SEATTLE — Back and forth the teams went as an offensive shootout broke out Sunday afternoon at CenturyLink Field.
The Seattle Seahawks and Houston Texans matched each other tie-for-tie in the first half, then lead-for-lead in the second before Seattle prevailed 41-38 before 69,025 fans.
Jimmy Graham, who was the subject of unfounded trade rumors during the week and wasn’t targeted until the second half, caught two touchdown passes in the final five minutes, 37 seconds, including the game-winning 18-yard toss from Russell Wilson with 21 seconds to play.
“Jimmy Graham is showing that he is still Jimmy Graham,” Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin said.
“You see these guys day-in and day-out, you see the struggle, you see the battles with injuries, with opportunities, and you want to see guys do well,” Baldwin added later. “You put all of this together and it goes beyond football. It’s just about you being proud to be around human beings that have that much resiliency, who have that much tenacity and who go out there and lay it all on the line for the guy next to him.”
Graham has battled injuries and labored under lofty expectations during his three-year Seattle tenure.
On Sunday he found himself all alone in the end zone for the game-winning score and his second touchdown catch of the day as the Seahawks (5-2) won their fourth straight.
“I haven’t been that open over the middle in a while,” Graham said. “Really it was a perfect play call. We just went deep on them. … I think they were tired. We do a two-minute drill every day. Literally every day. On the practice field, through walk-through, we are always ready for those situations.”
Houston’s Marcus Williams appeared to seal the win for the Texans when he intercepted Wilson at the Houston 6-yard line with 2:49 remaining. But the Seahawks defense, playing without All-Pro safety Earl Thomas — who imjured his leg on the previous series — forced a punt and got the ball back for the offense, needing to go 80 yards in 1:39 … with no timeouts.
It took just three plays and 1:18 as Graham hauled in the game-winning pass.
“It’s crazy because at those moments, (Wilson) has the most confidence you’ve ever seen,” Graham said. “It’s unbelievable, his mindset and his focus at those times, how upbeat he is. You believe every time, if there’s 20 seconds left on the clock we’re going to score, we’re going to hit that Hail Mary. It’s just unbelievable — his actions and his demeanor.”
Wilson finished with a career-high 452 passing yards and four touchdowns. He completed passes to 10 different receivers, with Tyler Lockett, Doug Baldwin and Paul Richardson all hauling in a half-dozen.
The game featured four ties and nine lead changes, including five changes in the final 17:24.
Graham’s first touchdown came on a 1-yard reception at 5:37 in the fourth quarter and gave Seattle a 34-31 lead.
But Houston answered less than a minute later when DeAndre Hopkins caught a Deshaun Watson pass, slipped inside his blockers and went 72 yards for the go-ahead touchdown at 4:49.
“We knew today could possibly be a shootout and it would come down to who makes the biggest plays and who would make the most effective plays and the most timely plays,” Richardson said. “It was big plays by both teams and we just made the key wins at the end of the game to take care of it.”
Watson previously reclaimed a 31-27 lead for Houston when he spun out of a near-sack and found Lamar Miller for a 2-yard scoring completion at 9:09 in the fourth quarter.
The touchdown pass answered Seattle’s first lead when a pair of 21-yard Blair Walsh field goals sandwiched around a Richard Sherman interception turned a 24-21 Seahawks deficit into a 27-24 Seattle advantage with 2:24 to play in the third.
Houston broke a 21-21 halftime deadlock when Ka’imi Fairbairn’s 31-yard field goal capped a 10-play, 63-yard drive to give the Texans a 24-21 lead.
It was a trend that had been more than two quarters in the making.
Watson connected with Will Fuller V for touchdown passes of 59 and 20 yards in the first half. The first came on Houston’s opening possession as Fuller slipped behind Thomas and cornerback Shaquill Griffin and was wide open at 12:38 in the first.
Thomas atoned on Houston’s next drive when he picked off a Watson pass and returned it 78 yards for the game-tying touchdown at 10:08 in the first quarter.
Miller’s 3-yard touchdown run at 6:08 gave the Texans a 14-7 lead before Richardson’s 20-yard touchdown reception tied the game at 14-14.
The Texans then regained the lead at 9:34 in the second quarter when Hopkins hauled in a 24-yarder to set up Fuller’s second touchdown for a 21-14 lead.
Then Richardson matched Fuller with his second touchdown of the game on a 7-yard toss from Wilson that tied the game 21-21 at 6:02.
That’s how it remained at the half.
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