Tyler Lockett leaped. He dragged feet inside sideline boundaries. He caught passes in coverage and when wide open.
He was the best player on the field. Again.
How good? Hall-of-Famer-Steve-Largent good.
Still somewhat unheralded across the NFL, the Seahawks’ nominee for Walter Payton Man of the Year for all he does off the field dominated the lowly Houston Texans on it Sunday.
Lockett had a 55-yard touchdown to break a 10-10 tie late in the first half — celebrating by pantomiming a freestyle swimming stroke face down on the fake grass in the end zone. He had the key catch inside the sideline for 29 yards on third and 9, leading to Gerald Everett’s clinching touchdown catch midway through the fourth quarter. And he had caught the ensuing two-point conversion pass among four defenders in the end zone to put Seattle up by 14 points.
Lockett’s 142 yards receiving and Rashaad Penny’s career highs of 137 yards on 16 carries and two scores, including a 47-yard touchdown run late, led the Seahawks’ second-half surge past the 2-11 Texans 33-13 at largely empty NRG Stadium.
Lockett has 1,023 yards this season. He joined Largent as the only Seahawks with three consecutive seasons with 1,000 yards receiving. Largent did it from 1978-81 and again from 1983-86.
Russell Wilson completed 17 of 28 passes, though still missed some he usually completes in his fifth game back from surgery on his throwing hand. He threw for 260 yards and the two touchdowns.
Chants of “SEA! HAWKS!” echoed through the giant, mostly empty stadium over the final 5 minutes of Seattle winning for the second consecutive week following a three-game losing streak.
The Seahawks are 5-8 heading to Los Angeles to play the rival Rams (8-4), still needing to win their final four games for a realistic shot at making the NFC playoffs for the ninth time in 10 years.
Lockett, Penny and Wilson finally put away a Texans team that stayed within one score of the lead into the fourth quarter with rookie, third quarterback Davis Mills.
Mills completed his first 14 passes deep into the first half, when the scored was tied at 10. That was until Lockett burned two Texans defenders for his 55-yard score with 52 seconds left in the second quarter.
Mills missed on 16 of his next 27 throws after his hot start. The Seahawks tightened their soft zone coverage underneath that Mills and the Texans had exploited for easy catches and first downs early in the game, and their pass rush began affecting the rookie from Stanford.
Darrell Taylor had his sixth sack of the season in the second half for one of the Seahawks’ five drive stops after halftime. Two of those were on fourth down, for turnovers on downs.
Penny had a strong game in a limited role in Seattle’s win over San Francisco the previous week. Playing more with Alex Collins injured and Chris Carson out for the season following neck surgery, Penny had a 27-yard catch and run on a screen pass and a key blitz pickup to allow a 17-yard completion by Wilson.
Yet he was in a secondary role against the 49ers while future Hall-of-Fame running back Adrian Peterson got the start and the headlines in his Seattle debut.
Sunday was Penny’s time.
Peterson didn’t play because of low-back pain the 36-year-old had coming out of last week’s work. That and Penny’s game against the 49ers earned him his second start of the season.
Despite sitting and kneeling, stretching on all fours on the sideline behind the bench while Seattle’s defense was on the field, Penny bolted for 77 yards on his first nine carries.
Seattle’s first-round draft choice in 2018 ended with his best day since his previous career-high 129 yards on 14 carries Nov. 24, 2019, against Philadelphia.
That was two weeks before he tore knee ligaments against the Rams. He missed 12 months, from December ‘19 to Dec. 2020. vs Eagles.
Penny came out plowing again after halftime in the fifth-to-last game of his contract. On consecutive plays to begin the first drive of the third quarter he ran for 9 yards, then for 3 banging into defenders with very little blocking to gain a first down.
But then play caller Shane Waldron and Wilson went: play-action pass and errant deep pass wide of Lockett, incomplete short to Freddie Swain and wide and incomplete out of bounds out of an empty-backfield formation on third down.
