HOUSTON – The turning point in the Seahawks’ 23-20 win over Houston came when cornerback Richard Sherman picked off Texans quarterback Matt Schaub and returned it 58 yards for a touchdown.
That pick-six, with Sherman sprinting down the field with one shoe, tied the score at 20 in the fourth quarter. But the interception was not by accident. In fact, it was exactly how the Seahawks planned it.
In the locker room after the game, safety Earl Thomas didn’t deflect credit from Sherman. After all, he had to make the interception — his second of the season. But Thomas gave much of the credit to defensive coordinator Dan Quinn for his play call.
Quinn noticed on film that Houston liked to roll out Schaub off play action in short-yardage situations, then have him quickly dump the ball in the flat. So when the Texans faced a third-and-four with about three minutes left, Quinn dialed up a play designed specifically to thwart that.
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Quinn had safety Kam Chancellor blitz off the edge, which negated Schaub’s ability to roll out after faking the handoff. He also had Sherman hover in the flat.
After turning and seeing Chancellor in his face, Schaub quickly threw the ball up for grabs to tight end Owen Daniels. Sherman played it perfectly and jumped in front of the pass.
“You’ve got to give credit to the D-coordinator on that one,” Thomas said.
Seattle’s defense had seen that exact play in Friday’s practice when going against the scout-team offense. In practice, Sherman also picked off the pass in the flat.
Defensive end Chris Clemons said Seattle’s defense doesn’t run that play often, but he said Quinn knew what Houston would likely do on that play based on the Texans’ formation and down.
“We had practiced exactly that,” coach Pete Carroll said. “So it was really cool that it happened, but even more so for the poise and athleticism for Sherman to pull it off. It was the way it was supposed to be.”
Sherman, of course, completed the play by taking it 58 yards for a touchdown minus half his footwear.
“It might be the longest return without a shoe in the NFL,” Sherman said. “You got to check that.”
Jayson Jenks: 206-464-8277 or firstname.lastname@example.org