By Danny O'Neil
HOUSTON – The win that gave the Seahawks their best start in franchise history couldn't have begun much worse.
The Seahawks had 24 yards passing at halftime, didn't convert a third down until midway through the third quarter and allowed almost as many points in the first two periods as they had in the first three games combined.
But while the Seahawks looked done, they weren't finished. Not until completing one of the most remarkable comebacks in team history.
The Seahawks weathered five sacks, scored 20 consecutive points and pulled off a 23-20 overtime victory in Houston that required a little good fortune and a whole lot of resolve from both their quarterback and their defense to improve to 4-0 for the first time in franchise history.
"Today, we showed we could prevail through anything," said defensive end Chris Clemons.
That was true for quarterback Russell Wilson, who had his lowest passing total of the season yet spent the final 25 minutes of the game running circles around a Houston defense that had threatened to beat him to pulp during the first three quarters.
It was also true for Seattle's defense, which surrendered more yards in the first half (324) than it had in any of the first three games this season yet rallied to hold Houston scoreless in the second half.
And while Wilson was jaw-droppingly remarkable down the stretch, Seattle's defensive rebound was the most important development in this game.
Wilson had already proved his crunch-time chops. He did that last year in the comeback win over New England and then on the road in Chicago when he was so good he led two game-winning drives. And as impressive as Wilson was, rushing for 74 of his 77 yards in the fourth quarter and overtime, this was only the second-largest halftime deficit he has overcome in the NFL. The Seahawks trailed the Falcons 20-0 at halftime in the playoffs last year, and he brought Seattle back to take the lead.
The difference on Sunday was Seattle's defense. It held up this time. Repeatedly. And as much criticism as the Seahawks deserved for giving up 20 points in the first half, they deserve credit for not only keeping the Texans scoreless in the second half, but tying the game on Richard Sherman's 58-yard interception return with 2:40 left.
That moment will be the most memorable from this game, safety Kam Chancellor coming untouched on a blitz and leaping at Houston's Matt Schaub, who had faked a handoff before lobbing a pass off his back foot, arcing it up toward tight end Owen Daniels and then watching while an entire stadium gasped in disbelief as Sherman jumped up to take it away.
Seattle's defense held the Texans scoreless in the second half thanks in part to a pair of takeaways, including a forced fumble by Malcolm Smith. (AP)
It was one of two critical mistakes by Houston, the other being a 15-yard personal-foul penalty in overtime which put Seattle over the hump and into position for Steven Hauschka's 45-yard game-winning field goal.
But while those mistakes completed the comeback, they didn't tell the whole story of this victory. The Seahawks' defense had to stand up again. And again. And again.
Houston had three more chances to win the game after Seattle tied it on Sherman's interception, once at the end of the fourth quarter and twice in overtime. The Texans came close, too. They got as far as the Seattle 43 in the final minute of regulation and were within a yard of midfield on their second possession of overtime.
Each time, Seattle's defense dug in its heels and refused to budge.
"They just wouldn't let it happen," Carroll said.
This was the defense that gave up fourth-quarter leads in losses at Detroit and Miami last year. The group that allowed Chicago to tie that game in early December on an unconscionable 56-yard completion to Brandon Marshall in the final minute and most memorably a unit that couldn't hold on for the final half minute in Atlanta.
Well, that defense never let Houston within 40 yards of the end zone in the second half and overtime, forcing one fumble that set up Seattle's second field goal and scoring the game-tying touchdown.
"I thought it was just a tremendous sign of growth," Carroll said.
Seattle may not have won the game until a bone-headed personal foul by the Texans turned what would have been a third-and-5 near midfield into a first-and-10 at the Houston 33, but this victory was a testament to the Seahawks' collective refusal to lose.
"You can't win the game in the first three quarters," Clemons said, "and today we couldn't win it in the first four quarters so we had to push it to a fifth quarter, and that's where we got it done."