PITTSBURGH – Russell Wilson wasn’t there this time to save the day. Or night.
That was left to T.J. Watt, the Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker who forced the fumble on Geno Smith in overtime, setting up the 37-yard field goal by Chris Boswell that clinched a 23-20 victory against the Seattle Seahawks.
The Seahawks were without Wilson for the first time in 166 games after the star quarterback underwent finger surgery last week, leaving the reins to Smith.
Despite Wilson’s absence, the Seahawks still managed to put a scare into the Steelers as they rallied from a 14-0 halftime deficit and forced overtime with a 43-yard field goal from Jason Myers as the clock expired on the fourth quarter.
Watt, though, demonstrated on two defensive series in OT why he deserved to become the NFL’s highest-paid defensive player with a four-year, $112 million extension ($80 million guaranteed) earlier this year.
On Seattle’s first possession of overtime, Watt ended it with a 13-yard sack that pushed the Seahawks out of field-goal range.
Then it was the clincher on the next series. Watt blasted around left end and forced a Smith fumble, recovered by Devin Bush at the Seattle 16-yard line, setting up Boswell’s chip shot.
It was Smith’s only turnover of the night … and it couldn’t have come at a worse time.
The Seahawks surely scrapped without Wilson and essentially flipped their script after halftime, which did much to allow them to claw back into the game. In the first half, Seattle ran just five times while Smith logged 14 passes. It generated all of zero points.
To open the second half, trailing 14-zip, Seattle ran. Then ran again. Then ran some more. This was the formula that nudged the Seahawks back into the game with a crisp 10-play, 75-yard drive capped by Collins’ 2-yard TD. Smith threw just once on the drive (9 yards to DK Metcalf), while Collins blasted away, largely between the tackles. That cut the Steelers’ lead in half.
After a Steelers drive stalled in the red zone and left them with a half-empty, 27-yard field goal from Boswell that made it a 10-point game (17-7), Seattle ran some more. A 66-yard TD drive was capped by a pass, Smith’s 1-yard toss to Will Dissly, but it was set up by the run, as was the scoring play off a play-action fake.
A shanked punt set Seattle up at its 42-yard line. More running. On a third-and-seven, the Seahawks converted on a draw play by Travis Homer that stung the Steelers for 26 yards and moved the ball to Pittsburgh’s 15. On third-and-two, though, the Seahawks went back to the pass. Bad move. Dissly was covered on his short out route and after his play-action fake, Smith was devoured by Alex Highsmith and Chris Wormley for a 15-yard sack. Seattle salvaged a 40-yard field goal from Jason Myers that tied the game at 17, with 12: 59 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Seattle’s rally to tie the game, after it appeared in the first half it was on its way to a blowout, didn’t come without some help from the home team. When he watches the game tape, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin will undoubtedly bemoan the missed tackles that contributed to some of Seattle’s biggest gains. And he will again rue the inconsistency in Pittsburgh’s rushing attack, a sore spot all season.
In the end, though, Seattle could have used an extra dose of magic from Wilson.