For about the first three quarters, Russell Wilson looked as shaky as he ever has on the road. The next two quarters, though, would remind fans why he's the Seattle Seahawks' franchise quarterback.
Wilson had 200 all-purpose yards and Steven Hauschka kicked a 45-yard field goal as the Seahawks moved to 4-0 by scoring a come-from-behind, 23-20 overtime win against the Houston Texans in Week 4 on Sunday.
Seattle's offense, dormant through the first three quarters, started moving quickly up the field once Wilson began using his legs. He rushed for 77 yards, scoring critical first downs and helping atone for a nondescript passing performance. The second-year signal-caller completed only 12 of 23 passes for 123 yards, with the Texans defense led by J.J. Watt hurrying him throughout the contest.
But when Seattle needed him most, Wilson made the plays—with some help from the Texans defense. With the Seahawks facing a long second-down situation, Wilson connected with Doug Baldwin for a seven-yard gain. Bottled up by cornerback Kareem Jackson, the play was seemingly over until Jackson lifted Baldwin into the air and tossed him to the ground, drawing a 15-yard penalty.
Wilson would subsequently hand the ball to Marshawn Lynch twice and throw an incomplete pass to set up Hauschka's kick.
Jackson's mistake was just the latest in a series full of them for Gary Kubiak's team.
With the Texans ahead 20-13 late in the fourth quarter and driving to possibly put away the game, quarterback Matt Schaub threw an out route to Owen Daniels. It went to Richard Sherman. The Seahawks corner scampered unimpeded to the end zone, tying the game as a shocked Reliant Stadium crowd looked on.
It was Schaub's third pick-six in as many weeks. In a week where his offensive coordinator asked him to make better decisions, he had made perhaps his worst of the season at the least opportune time.
The crowd responded in kind, lustily booing a quarterback who had played well before his interception. Schaub finished the game with 355 yards and two touchdowns while completing 31 of 49 passes. But his two interceptions—especially the last one—will stick in the craw of fans and the locker room as they look back on a very winnable game.
According to the Texans on Twitter, Kubiak made the following statements after the loss:
At one point, this game looked like a Texans blowout. They broke out to a 20-3 lead at the end of the first half thanks to a dominant second quarter. Schaub connected on a 31-yard touchdown to Garrett Graham on the stanza's opening play, followed it up with a five-yard score to Arian Foster and then led the offense to two Randy Bullock field goals.
The game was a story of two halves, and Schaub's first was among the better he's ever played. In fact, heading into the fourth quarter, it seemed like the Seahawks had befallen to the road woes that were a storyline throughout 2012.
When the Seattle offense started producing some positive momentum, mistakes came back to bite it. The Seahawks fumbled the ball three times (recovering two themselves) and got called for nine penalties.
On a fourth-quarter drive that saw the Seahawks drive all the way down the field after beginning at their own 2-yard line, they nearly cost themselves points twice. First, Jermaine Kearse got called for an offensive pass interference on a would-be touchdown pass. Then, a critical false start followed by a sack pushed the Seahawks out of the red zone and forced them into a 2nd-and-24 hole.
Seattle, as it would throughout the game, kept battling back each time. Wilson scampered his way around the Houston defense for a critical fourth-down conversion, setting up a Lynch touchdown that brought the Seahawks within one score.
Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll was pleased with the result:
With the mistakes piling up for both teams, the outcome came down to timing. Schaub threw his pick when the Texans had a chance to finish off the biggest win of their season. Jackson made his and essentially gave Seattle the game.
Now 2-2, Houston will head to Candlestick to play the 49ers next week and wonder what could have been.
Matt Schaub (QB, Houston Texans): B
We've seen Matt Schaub have this game plenty of times. Other than his first-quarter interception, Schaub did his job in most every sense. He was efficient with the ball, made smart decisions on check-downs and even made some solid throws while under duress.
And then came the big mistake. It was the type of performance you'd expect against an average defense from someone of Schaub's caliber.
Doing it against this Seattle defense puts the performance in a different light for me. Interception or not, it had been 11 games since a quarterback threw for over 300 yards against the Seahawks, per the live broadcast. Schaub is the first to do so since Matthew Stafford achieved that feat in Week 8 of last season. Keep in mind, this is an NFL where 300-yard games have become benign; you can win plenty of games against 300-yard quarterbacks.
The Seahawks came into Sunday with a pass defense DVOA of -64.6 percent. They haven't been a great pass defense; they had been once-in-a-lifetime good. And Schaub tore them apart for a good portion of the game.
It was just that one thing again that kept Schaub from finishing the job.
Russell Wilson (QB, Seattle Seahawks): C+
It's tough to know where credit for the Texans defense ends and criticism for Wilson's lack of production in the first 45 minutes begins.
Houston has a guy named J.J. Watt. He's pretty good at making opposing quarterbacks miserable, and he did so to Wilson on Sunday, as did just about the entire Houston front seven. The wear and tear on Tom Cable's offensive line reared its ugly head.
All that said, Wilson didn't do much to help matters until the fourth quarter. He was at times frantic against the pressure, preferring quick dump-offs to Lynch and Golden Tate. It's also fair to criticize Wilson for not picking up blitzes and sensing the pressure better on his pre-snap reads.
Wilson, of course, made up for those three nondescript quarters with a great fourth quarter and mistake-free overtime period. It's a mark of a true leader that he was able to overcome the slow start and lead his team to victory.
Arian Foster (RB, Houston Texans): A-
As much as the overarching credit should go to Schaub, his running back certainly relieved some pressure. Foster got off to a bit of a rough start thanks in large part to his absence in the preseason, and he still didn't have any burning gains this week. His long carry for the season, which he matched Sunday, is still only 16 yards.
But what Foster did do, however, was churn the chains and the clock. He and Ben Tate combined for 146 yards on the ground, getting key first downs whenever it was starting to look like Seattle had captured some defensive momentum.
Plus, adding 69 yards as a receiver doesn't exactly hurt matters. Foster still isn't all the way back to being himself, but the Texans would gladly hit the "repeat" button on his performance if given the chance.
Marshawn Lynch (RB, Seattle Seahawks): A-
For the first three weeks of this season, "Beast Mode" was conspicuously absent. In his place was the Marshawn Lynch that arrived in Seattle in 2010 on the precipice of flaming out of the NFL. Lynch struggled to pick up anything outside two- or three-yard gains, averaging only 3.4 yards per carry heading into Sunday. Football Outsiders' DVOA actually had him producing negative value when compared to a replacement-level back.
This week, Lynch was one of a select few bright spots. He picked up 143 all-purpose yards, carving up a Texans defense that came into Week 4 among the stoutest against in football. While Seattle had to move more in Wilson's direction in the second half, Lynch's performance was good enough early to deserve some recognition.
Plus, he was a human GIF on that run. And, as we all know, GIFs mean everything.
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