Seattle’s momentum suddenly stopped. Michael Dickson punted, and instead of seizing control of the game further discouraging a 2-10 team, the Seahawks gave the ball back to the Texans with only a 16-13 lead.
It was just 19-13 entering the final period. Then Lockett and Penny took over.
Carlos Dunlap has had his play limited to a dozen or fewer plays over the latter half of this season.
Yet the 32-year-old defensive end continues to make plays that change games.
Sunday, Houston was trying to run some clock at the end of the first half backed up on its own goal line. Seattle used a time out on defense before the Texans’ third and 9 with 1:13 left in the second quarter.
Mills rolled to his right to avoid pressure and extend a pass play. He wanted to throw to a safety-valve receiver in the right flat. But Dunlap covered the running back. The veteran did it in a way that didn’t give Mills a path to run, yet he stayed between the back and Mills to discourage the quarterback from throwing to him. Mills waited, waited with the ball and finally Dunlap finally charged him at the sideline to force the QB out of bounds.
Not only did that force fourth down and a punt, it saved Seattle its last time out.
The play after the Texans’ punt, Wilson threw his rainbow touchdown pass to Lockett to put the Seahawks ahead 16-10.
It’s not a play that shows up in the box score, other than a tackle. But it’s a play Seahawks coaches will praise and highlight for headiness and poise while in film review Monday.
Al Woods, 34, continues to look fresh and vibrant at defensive tackle after taking last season off because of his concerns about COVID-19 with a baby daughter at home.
Woods shared a sack with Rasheem Green in the first half and tied his season high with five tackles over the first three quarters. He celebrated each one of those stops WWE-wrestler style, with loud yells and big waving of his large arms toward cheering Seahawks fans in the otherwise largely-empty stands.
Not everything Woods did was worth celebrating. He was called for roughing the snapper contacting Jon Weeks on a successful Texans field goal in the second quarter. Houston took the points off the scoreboard and the first down by penalty.
Woods stopped running back Rex Burkhead on second down then Mills threw incomplete on third, so Houston settled for a field goal instead of a touchdown to end that drive, anyway. That tied the game at 10.
Woods was all over the defensive line making plays and getting into the backfield the previous game, Seattle’s win over San Francisco.
Jamal Adams could be back next summer.
General manager John Schneider said on the Seahawks’ radio network’s pregame show Sunday from Houston before the team’s game against the Texans Adams had a successful shoulder surgery in Dallas this past week. The operation was done by a team surgeon for the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks.
The surgeon estimated a recovery and rehabilitation time for the Pro Bowl safety to last until perhaps June.
“I think they said it is a five-, six-month rehab,” Schneider said of the pregame radio show Sunday.
Adams had a torn labrum repaired in his left shoulder for the second time in less than a year. That was one of multiple surgeries Adams had at the end of the 2020 season, his first for Seattle after his trade from the New York Jets for two first-round draft choices in July 2020. He also had damaged fingers repaired last winter.
Adams injured his shoulder again last week making the tackle on a 49ers receiver following a catch in Seattle’s home win over San Francisco. Usual sixth, dime defensive back Ryan Neal replaced Adams at strong safety in that game, and started for Adams Sunday in Houston.
Coach Pete Carroll said this past week Adams was “rocked” at needing a second shoulder surgery.
“It was hard on him. It was a blow to our team,” Schneider said Sunday on the radio pregame show. “He’s a very inspirational guy.”
Mone, Heslop carted off
The Seahawks lost defensive tackle Bryan Mone to a serious-looking knee injury in the first half.
Reserve safety Gavin Heslop became the second Seahawks player to get carted off the field when he got his left leg rolled up on by a Texans receiver at the end of a play with 59 seconds remaining.
Heslop was playing as Seattle’s rested Pro Bowl safety Quandre Diggs with the 20-point lead.
Wilson tapped Heslop on the shoulder and Diggs shook Heslop’s hand as he was sitting on the cart. Heslop tapped his chest in appreciation to his teammates.
This story was originally published December 12, 2021 1:22 PM.