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The Morning After: Wilson, Seahawks, Pen a Masterpiece in 41-38 Thriller Over Texans
Offense
Defense
Special Teams
3.8Game Rating
Reader Rating: (39 Votes)

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Art is a serendipitous journey. Some would be surprised to learn that painters often set out on the voyage unsure of their destination.  Each brush stroke acts as a waypoint, eliciting a feeling that either confirms the course or demands a new one. Ask an artist what they are painting in the middle of the project and he or she will tell you they are not sure yet. It is only when the work is complete that it can be given a name and contemplated for all its meaning. Such is the NFL season. Focusing on one game, one play, or even one aspect of a team would be like assessing a painting based on just a portion of the canvas. Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offense grabbed a hold of the brush Sunday and added a brilliant shock of color. It was a masterful performance that left the door open for what could become a masterpiece by seasons end.

Words and pictures are not capable of capturing the essence of this game. It was like jazz. Discordant at times, harmonious at others, it makes sense in retrospect that two of the finest off-script quarterbacks in the sport could riff off each other in such thrilling ways. Deshaun Watson struck first, doing what is not done. He beat Earl Thomas and the Seahawks deep. That does not happen. It certainly does not happen with a rookie quarterback in CenturyLink Field. But it did. Thomas struck back almost immediately with an interception returned 78 yards for a touchdown. Leave it to the defense to score the Seahawks first touchdown of the season in the first quarter.

Undeterred, Watson led his team right back down the field for another touchdown to take the lead. Now it was Wilson’s turn. He began what became an afternoon full of pinpoint deep passing with a 27-yard dart to Tyler Lockett before eventually seeing the drive stall at the Texans 31 after Wilson threw an incomplete pass while being hit. Except it was not incomplete, or a pass. In one of the stranger moments for what is perennially a strange team, Pete Carroll challenged the ruling that is was a pass, asking the referees to rule his team fumbled. Why would a coach want to prove his team fumbled? Techno Canadian tight end Luke Willson had fallen on the ball at the 20-yard line. The refs confirmed the fumble, and Seattle wound up with the wackiest of third down conversions. Two plays later, Wilson hit emerging star Paul Richardson for a 20-yard touchdown. Tied again.

Watson kept coming. After each team punted, the Texans rookie led his team on their third touchdown drive of 75 yards or more in the first half. The Seahawks defense was reeling, trying to get to halftime like a fighter trying to stay on his feet before the bell rings. Thankfully, this was a tag team match, and it was Wilson and the offenses turn to tag back in. He took the team 75 yards in six plays, including a 53-yard bomb to Tanner McEvoy and another touchdown to Richardson.

Tied again at 21, the teams almost miraculously punted three straight times before heading to the locker room equal parts confident and dazed. Both defenses appeared to make some adjustments after halftime. Neither offense scored a touchdown in the third quarter, but the Seahawks 6-3 advantage during those 15 minutes would become decisive by game’s end.

Watson led his team into the red zone at the Seahawks 13-yard line before the defense stiffened and forced a field goal. That would be the only unsuccessful red zone trip on the day for the Texans, but gave them another lead at 24-21.

Darrell Bevell made one of the games great play calls on the next Seahawks drive when he created an opportunity for rarely utilized fullback Tre Madden up the middle of the field. He was so open that it almost appeared as if the Texans forgot he was on the team. Madden raced 66 yards to the Texans 12-yard line. That play was a great example of a tendency breaker. Offensive coordinators never want to predictable, and are constantly looking for evidence that they are creating predictable patterns in their plays. Madden has not been a player defenses needed to pay attention to. Now they do.

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Seattle was unsuccessful getting into the endzone on the first two plays, but had an easy touchdown on 3rd and 1. By the looks of Twitter, most fans blame Thomas Rawls for a drop in the endzone. What I saw was Wilson rolling left with plenty of time and space to throw, nobody between him and his receiver who was a few yards in front of him, and no defender near his receiver. Instead of the simplest pitch and catch of the day, he lost touch a bit and overthrew Rawls, making an easy play more difficult. Rawls still should have caught the pass, but Wilson has to make that easier. The Seahawks settled for a field goal and the teams were tied once again.

Watson made his second mistake on the next series when he threw another interception, this time to Richard Sherman, who returned it to the Texans 8-yard line. Again, the Seahawks were unable to convert the red zone opportunity for a touchdown. It felt like that might have been the difference in the game. It was, but not like any of us thought at the time.

Little did we know that the first three quarters were just the appetizer. Calling what happened next a quarter of anything would not do it justice. This was a game in itself. Just as the game had started, Watson landed the first blow. Hitting DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller for big gains on the way to a 71-yard touchdown drive that put the Texans out in front 31-27.

