I may be in a boozy, tobacco-laced, post-coital delirium but I don’t care- I’ll say it: that’s the craziest Seahawks game I’ve ever watched. At least in the regular season. And considering the lifespan-reducing anxiety we’re regularly subjected to by the Pete Carroll / Russell Wilson Era, that’s saying something. After two months of slow, grinding starts to Seattle contests, the Seahawks and Texans proceeded to blow the lid off Century Link Field right from the jump.
We’re used to watching the Seahawks turn games into belabored exchanges of body blows and point-scoring jabs, counting on sheer volume and execution to win on the cards when it’s all over. Today, Seattle and Houston ditched convention and each spent 12 rounds trying to take each other’s heads off with haymakers and uppercuts, with Wilson pulling his team off the mat in the final minute to KO the Texans.
First things first; I don’t spend much time slarving the dodes of opposing players but this needs to be said: Deshaun Watson is the freaking truth. I remember having a conversation with Danny Kelly around draft time and telling him that I don’t pretend to know much about which college QBs are gonna have success in the NFL, but that it’s been a long time since I felt as sure about any of them as I did about Watson. To date, he’s been everything you could hope for and more. Much was made about this game being his greatest test yet, and it’s safe to say he aced it, as the rookie finished with the only 400-pass-yard, 4-TD, 50-rush-yard game in NFL history.
He started the scoring with a monumental bomb to Will Fuller down the middle of the field, hitting his speedy receiver in stride 140 yards downfield for a touchdown on the game’s opening drive. After a listless three-and-out on Seattle’s first possession, Jon Ryan punted it back to the Texans and Watson took the field looking to add on.
Now, Watson may be redefining what’s possible from a rookie QB, but he’s still a rookie QB and there’s lots he hasn’t seen yet, especially from a secondary boasting two maybe three Hall of Famers. On his next pass Earl Thomas unlocked the Matrix, baited Watson into throwing a stick route, swooped beneath Deandre Hopkins for the interception, and navigated the shifting green columns of 1s and 0s all the way down the field for a touchdown. It was the type of play that reminds you how unfair it is that we can only define Thomas in limited human language. He is a red sun creature trapped on a yellow sun world. Maybe Earl Thomas is just a regular guy back on his home planet but here on Earth, he’s a demigod in shoulder pads.
Not that that fazed Watson. Not for a moment. He headed right back out onto that field and led a confident, steady touchdown drive, punctuated by a 3-yard Lamar Miller run. That’s when Wilson embarked on the single greatest statistical performance of his life, hopping off the bench to lead a touchdown drive that consisted of completions to Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, Lockett again and finally, Paul Richardson for a 20-yard score.
After a polite exchange of punts, the Texans retook the field and proceeded to go 84 yards on a calculated 11-play drive. On the 11th snap, Watson faked like nine handoffs before drifting to his right and finding (guess who?) Will Fuller in the front corner of the endzone for another score and a 21-14 lead. Fuller is like a player you unlock in a video game that you can only use once in a while but guarantees a touchdown every time you do. He came into the game with 5 TDs on just 8 receptions. He got two more on his first two catches in this one.
NOT TO BE OUTDONE, Wilson casually sauntered back into the huddle and unleashed hell on the Texans defense. Despite two run plays that netted -4 yards, Wilson still orchestrated a 6-play, 75-yard TD drive by completing all four of his passes, including a 53-yard bomb to Tanner McEvoy who somehow has not been cut and banned from the city of Seattle, and a scrambling heave back across his body to a diving Richardson in the endzone. That play set the score at 21-21, where it would remain until halftime. Six touchdowns is enough to satiate anyone that’s used to watching Seahawks football, but that was just the appetizer.
