Seattle is not the most likely place for a shootout to break out, but the NFL has a funny way of letting outstanding football games emerge out of nowhere and we got one of the best games anyone will see in 2017 as Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson dueled it out in a marvelous, high-octane battle that showcased the future of football.
Wilson and Watson both showcased their unique skillsets, lighting up the scoreboard while throwing for four touchdowns each, with half of said touchdowns coming in a wild fourth quarter that featured four different touchdown drives of 71 yards or longer.
Watson now has 19 touchdown passes in his first seven games, the most in NFL history, beating Kurt Warner’s record, but it was Wilson who got the last laugh, casually marching the Seahawks 80 yards down the field in three plays before finding tight end Jimmy Graham for a wide-open touchdown that would ultimately win the game.
“It’s crazy, because at those moments, [Russell] has the most confidence you’ve ever seen him with,” Graham said of his quarterback after the game. “It’s just unbelievable his mindset, his focus at those times, how upbeat he is. You believe every time, if there’s 20 seconds left on the clock that we’re going to score, that we’re going to hit that Hail Mary. It’s just unbelievable, his actions. His demeanor in the huddle is just unbelievable.”
It’s not hard to see what Graham is talking about — that was hardly the only big-time throw (and catch) on that drive, with Wilson picking up a massive chunk of yardage on a deep completion to Paul Richardson that showcased his mobility, pocket presence and arm.
Wilson may as well have been looking at a mirror during this game, with Watson serving as an impressive facsimile for Wilson from his rookie year.
Folks will recall that it was Matt Flynn, not Wilson, who was set to be the starter for the Seahawks in 2012. Flynn had been signed in free agency and Wilson was just a third-round pick for Seattle. The Seahawks were hoping Flynn could put them over the top. Instead, Wilson, who just has a certain winning quality about him, stole the job before the season and never looked back.
Like Wilson, Watson wasn’t going to be the starter originally. Tom Savage was named the Texans starter for Week 1 and spent the first half getting pounded by the Jaguars before Bill O’Brien quick-hooked him for Watson.
And like Wilson, Watson has that quality about him. Dabo Swinney described it before the draft and we just didn’t listen. With every crunch-time play and every touchdown he throws, it’s hard to imagine how anyone thought starting Savage was the right play.
Watson still had his share of rookie mistakes and eventually threw two interceptions (one to seal the game) in Richard Sherman’s direction. But it’s a testament to Watson that, with 21 seconds left and the Texans holding the ball down three points to the Seahawks in Seattle, it wasn’t out of the question for the rookie quarterback to find a way to get the Texans a look at tying up the game.
He is playing a little above his head right now, in the sense of having a lot of breaks go his way. One of his touchdown throws is going to give him 70 yards but it was DeAndre Hopkins who did most of the work.
That was still a “WOAH” moment for Houston, a big-play score that gave the Texans the lead with less than five minutes to play. They had that game and gave their defense a shot to hold off Wilson and the Seahawks enough to steal a pretty massive upset.
Regardless of the final score, it’s clear just how much Watson belongs. And it’s also fortuitous for both the Texans and the NFL that Watson was able to produce such a big performance, going head-to-head against Wilson for 60 fantastic minutes of football, when he did.
The Texans started the game by taking a knee in protest of owner Bob McNair’s referring to NFL players as “inmates” in a “prison” (he was worried the protesting players and the anthem issues would result in the owners losing control). The world was focusing on something other than football when this game began, and a blah performance by Houston would have led to questions about their focus, etc.
Instead, the narrative coming out of the game was laser-locked on Watson and Wilson, the two young quarterbacks who have, at every stage of their career, denied the doubters, refusing to back down from a challenge.
We often hear people complain about the level of quarterbacking in the NFL and the concern about the future once guys like Tom Brady and Drew Brees move on. Maybe the game is in pretty good hands after all.