On this day, it was Russell Wilson who passed last and best, leading the Seahawks to a 41-38 victory that pushed aside all the angst over protests to remind everyone just how compelling the NFL can be.
It was, said Doug Baldwin, Russell Wilson’s finest hour.
The game had been one of wild emotional swings, of big bursts of yardage and a scoreboard that vacillated back and forth between the Seahawks and Texans in the sort of shootout that rarely involves Seattle.
But mostly, it was a day of two mirror-image quarterbacks in full brilliance, one now an established veteran and the other in rapid ascendance.
“They were out there swashbuckling, man,’’ said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.
Deshaun Watson announces his greatness with each successive game, and, “He doesn’t have to wait around; he’s already there,’’ Carroll said. Watson was a revelation Sunday, putting the Texans up 38-34 with 4:49 to play on a 72-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins, just the latest bolt of offensive lightning the rookie conjured up.
But on this day, it was Wilson who passed last and best, leading the Seahawks to a 41-38 victory that pushed aside all the angst over protests and kneeling to remind everyone just how compelling the NFL can be.
Yes, it was imperfect, because you can’t have 988 yards of combined total offense — just let that number sink in — without there being some epic defensive breakdowns. And the Seahawks couldn’t run the ball to save their lives — but that just highlighted the performance of Wilson, who was at his playmaking best, scrambling and improvising his way to a Seahawk-record 452 passing yards.
“If there was ever any doubts about what Russell, what he can do, there is no limit,’’ Carroll said.
And it was his one big failure of the day, an interception as the Seahawks were driving toward the end zone following Hopkins’ go-ahead score, that ultimately helped elevate his day to near-legendary status. For the Seahawks to get the ball back required a defensive stop that had been elusive all day, but they pulled it off, giving Wilson and the Seahawks a chance at their 20 with 1:39 to play.
“I told the guys, ‘Have no fear. We’re going to do this,’ ” Wilson said.
And the fact he had so many fourth-quarter comebacks on his résumé — 23 in 99 games — made it easy to believe. What made it even easier was the aura that Wilson gives off in such situations — a mixture of calm and confidence and imperviousness to pressure.
“It’s amazing to have a guy in the huddle who nothing fazes him,’’ Baldwin said. “Nothing happens. Sometimes, it’s kind of weird. We’re like, ‘You OK?’ For the most part, he’s so poised, continuously poised. And it makes all of us really calm in the huddle and ready to go do our jobs for him.”
It took a mere three plays for Wilson to march the Seahawks down the field. Forty-eight yards to Paul Richardson, who had already caught two touchdown passes. Nineteen yards to Tyler Lockett. And finally, 18 yards in the end zone to Jimmy Graham, who was so wide open, Carroll said, “Everybody was screaming, everybody was calling his name out. It was just magnificent execution.’’
It was a completion born of repetition, Graham said, pointing out the daily drills the Seahawks do in the two-minute offense. But it was more than that, according to Carroll. Along with the X’s and O’s, the team tries to internalize faith, an elusive quality that becomes essential in games like this. It doesn’t always get rewarded — just think of the Super Bowl against New England for the most drastic example — but the goal is to make sure it still doesn’t waver.
“We kind of practice believing, so that we can get to the point when you have these opportunities, you don’t relent,’’ Carroll said.
Which is where Wilson’s demeanor leads the way.
“I knew right then, when he made a mistake, he was going to come back and make up for it,’’ Graham said. “His will to win and his will to overcome is like no other. It is unbelievable. It’s crazy, because at those moments, ‘Three’ (Wilson) 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, if there is 20 seconds left on the clock, that we’re going to score, that we are going to get that Hail Mary.”
Wilson euphemistically referred to his interception as “my bad play,” and said that afterward, he assured his teammates that, “The defense is going to make a stop, and we’re going to get the ball back. And we’re probably going to have a minute, 40 seconds left.”
It had taken Wilson only a brief moment, he said, to shake off the frustration of the pick, which came after Seattle had marched to Houston’s 20 in search of a go-ahead score.
“Then you clear your head and you realize, ‘OK, here is the scenario, here is the truth of the situation,’ ’’ Wilson said. “We need to get the ball back, which we have full confidence is going to happen. Just having that confidence and that belief. We have been there before … I love nothing more.”
Where did this game rank in Wilson’s pantheon? Luke Willson put it up there with the comeback he led over the Texans in 2013, when Seattle trailed 20-6 in the fourth quarter, and the overtime NFC title game victory in 2014 over Green Bay. But Baldwin went further.
“We had to score more points than we’ve ever had to score before,’’ he said. “We had to score, because that’s a good offense over there. This to me might be his finest work to date.”
Earl Thomas was asked if he’s ever seen a rookie as poised as Watson, who passed for 402 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for 67, though his day was marred by three interceptions, one returned for a touchdown by Thomas.
“Not since Russell Wilson,’’ he said.
Asked what he thought of Wilson’s day, Thomas said, simply, “I’m a believer.”
|That’s a new high|
|Russell Wilson set the single-game record for passing yards by a Seahawks quarterback.|
|452||Russell Wilson||Houston||Oct. 29, 2017|
|449||Matt Hasselbeck||at San Diego||Dec. 29, 2002|
|427||Matt Hasselbeck||at San Francisco||Dec. 1, 2002|
|418||Dave Krieg||Denver||Nov. 20, 1983|