SEATTLE — The loudest, brashest member of the Legion of Increase strode throughout the CenturyLink Subject turf Sunday afternoon and got here face-to-face with a rookie quarterback with a limp in his gait, and Richard Sherman’s eyes acquired vast with pleasure.
Right here was Deshaun Watson, whose steely play had helped regular the Houston Texans after a protracted, surreal weekend’s price of strife and soul-searching — and this was Sherman’s likelihood to ship a message. As the 2 gamers walked facet by facet throughout the changeover between the third and fourth quarters of Sunday’s spirited conflict between the Texans and Seattle Seahawks, the veteran cornerback supplied his younger opponent some incongruous phrases of encouragement.
“He was limping as a result of he had harm his ankle, however you possibly can see the poise and the combat within the child,” Sherman recalled greater than an hour after clinching the Seahawks’ 41-38 victory along with his second interception of the sport. “I instructed him, ‘Simply hold combating, man. You are a fantastic participant. And I respect your combat. I respect your grind. I respect how ready you had been.’
“He mentioned, ‘Yeah, I recognize it, man. I look as much as you.’ It was a cool second. And it was a particular sport.”
The sport was particular on many ranges; in the beginning, as a result of it was essentially the most entertaining three hours of soccer the 2017 season has so far needed to provide. It additionally showcased a stunning duel between a extremely achieved quarterback, Russell Wilson, who constructed upon a revelatory rookie season and blossomed into one of many league’s elite gamers, and a present rookie who seems to be blazing an identical path. And it featured redemptive performances by gamers on each side of the sphere, most notably Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins (who was so upset by feedback from proprietor Bob McNair at a latest league badembly that he skipped apply final Friday) and Seahawks tight finish Jimmy Graham (whose identify was mentioned in commerce talks, NFL Community Insider Ian Rapoport reported).
Provided that for a lot of observers, the sport was thought of must-see-TV even earlier than the opening kickoff, it had main letdown potential. As a substitute, it let thousands and thousands of soccer followers in on a secret that has turn into alarmingly obvious in NFL circles: Watson, the previous Clemson star who went 12th general within the 2017 draft, is not simply good for a rookie. Seven begins into his professional profession, he is good, interval — and seemingly on the highway to being nice.
“I am glad we have him on our staff,” Texans defensive finish Jadeveon Clowney mentioned of Watson. “I like watching him. He is a great participant — I take that again — he is a nice participant. And he is getting higher each sport.”
Then Clowney, whose lively afternoon included a sack, a compelled fumble and two tackles for loss, went a step additional: “I do not badume Russell’s higher than him. Why I say that’s that Russell cannot see over the road. He is gotta get outdoors and create area to get the ball downfield. Deshaun, he can beat you along with his legs, along with his arm, or nevertheless he must beat you.”
In equity, as superior as Watson was on Sunday, it was the 5-11-with-boots-on Wilson who (no less than figuratively) stood taller.
In finishing 26 of 41 pbades for a franchise-record 452 yards and 4 touchdowns — together with an 18-yard game-winner to Graham with 21 seconds remaining, capping off his 23rd profession game-winning drive within the fourth quarter or extra time — Wilson regarded MVP-worthy. The Seahawks (5-2) moved right into a first-place tie with the Rams, a staff they defeated three weeks earlier in Los Angeles, and seem able to making a run at a 3rd Tremendous Bowl look in 5 seasons.
Watson, in the meantime, related on 19 of 30 pbades for 402 yards and 4 scores whereas gaining 67 yards on eight carries. He did throw three interceptions, together with a first-quarter miscue that All-Professional security Earl Thomas took 78 yards to the home, tying the sport at 7 with 10:08 left within the first quarter. But in displaying a Wilsonesque skill to increase performs and ship pinpoint throws below duress, and displaying the poise that carried Clemson to a nationwide championship upset of Alabama final January (after a near-miss the earlier 12 months), Watson left a powerful impression on his opponents, and left the Texans (Three-Four) feeling badured that they will mount a cost again to the postseason in November and December.
The Seahawks’ protection, in spite of everything, is not used to being shredded by anybody, not to mention a rookie absorbing the wrath of 69,025 screaming followers in one of many sport world’s most menacing environments.
“He was magical,” Sherman mentioned lengthy after the sport, in an in any other case empty locker room. “It did not matter if the friggin’ ’85 Bears had been on the market immediately. I imply, that quarterback, he was on level, he was executing, he was doing what he wanted to do to get his offense down the sphere.”
In different phrases — he regarded suspiciously like Wilson 2.zero.
“I suppose we acquired a style of how it could really feel to play in opposition to that man,” Sherman continued, laughing.
Not so enjoyable?
“Yeah, I see that,” Sherman mentioned. “They had been dueling, man. (Watson) made performs down the stretch, however so did Russell. Russell matched his each play with an equal or higher play, and that is what you recognize. He simply does what he does. And Russell’s not prepared to provide these rings away fairly but.”
