HOUSTON -- For the Seattle Seahawks to cement their status as a legitimate Super Bowl contender, to validate the burgeoning respect they're cultivating around the NFL, they had to win on the road while showcasing the indomitable will they display at CenturyLink Field.
The Seahawks scaled that obstacle on Sunday at Reliant Stadium, rallying from a two-touchdown, fourth-quarter deficit against the Houston Texans to pull out a white-knuckle, 23-20 overtime victory.
Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka nailed a 45-yard field goal with 3:19 remaining in the overtime to cap the Seattle (4-0) comeback. Houston cornerback Kareem Jackson paved the way to victory with a personal foul penalty that gave Seattle the ball at the Houston 36, body slamming Seattle receiver Doug Baldwin following a seven-yard gain.
Seattle is 10-0 at home with second-year quarterback Russell Wilson at the controls. And after rallying late in the playoffs at Atlanta last season only to fall in the final seconds, the Seahawks needed a win like this to prove their worth, not only to external doubters but also to themselves.
"To be able to win that game in that fashion, on the road (was impressive)," Wilson said. "Obviously we didn't start the way we wanted to, but it was one of those things where we just had to keep battling."
The Texans (2-2) had a pair of possessions in overtime but failed to mount a significant push behind quarterback Matt Schaub, who was booed lustily throughout the period following an earlier critical mistake.
Clinging to a seven-point lead, Schaub threw a pick-6 for a third consecutive week, this time victimized by cornerback Richard Sherman for 58 yards with 2:40 left in the fourth attempting to hit Owen Daniels.
"I take responsibility," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "I put (Schaub) in a bad situation as a coach. Obviously we have to protect the ball. Probably should have run the ball there and punt and play defense."
Sherman was quick to note that the Seahawks had the Texans' tendency on third-and-short scouted perfectly, recalling that he picked off a pass against the scout team in practice last Friday. Seattle sent strong safety Kam Chancellor on a blitz opposite of Sherman, who then abandoned his initial coverage free safety Earl Thomas to take on Daniels, the tight end.
"It was a play that we've seen on film that they like to run on short yardage," Sherman said. "It was one of those plays that you have to take the opportunity for what it was. If you jump it you're pretty much leaving the safety one-on-one with the corner route behind you."
Just when the Seahawks appeared dead in the water, Wilson revived them with his scrambling ability. While leading a 14-play, 98-yard touchdown drive, Wilson rushed for gains of 25, 13 and 11 yards before converting a 4th-and-3 at the Houston 7-yard line by using his feet to beat a pair of defenders to the first down marker and the far sideline.
Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch scored on the ensuing snap to cut the deficit to 20-13 with 7:43 to play. Wilson totaled 77 rushing yards.
The Texans dominated the first half on both sides of the ball, stringing together four consecutive scoring drives against the top-ranked defense in the league while limiting the Seahawks to 88 yards and a field goal.
Schaub hit tight end Garrett Graham for a 31-yard scoring pass on the first play of the second quarter to cap a 90-yard drive. Running back Arian Foster snared a five-yard Schaub pass for a 14-3 Texans lead with 6:11 left in the first half to close an 80-yard mark. Schaub had 226 passing yards by halftime against the No. 1 passing defense in the league, but the Texans failed to maintain that momentum throughout.
"We were dominating (Seattle)," said Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, who finished with eight tackles and a half-sack. "We dominated them the whole first half. In the second half we just didn't finish the game."
NOTES: The Texans amassed 324 yards in the first half, the second-highest total in franchise history. Their best first-half performance also came against the Seahawks, when they totaled 364 yards on Dec. 13, 2009 in a 34-7 victory at Reliant Stadium. … Already missing Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung (toe), the Seahawks also played without All-Pro center Max Unger (triceps) and right tackle Breno Giacomini (knee), both of whom were injured last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars. … Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett was taken to a local hospital with a lower back injury. Bennett was removed from the field on a stretcher late in the first half. He had feeling in his extremities. … Texans linebacker Brian Cushing suffered a concussion in the third quarter and did not return.