Wilson started the next series hitting Willson in perfect stride over the middle, only to have the tight end drop the ball. No worries. He uncorked his next throw 54 yards downfield to Lockett for his second 50+ yard throw on the day. Back in the red zone a few plays later, it looked like their demons were going to overwhelm them again when a touchdown pass to Richardson was called back due to a completely unnecessary chop block by Rawls away from the play. Instead of a touchdown, the team was now facing a 2nd and goal from the 22-yard line. Like a week earlier, Wilson looked to Baldwin in that moment and the unguardable receiver once again delivered. This time, drawing a pass interference penalty at the goal line. One snap later, Wilson hit Graham for the go-ahead touchdown, 34-31.

Now, the pace quickened. Watson needed just two plays and 48 seconds to take the team 75 yards and regain the lead. Hopkins was spectacular all afternoon. He took a short pass from Watson and raced 72 yards to make it 38-34 in favor of the Texans.

Just 4 minutes and 49 seconds remained in the game. It was becoming clear the clock was going to have to finish this game because neither side was budging. They were not just landing jabs. Each offense was swinging big, hitting each other with haymaker after haymaker. Wilson was the picture of poise through it all. With his team taking the ball at their own 25-yard line, he first went deep again to Baldwin, who looked like he was going to make the catch until the Texans defensive back made a fantastic play on the ball and knocked it loose.

Wilson used his legs to nab a quick first down. We all know what it means when Wilson starts to scramble. Now, an 8-yard strike to Nick Vannett. Then a gorgeous 15-yard connection to Richardson. After an incompletion, Wilson pulled out his wand and did his latest Houdini act, splitting a pair of defensive linemen on his way to a 21-yard scramble. Three minutes and six seconds remained. First down at the 20-yard line. This is going to happen. And then it didn’t. Wilson threw a ball directly to a Texans defensive back for what looked like the game-deciding interception.

Houston took over at their own 8-yard line with 2 minutes and 49 seconds left. They ran for four yards on first down, and something interesting happened. Carroll did not call a timeout. I questioned the logic at the time, but it turned out to be a game-saving decision. By preserving all three timeouts, Seattle was able to give themselves a chance to win even after allowing a first down. That is exactly what happened. Houston got a first down, and then the two-minute warning stopped the clock. The Texans win probability at that moment was 89.3%. Still armed with three timeouts, the battered Seahawks defense was able to rise up and stop Houston with 1 minute and 49 seconds left on the clock. Forced to punt, Shane Lechler unleashed a 63-yard bomb that Lockett returned to the 20-yard line.

Wilson and the offense needed to go 80 yards in just one minute and thirty-nine seconds. Hold my beer. Wilson drops back and enjoys one of many clean pockets on the day before unleashing a rocket down the middle of the field. Two men stood alone as it neared. One lept high off the ground and extended his arms high over head while the other remained in obedience of gravitational laws. Paul Richardson, a man who has battled back from two serious knee injuries and been doubted by many, was not going to be denied this catch. And so it was. A 48-yard vignette. First and 10 at the Texans 32-yard line. One minute, nine seconds remained.

A false start penalty cost the team five yards and 10 seconds. No matter. Wilson hit Lockett for 19 more yards, and the receiver raced the ball to the referee to save every precious second. The next snap came quickly. There would be no spike or time for the defense to gather themselves. That proved wise as Graham was left wide open down the middle of the field. Touchdown. Pandamonium. The impossible happened again. Seattle only needed roughly 60 seconds to frustrate mathematicians everywhere. You need a new win probability formula when Wilson and the Seahawks are involved.

Despite the heroics, the irrepressible Watson had 21 seconds and two timeouts to get a game-tying field goal. It would not happen. Frank Clark capped off a terrific day of rushing the passer with a sack on first down. Sherman nabbed his second pick on the next play. Game over.

There is much to dissect and absorb from a truly historic game, but some things we can say without reflection. This Seahawks offense, led by now-MVP candidate Wilson, is vastly improved. You may be shocked to know that only one Seahawks offense has ever gained more yards through its first seven games than this one. That would be the franchise-best 2005 offense. Wilson is the second-most prolific passer in the game at over 280 yards per contest. They have gone over 425 yards in four of their past five games. They have scored over 40 points in back-to-back home games. This defense was throttled by Watson, but anyone who watched that game had to come away thinking every defense is in trouble playing this guy. Lost in the avalanche of points was that the Seahawks defense made crucial plays including five sacks, three takeaways, and a defensive touchdown. Seattle does not win this game without those plays.

