. And even though the Texans received the ball first in the extra period, it felt like the Seahawks couldn’t lose.
With 3:23 left in overtime, Hauschka made a 45-yard field goal to ensure Seattle’s determination would be rewarded.
“We ain’t never out of it,” Bryant said later. “As long as we have air in our lungs, we’re going to battle.”
As long as Wilson can get a throw off to the sideline, Doug Baldwin is going to make an incredible catch. As long as there is a turnover to be had, Sherman or Earl Thomas or Bobby Wagner will find a way to create it. As long as there is a second left on the clock, Wilson will do whatever he can to make a play.
These are the Seahawks, a team that won’t quit.
These are the Seahawks, a team that, as Big Red wipes his tears, ain’t never out of it.
|The Seahawks’ better half|
|After getting outplayed in the first half by the Texans, the Seahawks showed just enough life on offense and overtime to get back in the game and pull out a win to stay undefeated.|
|Category||1st half||2nd half/OT|
|Net yards rushing||64||115|
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or email@example.com. On Twitter @JerryBrewer