HOUSTON — For most of the day, the heart of Texas was a dark and hellish place for the Seahawks.
Seattle trailed the Houston Texans by 17 points at halftime. An offensive line without three starters provided little resistance. The first half was abysmal for the Seahawks.
That’s when the halftime discussion tilted to Atlanta and the rally there that produced a memory-providing-almost win last season in the playoffs.
The Seahawks went home short that day. They left Texas elated.
Richard Sherman’s 58-yard interception return for a touchdown with 2 minutes, 40 seconds left in the game produced a stunning tie. Russell Wilson’s legs and savvy put the Seahawks in a position for the interception to matter on a day where little worked for the offense.
Both helped Seattle trample road doubt and leave Reliant Stadium on Sunday as 23-20 winners after a 45-yard overtime field goal by Steven Hauschka.
The Seahawks are 4-0 for the first time in franchise history after scoring 20 unanswered points to leave Houston with a win made of luck and grind.
Part of the narrative hanging around the Seahawks is a question about their road worthiness. A disjointed week one win at the Carolina Panthers did little to quell the wonder produced by a 3-5 regular-season record away from CenturyLink Field last year.
The season ended on the road when the rally against the Falcons was short in the divisional round of the playoffs.
Sunday, when nothing was working – the Texans had more sacks (2) than the Seahawks had passing yards (0) late in the second quarter – there was a fix.
“When things are going great, it’s easy,” wide receiver Golden Tate said. “To look at these guys’ eyes at halftime, when we were getting dominated on both sides, we still had the confidence that we could come back and make plays and get back into the game.”
That comeback waited until the fourth quarter. Running back Marshawn Lynch (17 carries, 98 yards) talked with Wilson. He had a suggestion: “Hey, Russ. Just take over.”
There was not another option.
Throughout the day, Wilson was crushed and chased by a Texans line blowing through the Seahawks’ offensive line as if it was a leafless tree.
After sliding at the end of runs earlier in the game, Wilson began to scramble up field with purpose. He finished the third quarter with three rushes for three yards. He ended the game with 10 carries for 77 yards.
“I just decided, I’m going to step up (in the pocket). I’m going to slide a little more,” Wilson said. “If it’s not there, I’m going to take off and see what happens.”
Wilson was on the go in the Seahawks’ game-winning second possession of overtime. He scrambled seven yards for a first down. He hit Doug Baldwin for a seven-yard completion that turned into a 22-yard gain after Houston cornerback Kareem Jackson slammed Baldwin to the ground for a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty.
Two Lynch carries later, the Seahawks were in position for Hauschka’s 45-yard winner.
“They handed it to us every way they wanted to in the first half,” coach Pete Carroll said. “But, once it got going, we could feel the defense’s play and Russell’s (play) was off the chart.”
Wilson had 43 rushing yards on the opening drive of the fourth quarter. He also hit Baldwin up the sideline for what was initially ruled an incompletion. Carroll challenged and won. Instead of fourth-and-7, the Seahawks had a 24-yard gain to convert their second third down of the day.
Lynch pushed the Seahawks into the end zone when he took a pitch three yards and was untouched. He also sprinkled in his typical runs that make his shoulder pads appear to be constructed from concrete. In a game for bulls and banging, Lynch was one of the few Seahawks up to the task throughout.
The defense caught up to him after the half. Houston kicked a 42-yard field goal with a second remaining in the second quarter. It wouldn’t score again.
“There was a lot of undisciplined things that we can clean up,” safety Kam Chancellor said. “Guys saw a big stadium, a good, physical team and everybody wanted to do more.
“Once we calmed that down, they didn’t score any points.”
As expected, Houston defensive end J.J. Watt, the reigning NFL defensive player of the year, could not be tamed. He had eight tackles, half a sack and three quarterback hurries.
He also provided a succinct summary of the outcome from Houston’s point of view.
“Sucks,” Watt said.
Just the opposite of what the undefeated Seahawks were thinking.