Special things happen during special seasons. You need your best players to play their best to win a championship. This was the type of win that builds belief and swagger. We have long wondered when we would ever see another display of greatness like what Wilson and his receivers accomplished in 2015. We are witnessing it now. There are flaws on this team, and some will fixate on them. Others will recognize those are just brush strokes on a vast canvas. Stand back and see what Carroll and team are painting. They are in first place, and to use a soccer term, have a game in hand over the second-place Rams in the division. The only team in the NFC (and NFL) with fewer losses has to travel to Seattle later this season. Seattle has an offense that can soar, a defense that can punish, and an unbending will that has turned countless losses into ecstatic wins. The ingredients for greatness are there. Enjoy watching the masters at work.

10 Responses

  1. John

    Look, I love the hyperbole- but I’ve been a professional artist for a long time, and that’s not at all how it works. We know what we’re doing, and there isn’t as much serendipity as most folks believe.

    Otherwise, GO HAWKS!

    Reply
    • Brian Nemhauser

      Interesting. I’d say that’s not how all art works. I know a number of professional artists, ranging from painting to sculpting to dance and writing. Their artistic methods vary. I know a number who absolutely begin with a feeling or vision, but experiment and adapt their work along their work along the way. I can say that when I sit down to write, I do it the same way.

      Good luck in your work, and thanks for reading!

      Reply
  2. Josiah White

    Absolutely brilliant writing, Brian. You saved your best for one of the Hawks best games. The last time we played the Texans was in 2013, and though I don’t remember much about that game, I do remember that Wilson needed to have another “game for the ages” to win.

    On ESPN’s website last night, I’d occasionally see a graphic for many teams which showed the team’s expected win probabilities over their next five games. Our win probability was over 50% for each of our next five games, even for the last one when we host the Eagles.

    Reply
    • Christine Hansen

      I completely agree! Wonderful writing, Brian, of breaking down this stunning game. Almost as exciting as watching it!

      Reply
  3. Rowdy Yates

    Yep, it’s Wilson’s team now. And thank you Michael Bennett for that shoestring tackle at the almost-end of a storybook game. Who doesn’t love a great plot with a happy ending? (Sorry, Houston—but not really).

    All of us who questioned the F.O. not taking a first round DB in this year’s draft, aren’t worried about it anymore, are we? Not with Shaquille Griffin playing like, “Who’s a rookie?”

    Props to the Houston Coach/ play caller for revisiting a college style
    offense, with lots of fake hand offs to give the Hawk’s D pause.

    Props to an over-matched Odhiambo for being such a gamer.

    Speaking of Left Tackle, I hope they try Joekel out there when he
    returns , but sending E-Po back to the bench, is, unfortunately, the option that the coaches will most likely choose. Hope I’m wrong about that, because the recent improvement of pass pro up the middle corresponds with E-Po getting playing time. (A sidelined JJ Watt didn’t hurt this limited equation).

    Ifedi seems to be progressing toward a serviceable ceiling with bonehead plays being the constant asterisk. And, obviously, the run game continues to worsen. The dwindling apologists for Tom Cable continue to trot out the tired “argument” that many NFL “experts” think Mr. Cable is one of the best OL coaches around. Many NFL “experts” were also sure that Deshaun Watson wasn’t worth a high draft pick. (I wish all the “experts” in this world valued merit more than hype).

    Time for Mike Davis to get a real chance. Time for a man-on-man, power-blocking run game to get a chance. Time for Tom Cable and the ZBS to be called out in places that matter. Because it’s just going to get more and more difficult for the pass to set up the run, if the Hawks can’t run at all.

    But thank you PC & The Gang for yesterday’s game. (Hot damn, Russell Wilson’s on OUR team). Go Hawks.

    Reply
  4. Brad

    Incredible game! One of the best I have ever seen! News just out reveals a trade for Duane Brown has been completed. Imagine how that is going to add to this offenses confidence levels! Can’t wait til next Sunday!

    Reply
  5. Wigman

    New rant. Hawks need to find someone else to evaluate the running back position. Old rant. Hawks need to demote or fire Cable. Since 2011 his main job was to establish a power running game. As of today with dozens of failed roster moves and countless incorrect line ups the hawks have the worst running game in leauge. It’s a embarrassment and without Wilson would be the reason this team would be winless. Tom. Cable seems to be a nice guy and is liked by many he just can’t do what he is asked to do. Hard not to love Pete but please stop with the competition stuff if you are going to keep Lacy on the roster. How on earth are we not bringing in running backs for a look. If he is to nice to cut him please stop giving him carries. Fun game and there is lots to love about this team but the o line situation needs to be addressed. Go hawks .

