Russell Wilson rubs Steven Hauschka's head after Hauschka's game-winning field goal. (David J. Phillip/AP)
The Seattle Seahawks' 2012 season ended in Atlanta when Matt Bryant kicked a 48-yard field goal with eight seconds remaining to lift the Falcons to a 30-28 win, erasing the the rally Seattle had made from a 20-0 halftime deficit. Seattle head coach Pete Carroll talked through the offseason about making more of those opportunities, and his team certainly did that on Sunday.
On the road, down 20-3 at the half, and missing three of their starting five offensive linemen, the Seahawks managed to eke out a 23-20 victory in overtime when Steven Hauschka booted a 45-yard field goal with 3:19 left in overtime. The field goal lifted Seattle to 4-0 for the first time in franchise history.
Nobody would have assumed this result based on regulation. The Texans' formidable front seven battered quarterback Russell Wilson all day, and Wilson was able to throw for just 123 yards on 12 completions. He threw for no touchdowns and one interception, but his 77 rushing yards on 10 attempts were key, as Seattle's gameplan changed and Wilson was tasked with using his legs to keep crucial late drives alive. Without offensive tackles Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini, and center Max Unger, Seattle had few options left.
In the second half and in overtime, however, the Texans started to help Seattle's case in ways that will haunt them. Cornerback Richard Sherman tied the game at 20 with 2:40 left in regulation when he picked off a Matt Schaub pass and returned it 58 yards for a touchdown. Schaub threw for 355 yards and two touchdowns, but his two picks negated the positive effects of that yardage. It was Schaub's third game of the short season in which he has thrown a pick-six.
The Texans dominated this game in every possible way, except on the scoreboard. They outgained the Seahawks, 476-270, gained 29 first downs to Seattle's 15, and had 88 plays to Seattle's 58. But on the last drive in overtime, everything fell apart. Shane Lechler had to re-play a punt that originally held the Seahawks at their own seven-yard line when a Texans player ran out of bounds on the return. Seattle receiver Golden Tate took the second punt out of the end zone and ran it up to the Seattle 31-yard line. Three plays later, Wilson threw a short pass to Doug Baldwin that got the Seahawks up to their own 49-yard line, but Houston cornerback Kareem Jackson was penalized 15 extra yards for suplexing Baldwin to the ground. That set Hauschka up for the game-winner.
The Seahawks can ready themselves for another AFC South road trip next Sunday -- they travel to Indianapolis to face the impressive Colts -- by basking in a victory, but there are issues on both sides of the ball. Seattle's defensive line was almost as problematic as its offensive front five, and the back injury suffered by end Michael Bennett won't help.
For the 2-2 Texans, the questions will be directed at Schaub and head coach Gary Kubiak, which is the way it's been all season.
“Well, I’m concerned about a lot of things,” Kubiak said this week, as he was preparing for the Seahawks. ”We turned the ball over, obviously, and that’s something that we’re not doing very well right now, or we’re doing a poor job of protecting the ball, and we’re not getting turnovers either. Those two go hand-in-hand. As a football team, we’re losing that battle, which we were very good at last year, and we’re off to a very slow start this year. That has to change. But it’s not just the quarterback. Everybody’s involved in what we’re doing, and we can do a better job up front, a better job running routes. [Schaub's] got to make good reads, all of those things. Those things go together.”
On Sunday, they didn't -- and the Texans snatched defeat from the jaws of victory as a result. The fans are not amused.