At occasions on Sunday, it appeared as if Watson was hell-bent on seizing them. He and his teammates had been clearly a galvanized bunch, having been jolted Friday by the ESPN report quoting McNair, at a league badembly addressing the controversy over continued anthem protests by gamers throughout the NFL, as having instructed fellow house owners and league executives, “We will not have the inmates working the jail.”
Later that day veteran left deal with Duane Brown, who’d lately returned from a seven-week contract holdout, instructed reporters the Texans had thought of strolling out in response. Two gamers, Hopkins and rookie working again D’Onta Foreman, ended up going dwelling and lacking apply. Texans coach Invoice O’Brien referred to Hopkins’ absence as a “private day.” (On Sunday, a Texans supply mentioned Hopkins wouldn’t be fined as a result of the receiver’s absence had been “excused” by O’Brien.)
McNair twice issued statements of apology, the second time insisting that he was referring to NFL executives — reasonably than the protesting gamers — when he used the expression. He additionally apologized in a gathering with Texans gamers that Brown, following Sunday’s sport, instructed reporters had gone “not too nicely” from his perspective. McNair didn’t attend Sunday’s sport; a staff supply mentioned that even earlier than the controversy, the proprietor had not deliberate to return to Seattle.
O’Brien, in the meantime, instructed his gamers throughout an emotional Saturday night time badembly that he was behind them “100 p.c.” His overarching message, in response to a supply who was within the badembly: “Play for one another. Play collectively. Play your f—– bades off.”
Beforehand in 2017, not one of the Texans’ gamers had knelt for the nationwide anthem. On Sunday, all however 10 of them took a knee, with a reported 36 gamers taking part within the protest, together with Watson. It wasn’t essentially a one-off, both. After I requested Clowney if he thought the difficulty had been resolved following Sunday’s protest, he answered, “Nah, I am not gonna say that, man… No. It isn’t.”
Stated Brown, confirming a report that the Texans’ gamers had thought of eradicating the decals from their helmets: “”We thought of it. I did not know if it was authorized or not. Clearly, with every thing that occurred Friday, we wished to make some kind of demonstrative badertion. In the long run, we selected (to kneel). And as soon as that was over, we locked in.”
And the important thing to all of it was Watson, from the 59-yard landing cross he delivered to Will Fuller on the sport’s first drive to the quick display that Hopkins (eight catches, 224 yards) become a 72-yard, go-ahead rating with Four:49 left within the sport.
“I am not that shocked,” Hopkins mentioned of Watson’s emergence. “I noticed him make some throws this offseason that I have not seen a quarterback make in a very long time, particularly not on my staff. There are occasions once I’m like, ‘This man cannot be a rookie.’ S—, the sky is the restrict with this man.”
Stated Brown: “Man, he is particular. I simply needed to sit again and simply snicker a few occasions at among the performs he made. Simply his poise… that is as hostile an surroundings as there’s. When he makes a mistake, he strikes on.”
In different phrases, he is emulating Wilson, whose one main miscue — an errant throw that Texans cornerback Marcus Williams picked off at his personal 6-yard line with 2:49 remaining and the Seahawks trailing 38-34 — was erased by the four-play, 80-yard drive that the quarterback engineered on the Seahawks’ subsequent possession.
To say that Wilson carried the Seahawks’ offense was a little bit of an understatement. Put it this manner: The quarterback ran 4 occasions for 30 yards; Seattle’s working backs carried 16 occasions for 5 yards, and receiver Tyler Lockett misplaced two yards on a fly sweep. Good occasions.
Wilson unfold the ball to eight totally different receivers, together with one — his beginning tight finish — who actually wanted the targets. Each of Wilson’s fourth quarter landing pbades went to Graham, whose slump-busting efficiency got here within the week of coach Pete Carroll’s pregame denial that the tight finish was on the buying and selling block.
Brown, for one, purchased the Watson/Wilson comparability: “Yep, absolutelyï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ similar winner’s mentality. They discover a approach to make performs. To see him do that as a rookie, it is loopy. It was a enjoyable sport to be a part of.”
After it ended, Wilson and Watson had a quick, mutually supportive dialog on the sphere, and every man praised the opposite in his postgame press convention.
Watson: “I am a giant supporter of (Wilson) and I like his sport and simply the individual he’s. He is a cellular quarterback that makes good selections. Superb on the run, makes sensible selections, and he is a frontrunner. He is captivated with successful and he’ll compete.”
Wilson: “I feel (Watson) is an exceptional soccer participant. You may’t get a lot better than how he’s taking part in proper now. I feel he confirmed loads of grit, loads of toughness, loads of nice performs. He is been a particular participant for a very long time. I like watching nice guys play.”
The same sentiment compelled Sherman, who has solid a repute as a prickly antagonist on Sundays, to go against-type and present some like to Watson as they switched sides following the completion of the third quarter.
“It was a cool dialog,” Sherman recalled. “He was nice on movie… and a lot better in individual. Our guys had been pressuring him, they usually had been hitting him, and he was not relenting. He was not relenting. That is what you gotta respect about him. He was combating, it doesn’t matter what.”
And although Wilson received this spherical, it is abundantly clear that Watson will likely be again to combat one other day.