    Reply
    • Michael Mccarthy

      I think the entire offense is the problem. Russell sure does react to even the sniff of criticism. 2 weeks before the Pittsburg game during the Kam holdout year he got some criticism at Hawkblogger, the media snowballed it, and Russell went on a tear, playing the best football of his NFL life for 10 games. This year he, and the Seahawks, especially the defense, have to go all in for a unique chance at the Superbowl, with Rodgers out and the Patriots weak. I can guarantee you Breese is all in already. But then theres the playoff buzzsaw. Likely this year it s going to be Philly, and the Seahawks failed the last 2 years with North Carolina and Atlanta.

      The Seahawks know exactly what that buzzsaw is, having been that during the Denver Superbowl. Right now, they aren t good enough, but getting better, to survive say Philly to get to another superbowl. The team has to sniff the chance to get to a Superbowl in a unique year. possibly like the years when 6th seeded Pittsburg
      won the SB or 9 win NY Giants.

      Reply
    • Michael McCarthy

      Yeah, the running backs. Schneider did a lot to help with the Brown trade. But with each offensive grouping you have a loaded 38 you can aim at the opposing team. The running backs have 5 chambers. Oops, you put a dud in one chamber by keeping Prosise. Oops Lacy might be effective if the O line was say top 15 and he could get some steam, so 2 duds. Oops Rawls is injury-prone and doesn t hit holes well, so 2 1/2 duds. If you cut Prosise or cut Lacy, you could bring up Davis and bring in a new running back on the practice squad. Or even better, cut both Prosise and Lacy. Guess what Pete and John, the decision-makers have to sniff the Superbowl as much as the players, and this team can t do it without a running game. The buzz saw will cut them in half in the playoffs.

      Reply
  6. Uncle Bob

    Last week in the build up commentary to the game I was struck by the overwhelming silliness of various commentators who underestimated the abilities of the rook Watson. Living in Central Texas now (roughly half way between Houston and Dallas) we get more info/commentary on those teams (and two talented quarterbacks in particular) than folks elsewhere. Watson is the real deal………much like Russ showed in his rookie debut…….maybe a tad better. He has that mystical trait not easily identified (to many it seems)…………..he is a winner, and is driven by some inner strength that will go super-human to come out the victor. The Seahawk defense got bloodied a bit…….hopefully not because they underestimated the kid, but they may have. In the end, with a victory that had many fathers, the Seahawks showed what a complete (mostly) team earned victory is.

    Again some silliness prevails in the post game analysis. Many want to lay the entire victory at Russell Wilson’s feet. Sure, he had one hell of a game, and deserves the accolades. Let’s not forget the rest of the players though. Instead of the receiving corps appearing to be Doug Baldwin and some other schlubs we got great performances from Richardson and Lockett in equal measure. Richardson is a human highlight reel, No-E is Mr. Dependable. Jeez, even McEvoy and Graham held on to their receptions! The O-line………….look expectations a so low, even a mediocre performance impresses to a degree……it held up enough. The let down, no surprise, was the running attack (generous use of that term here). Yeah, poor blocking that lets the runner get hit in the backfield isn’t on the back, but why does it seem that Lacy looks for the biggest pile of human bodies on the field and runs into it so he can bounce on his back? Rawls doesn’t seem to find a hole (no matter how small) much better. Arghhhhh!

    The defense did a lot good………..a lot! I had to DVR the game, and I found myself both enjoying the back and forth battle, matching punch for punch, and being angry about the chunk play allowances. Supposedly the team was working hard to “fix” those lapses…………..looks like more work is needed. But, there were a ton of good plays, sacks and turnovers (both much needed, especially in this game), if those lapses weren’t repeated so often this season they’d be less of a concern. In re-watching the game, even knowing the outcome would be favorable, I still got angry with those mistakes. Sure, some will always happen, but there seems to be some flaw(s) that other teams repeatedly exploit. It seems more scheme driven than player specific.

    This past weekend’s performance and yesterdays trade for Brown at LT have boosted hopes. No doubt we just got better on a PORTION of the O-line. No silver bullet though, there’s still improvement needed. The running game is likely to be lame the rest of the season, so the better pass pro this line seems capable of will be needed as defensive plans by the opponents shift to a pass defense heavy scheme (is Bevell capable of scheming to exploit that with the tools at hand? We’ll see…). My hope is this team can work well enough together to continue success…………not just good enough to get into the first round of playoff games……but beyond that.

    Reply

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