In the third quarter, the Texans would use a few completions to Deandre Hopkins and a couple Seahawks penalties to set up a go-ahead field goal. On the ensuing drive, Darrell Bevell, working with a run game whose success rate is slightly worse than Wile E. Coyote’s, drew up a slick 66-yard pass play to Tre Madden. The play worked for two reasons: 1) the play-action and pass routes took every member of Houston’s back seven to the sidelines and 2) no one realized Tre Madden was even in the NFL. Wilson calmly delivered the pass to Madden, who ran blissfully through a sunny meadow until reality tackled him on the Texans’ 12 yard line. That play was followed by a slant to Jimmy Graham, his first target of the game to that point, putting the ball on Houston’s 4. However, after TDs on their first two red zone possessions, Seattle was unable to find paydirt as Wilson floated a ball over a wide open Thomas Rawls on third down. The pass was catchable but Wilson, for his all his canonical greatness, made it much tougher than it should’ve been, and Rawls is my favorite player that sucks. The ‘Hawks settled for a game-tying field goal, allowing the explosive Texans offense to try and take the lead back.
Seattle’s offense may have come up short in this case, but the defense had their back. Richard Sherman immediately jumped an out route and picked Watson off deep in Houston territory. Since the Seahawks are contractually obligated not to run the ball for positive yardage in the year of our Lord two-thousand and seventeen, they again sputtered in the red zone and settled for another short Blair Walsh field goal and a three point lead.
Still unfazed, Deshaun led the Texans down the field again, turning five plays into 71 yards and ending the drive with a short TD pass to Miller after pirouetting out of a Jarran Reed sack. It was an incredible demonstration of poise in a high-leverage moment, the type of effort good enough to win most games. Wilson’s answer to that, however, was nothing short of incredible.
On play #1, Luke Willson dropped a sure-thing 25-yarder, a kick-to-the-nutsack for most teams trailing by 4 late in the game. Russ, immune to the vagaries of human emotions like disappointment, programmed a deep pass to Tyler Lockett who hauled it in for 54 yards. Then, on 3rd & 8, Wilson put the ball in a teacup to a well-covered and diving Paul Richardson for a first down. On the very next play, Wilson’s third TD to Preach was called back on a completely unnecessary chop block by Thomas Rawls. After Baldwin earned a PI call with a juke move that’s banned in 47 states and Puerto Rico, Wilson rolled right and found Jimmy Graham in the endzone for the go-ahead touchdown. The score put Seattle up 34-31 with five and a half minutes left, and we weren’t even close to done.
It took Watson exactly one throw to answer back. After a short Miller run, Watson zipped a pass out to Hopkins, who patiently waited for a block before hopping in a HyperLoop and not exiting until the endzone. It happened so fast that even Earl Thomas came up gimpy trying to chase him down. 72 yards later, the Texans had the lead again and were a within sniffing distance of a huge road victory. Wilson’s next drive looked like more of the same brilliance we’d been witnessing all day. It featured his only two scrambles, totaling 31 yards. The second one came on a play where I swear he was sacked twice, but he nimbly stepped out of both before sprinting 21 yards. Sadly, his very next play was a stare-down interception at the 5-yard line, his first pick in over 100 attempts. It seemed like all the heroism would be for naught, and that Deshaun Watson could hang his hat on arguably the most impressive win by a rookie in NFL history. After a Watson first down scramble took the game to the two-minute warning, the Texans were 10 yards away from sealing the deal.
They opted to run it three times, with Michael Bennett saving a first down with a trip tackle on second down and Sheldon Richardson snuffing out the third down attempt. Miraculously, the Seahawks hadn’t wasted any of their timeouts in the second half and were able to deploy all three in service of getting the ball back with a minute and a half left. It was all Seattle would need.
On the first play, from his own 20, Wilson dropped back, angled his shoulders to the sun, and let fly an arrow into the atmosphere. It came down 48 yards later, into the outstretched hands of Paul Richardson, who corralled it for a monumental gain. After a Germain Ifedi false start, Wilson found Lockett over the middle for 19 more yards. In this situation, most teams would hurry up to the line, spike the ball, and regroup before drawing up their final plays. Wilson, however, took stock of a Texans defense so exhausted they couldn’t even get into their stances before the next snap. He calmly received the hike, surveyed his options of receivers running past cement-footed defenders, and hit Jimmy Graham in stride for the game-winning touchdown with 21 ticks left on the clock.
