Can the Seahawks get credit for two wins in one game? One for beating the Houston Texans and one for beating themselves?
Their 23-20 overtime win in Houston was a great comeback, almost a carbon copy of the playoff loss in Atlanta, with a better result. But it didn’t need to be that hard. If they had used Russell Wilson properly from the start, the Hawks would have won without the drama.
Simply put: The offensive game plan sucked.
Why would an offense that had made three changes along the line keep its mobile quarterback in the pocket the entire game, letting him get hammered over and over again by J.J. Watt and the league’s No. 2 defense?
With three starting offensive linemen out, coordinator Darrell Bevell’s plan seemed to be as simple as it was stupid: “Let’s let Wilson get pummeled until he finally gets tired of it and takes the game over.”
The Seahawks seem far too tied into the idea of making Wilson a pocket passer. Look, everyone knows he can throw from the pocket. But when he doesn’t have a pocket to throw from, you need to create one. That means moving him to his right or left, and resetting or throwing on the move.
They did that by design once or twice — and that was it. Until he finally decided he had enough, he was a sitting duck back there for three quarters.
The Seahawks actually ran the ball well at times behind their duct-taped line, rushing for 64 yards on 10 carries in the first half and finishing with 179 yards on 30 runs (Wilson had 77 on 10). But they could not protect Wilson, who was sacked five times and hit 10 more throughout the game.
Bevell and the offensive coaches inexplicably did not change anything at halftime. They came out and tried to do the same stuff that had not worked in the first half. They kept Wilson in the pocket, where he was repeatedly pummeled and harassed by Watt and company.
That is needless punishment. The Hawks’ plan from the start should have been to get Wilson on the move and create dual-threat situations — make the Texans chase him while giving him options to run or throw.
That was never the plan. But just like in Atlanta last January, Wilson finally had enough and decided to take the offense on his back.
Fortunately, the defense got it together in the second half and shut down Houston for the rest of the game while basically scoring 10 points for Seattle — setting up a field goal on a fumble recovery and tying it with Richard Sherman’s impeccably timed 58-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Wilson did the rest. No thanks to his coaches.
In the fourth quarter, he started using his feet, and the Hawks finally finished a drive with a touchdown. He took them 98 yards in 13 plays, running for 53 of it himself. That included a big fourth-and-3 conversion inside the Houston 10 that set up Marshawn Lynch’s short touchdown run.
Coach Pete Carroll, perhaps not entirely plugged in to what his offense is doing, credited Bevell with calling plays that got Wilson outside. But it was quite clear that Wilson merely took the initiative once he decided the game plan was not working.
“There was definitely a point in the game Marshawn and I were talking about it that we had to find some way to buy some time, and we did on some plays,” Wilson said. “I just decided I was going to step up and … if it’s not there I’m going to take off and see what happens to get positive gain rather than going backwards and taking the sack, because they were getting back there.”
Despite the horrendous game plan, Wilson threw just one interception in the face of the pressure. Of course, it came late in the game when the Hawks really needed a sustained drive. But Sherman answered with his game-tying interception, giving Wilson a chance to redeem himself. And he did.
On the second drive in overtime, Wilson and Lynch ran the Hawks into position for the winning field goal.
“I just had to try to find a way to get first downs and make plays and keep the chains moving,” Wilson said. “Sometimes I have to use my legs to do it, too. They did a good job of covering for the most part, but just trying to slide up and step up and get first downs and keep the ball moving. I think that was big for me. We had to find a way. We always have to find a way.”
On Sunday, Wilson did. No thanks to his coaches.