SEATTLE — There are those who say Deshaun Watson is the new Russell Wilson. That the Houston Texans’ rookie quarterback exhibits all the same qualities that have made Wilson such a force during his six seasons with the Seattle Seahawks.
But for all of Watson’s efforts to match and even surpass Wilson’s magical abilities Sunday at CenturyLink Field, Wilson effectively said, “Not yet, youngster. There’s still only one Russell Wilson.”
The veteran Wilson got the best of the usurper Watson in Sunday’s swashbuckling duel of do-it-all quarterbacks, leading the Seahawks on a last-minute game-winning drive as Seattle defeated Houston 41-38.
“If there were ever any doubts about Russell and what he can do, there is no limit,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “That was a fantastic day.”
Wilson, up against a quarterback seeking to become his successor, had a record-breaking day at the office Sunday, going 26-for-41 for 452 yards and four touchdowns. The 452 yards set a franchise mark for single-game passing yards, besting the previous record of 449 set by Matt Hasselbeck in 2002.
But Wilson’s greatest contributions came in the game’s waning moments. Seattle, trailing 38-34 with 1 minute, 39 seconds remaining, needed to travel 80 yards — with no timeouts. That proved no problem for Wilson, who completed three straight long passes, the third of which was an 18-yarder to tight end Jimmy Graham wide open up the middle for the game-winning touchdown with 21 seconds remaining.
Before the touchdown it appeared Watson, who threw for 402 yards and four TDs as he displayed the same kind of elusiveness and big-play ability that’s been such a headache for defenses facing Wilson, had out-Russell Wilsoned Wilson. Especially after Wilson was intercepted near the end zone with 2:49 remaining in what initially felt like the last gasp. But it was the old hat — if Wilson can be called that at 28 years old — who got the last laugh.
“No. 3 is special,” Graham said of Wilson. “I knew right then, when he made a mistake he was going to come back and make up for it. His will to win and his will to overcome is like no other, it’s unbelievable.”
And the franchise passing record? Meaningless to Wilson.
“The biggest stat is that we won,” he said. “That’s all I care about, that’s all we care about. So that was huge, to win in that fashion. How fun was that?”
Watson may have wound up on the losing end, but he justified the Wilson comparisons. On Houston’s fourth-quarter touchdown that gave the Texans a 31-27 lead Watson spun out of the grasp of Seahawks defensive end Marcus Smith, and when Smith still managed to get a hold of Watson’s foot and was dragging him down, Watson was able to flip the ball while falling to Lamar Miller for a 2-yard touchdown. It was a vintage Wilson play.
Watson even emulated Wilson with his legs, rushing for 67 yards on eight carries. He showed the running savvy by slowing down to allow Alfred Blue to put a punishing block on Justin Coleman as he converted a third-and-14 in the third quarter, and his keeper on the option play to get a first down at the two-minute warning nearly sealed the game for the Texans.
“I know how other teams feel now,” Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman said. “We definitely know how other teams feel. There was a play in the red zone, I think it was their last touchdown or the play before the touchdown when they got down to the 3, and we sent pressure and three or four guys touched him. He was poised, though. He ducked under one, stepped back from another one, spins off one and hits the open guy. Has there ever been a rookie who does that? He made plays that very few people in this league, including the top-tier guys, can make.”
Just like Wilson.
When asked if he saw similarities between himself and Wilson, Watson answered in the affirmative.
“I’m a big supporter of him and love his game and just the person he is,” Watson said. “He’s a mobile quarterback who makes good decisions. Very good on the run, makes smart decisions, and he’s a leader. He’s passionate about winning and he’s going to compete.”
Wilson found himself admiring Watson, too.
“I don’t try to compare,” Wilson replied when asked if he saw himself in Watson. “I will say, though, I think his poise and his calmness, in terms of how he plays the game, is fun to watch. He’s been in the national championship twice now, he’s played in big games. This was a big one and he played great.”
But not great enough to get the best of Wilson. Not yet, anyway.
Follow Nick Patterson on Twitter at @NickHPatterson.