You’d like to think there was one more rub of the lamp for Watson, but after burnishing the sandy bronze, all that came out was a Frank Clark sack and Richard Sherman’s second interception of the day. The Seahawks had pulled off one of the most exhilarating wins in the history of a franchise whose recent track record is full of them. What we saw today should not go unappreciated and for whatever faults there were (penalties, beaten in coverage, no run game, etc), this performance was a gilded example of resiliency in the face of immense pressure.
-Russell Wilson was stupendous today, even by his elite standards. 452 yards passing on 41 attempts, 4 TDs, 1 pick, and a passer rating of 123.2. He became just the 5th player in NFL history to throw for 400+, 4 Tds, and rush for over 30 yards. Incredibly, and as I mentioned before, Watson’s performance made him one of the others.
-The Seahawks netted 446 yards on 42 called pass plays, an average of 10.6 yards per. They got 33 yards on 21 rushes and only 1 on 19 designed carries. I’d be fine if they didn’t hand the ball off for the rest of the season. Perhaps they agree — Seattle’s final 23 snaps consisted of 21 pass plays, a jet sweep to Lockett, and a kneel down that very nearly improved the team’s yards per carry. This O-line has improved tremendously in pass protection (one sack and minimal pressure today), but they can’t finish a run block to save their mamas’ lives. Also Jadaveon Clowney is a monster that somehow escaped the Upside Down.
-On the other hand, there was a shit ton of passing candy to go around and the Seahawks receivers showed up in full costume to receive their Halloween treats. Tyler Lockett turned 8 targets into 6 catches for 121 yards. Paul Richardson set career highs in every major category, translating his 7 targets into 6 catches for 102 and 2 teeders. Doug Baldwin led the way with 10 targets, snagging 6 of them for 54 yards and Jimmy Graham, thrown at just 5 times, ended up with 4 catches for 39 yards and Seattle’s final two TDs.
-The Seattle pass rush has taken a lot of heat for their lack of sack production (came into the game ranked 22nd), but they’ve been very good at forcing QBs off the spots and / or forcing early throws, an underrated aspect of their #1 scoring defense. In this one, they were better at finishing the job, registering an impressive five sacks, though Watson made them pay on most plays where they didn’t.
DeAndre Hopkins wore Shaquille Griffin out this afternoon and frankly, I don’t think that’s an indictment of ‘Quille. Playing CB on the opposite side of Richard Sherman means a lot of targets, usually against the opponent’s #1 receiver; it’s a weekly gauntlet for the rookie and one that will result in a few bad games. It will also, however, quicken the pace of his learning and frankly, I think Griffin is on the path towards towards goodness, if not greatness. Hopkins might be the best WR in the NFL right now and he looked every bit of it, recording 8 catches for 224 yards and a TD against one of the stoutest pass defenses in the modern era.
-Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman combined for three interceptions today, a throwback to the halcyon days when opposing QBs weren’t afraid to test them only to be sorry they did. KJ Wright had 14 tackles. Bobby Wagner had 12. Michael Bennett got 1.5 sacks, bested only by his son Frank Clark’s 2. Hell, even Dwight Freeney shared a sack with Justin Coleman in his Seahawks debut.
This was not a perfect game, but you shouldn’t be judging performance against the standard of perfection anyway. Every NFL play features 22 of the most impressive athletes in the world, all highly trained and specialized in the skills they’re performing. The margin for error at any given time is thinner than almost anything you or I will ever face in our lives. What matters is whether your performance is good enough to beat your opponent and today, Seattle’s was.
The Seahawks are 5-2 and in first place in the NFC West. They’ve won low-scoring grunters, they’ve won a blowout, and today they won a new-fashioned shootout. Versatility is an earmark of greatness and it’s time to start acknowledging that the 2017 Seahawks are once again among the NFL’s very best teams.
Next week is some other fuckin’ game against some other fuckin’ team. Bring ‘em on.
My boy James hooked me up with a delectable bottle of Macallan 12-Year Double Cask today, a gift I was happy to put a huge dent in as I tried to steady my wavering nerves throughout the game. I successfully paired it with a Gurkha Beast,a cigar whose bite needs a stiff draught to match it.