HOUSTON -- An ugly winner always is better than a pretty loser, at least in football.
Seahawks receiver Golden Tate sat in a jubilant locker room afterward and just shook his head, almost in disbelief at what he had just witnessed and been a part of.
“Wow. Man, I’m in awe,” he said. “It’s never over for us. We have a lot of things to fix everywhere, but you know what? We’re getting on this plane and going home 4 and 0.”
Special-teams captain Heath Farwell also seemed a little stunned afterward.
“This team is something special,” Farwell said. “Today showed the difference between a good team and a great team. I’m just so proud of all these guys.”
He should be. They were down 20-3 on the road at halftime. Their offensive line was missing three starters, including two Pro Bowl players, and they were starting a rookie, seventh-round draft choice (Michael Bowie) against the best defensive player in the NFL (J.J. Watt).
Their defense completely forgot they entered the game No. 1 in the league, playing like they were No. 1 in leaving receivers wide open.
The Seahawks were outgained by more than 206 yards and their third-down efficiency was 21 percent. And their quarterback (Russell Wilson) had a miserable 49.7 passer rating for the game because he spent most of the day trying to avoid becoming permanently embedded in the Reliant Stadium turf.
But there’s something strange about this team, in a good way. When things seem to be at their worst, the Seahawks are at their best.
Despite all those negatives and all those mistakes, Seattle did enough things right to win and remain unbeaten. It’s the first time in franchise history the Seahawks have started a season with four victories.
“It wasn’t the prettiest win in the world," Wilson said Sunday after the game. “But it sure looks pretty now.”
Seattle couldn’t have played much worse in the first half, down 17 points in a game the Texans had dominated on both sides of the ball.
“They handed it to us in the first half and we didn’t have any answers to stop it,” said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. “But to play the way we did in the second half and overtime was crazy good. This is a fantastic team.”
It was when it mattered the most. The Texans failed to score in the final 41 minutes and 34 seconds of the game.
“It’s a testament to our character,” defensive tackle Red Bryant said. “We never quit. We hung in there and kept fighting. We played our best football in the second half. We showed a lot of grit today.”
The biggest mistake anyone can make is to look at game stats and try to determine how good the Seahawks are. You won’t find it there.
This team is undefeated because it makes the game-changing plays when the outcome is on the line:
Cornerback Richard Sherman getting a 58-yard pick-six to tie the game in the fourth quarter.
Wilson deciding to run with the ball when the Texans' defense kept him from throwing it effectively.
Receiver Doug Baldwinmaking another tiptoe sideline catch to keep a touchdown drive going in the fourth quarter.
Tate making a decision to field a punt on the goal line, then returning it to the 31 to start the final drive that won the game on Steven Hauschka's 45-yard field goal.
“We have playmakers all around,” Tate said. “No. 3 [Wilson] took over the game when he needed to. Sherm took over when he needed to. Our goal is always to play longer and harder than our opponent. We found a way. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t pretty, but we found a way.”
The Seahawks are firm believers in risks being worth the reward, like Sherman jumping in front of a Matt Schaub pass in the flat that became a Seattle touchdown.
“It’s a high-risk play,” Sherman said. “You’ve got to jump it and you might get beat. But if you make the play you can change the game. I lost my shoe for about 50 of those yards, so it may be the longest return without a shoe.”
No shoes required, just courage. The same with Tate’s unorthodox punt return.
“I know I’m going to hear about it in the meetings this week,” Tate said. “I went totally against what I’m supposed to do, but I felt a play needed to be made and we needed some momentum. I was confident. We do what we have to do.”
That’s exactly what Wilson did on a 98-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter when he ran for 53 of those yards before Marshawn Lynch scored on a 3-yard run.
“Marshawn and I talked,” Wilson said “He said, ‘Hey Russ, just take over.’ So I decided just to take off and try to get positive gains. We had to find a way.”
The Seahawks found a way to win on a day when every indicator said they should have lost.
“It’s gonna be ugly sometimes,” Sherman said. “It wasn’t a great stat game, but we did enough things and made enough plays to get the win. Those kind of games make championship teams. We had guys out there grinding. Regardless of how we get the win, it's still a win.”