HOUSTON — The playoffs remain a longshot, a winning season something that will require winning two road games as underdogs against high-flying divisional rivals Los Angeles and Arizona.
But in the past two weeks, the Seahawks feel they have at least begun to re-establish something of an identity and have begun to show that they were indeed capable of what they felt they could do all along.
“These two games have given us the confidence and boost that we need to continue to do what needs to be done to finish out this season right,” said receiver Tyler Lockett after the Seahawks beat Houston 33-13 Sunday at NRG Stadium.
And, sure, it was just the Texans, a now 2-11 team that has been an easy mark for most teams on its schedule this year.
And, yeah, it maybe took the Seahawks a little longer to end the drama in this one than many might have expected — it was 19-13 and Houston had the ball near midfield as the fourth quarter began.
But in a season when little has gone to plan, this one finally did, with the Seahawks using a mix of their best rushing game in more than a year, a big-play offense and a stifling run defense to give Seattle its second straight win following last Sunday’s 30-23 victory over the 49ers. It’s the first time all year the Seahawks have won two in a row.
“I think that’s a defining moment for us as individuals but also as a team of what is it that we want to do and how far do we want to go?” Lockett said.
While the win improved Seattle’s record to 5-8, it didn’t do much to improve Seattle’s playoff hopes — from 3% to 5% via FiveThirtyEight.com.
But reversing what had been a skid of six losses in seven games and keeping hope alive the past two weeks at least made the Seahawks feel a lot better about themselves.
“Just being able to see us get back to Seahawk football,” said Lockett of what he liked about the game.
Lockett was front and center in getting that done, catching five passes for 142 yards, including a 55-yard touchdown with 52 seconds left in the first half that put Seattle ahead for good. Lockett now has 1,023 yards, becoming the only Seahawk other than Steve Largent to surpass 1,000 yards in three straight seasons.
But spectacular as Lockett was, he took a back seat to Rashaad Penny, who turned in the best game of his four-year career with 137 rushing yards on 16 carries and touchdown runs of 32 and 47 yards.
The oft-injured Penny had only 38 carries in the past 24 months before Sunday. But against the worst rushing defense in the NFL, Penny showed why the Seahawks have hung with him through all of his ailments, with his 32-yard TD in the first quarter putting Seattle ahead after Houston had somewhat surprisingly struck first to take a 7-0 lead, and his 47-yarder putting the game away in the fourth.
“Great, great day to see Rashaad Penny come out like that,” said coach Pete Carroll.
Penny, who has never shied away from confronting his unfortunate health history — he has played just nine games the past two seasons — said, “I’m just thankful that I came out injury free.”
Seattle’s 193 rushing yards were its most since getting 200 against Arizona in an overtime game last season.
And Seattle’s 7.9 yards per play were by far its best of the year, with the Seahawks recording eight plays of 22 yards or longer.
The Seahawks also had no turnovers, and didn’t allow a run of longer than 10 yards all game and no plays of longer than 19 yards after the first series.
“We’re fundamentally continuing to improve,” Carroll said.
The real proof of that will come next Sunday when the Seahawks play in Los Angeles against a Rams team that is 8-4 heading into a Monday night game against the Cardinals in Arizona.
And there were a few brief moments Sunday when you wondered if the Seahawks might be on the verge of one of their most devastating losses in years.
Houston took the opening kickoff and drove 75 yards for a TD as quarterback Davis Mills — a rookie from Stanford who had been named Friday as the team’s starter for the rest of the year — went 5 for 5 for 72 yards, including the scoring pass to Brevin Jordan.
“Took us a while to get going,” Carroll said.
Said middle linebacker Bobby Wagner: “We just didn’t execute as well as we should have. But after that we calmed down and started to lock in.”
A spectacular 29-yard pass from Wilson to a tiptoeing Lockett on the sidelines to convert a third-and-10 got Seattle’s offense going on the next drive.
Houston was denied a touchdown in the second quarter when Brandin Cooks was called down at the 1 instead after it was initially ruled that he had scored. Maybe fittingly for the Texans, an illegal formation penalty on first down moved Houston back, and the Texans had to settle for a field goal and a 10-10 tie.
Seattle broke that deadlock a few minutes later, getting the ball back at its own 45 after Houston had been pinned deep by a Michael Dickson punt.
With one minute left on the clock, the Seahawks could have tried to hunt and peck their way down the field to run out the time.
Instead, Wilson scrambled and hit Lockett for a 55-yard TD that made it 16-10 (Jason Myers missed the PAT), and Seattle never trailed again.
“Tyler looked just unbelievably on it today,’’ Carroll said.
Still, it was just 19-13 when Seattle got the ball at its own 33 with 11:38 to play. Wilson hit Gerald Everett for 14 to convert a third-and-seven, then hit Lockett for 29 on a third-and-nine to set up a 1-yard score to Everett with 7:28 left to finally put the game away. Penny’s 47-yard run two minutes and two seconds later provided a fun capper to the day, happily celebrated by what at that point was a crowd dominated by Seahawks fans.
“I think it’s just good momentum,” Wagner said of the wins the past two Sundays. “I think we were able to kind of build off of what we did last week, and I think we’ve just got to keep our heads down and keep playing. We can’t look up and see who we have next or anything like that. We’ve just got to keep getting better each week and see what happens.”