HOUSTON, JAN. 3 -- It's understandable that Oilers quarterback Warren Moon didn't want to look as his teammate attempted a 42-yard field goal in overtime. After all, he had watched the 29-yard field goal Tony Zendejas had missed toward the end of regulation and what good had that done him?

So Moon and Alonzo Highsmith, in Moon's words, "hugged each other and listened for the reaction of the crowd."

They could just have easily listened to the sigh of relief from Zendejas, who went from the biggest boo-boo of his career to the biggest success of his career.

But then, if Zendejas hadn't looked at the 29-yard attempt, chances are all this drama could have been avoided. "When I lift my head, it will cause me to miss almost every time. Almost always wide left," Zendejas said of the missed field goal that hit the left upright.

He had missed a 52-yarder at the end of the first half, when it hit the right upright. But anything beyond 50 yards is gravy. Missing a 29-yarder gets kickers put on waivers. Missing a 29-yarder in the playoffs, in the fourth quarter, in the final two minutes of a tight game, can sometimes mess up a kicker's head so bad it's difficult to come back.

But Zendejas got the second chance he so desperately hoped for. His 42-yard field goal, with 6:55 left in overtime, lifted Houston to a 23-20 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in the Astrodome.

"I was feeling great after the two long field goals {47 and 49 yards} in the first half," he said. "I even felt pretty good after the missed 52-yarder because I hit it real well. . . . But the 29-yarder, it's the shortest field goal I've ever missed. And even though it wasn't do or die, it was the biggest miss of my career.

"I had let my teammates down. It would have stayed with me for such a long time, being the last game of the season. And it had given {Seattle} momentum {to score the game-tying touchdown with 26 seconds left}. After the kick, my teammates just left me alone. They knew it was the best thing to do. I just kept praying for the opportunity to redeem myself."

When the game went into overtime Zendejas figured he had about a 50-50 chance of getting his opportunity for redemption. "Games like this are hardly ever decided by a touchdown," he said. "Almost always a field goal."

After a near-interception by Seattle's Fredd Young, Houston moved downfield behind the passing of Moon and the running of Mike Rozier. When Rozier ran two yards into the middle of the field on third and six, he was setting the table for Zendejas.

The thing he kept telling himself was to keep his head down, and forget about looking at the ball. "You want to look as much as anyone," he said. "You want to see it go through the upright like everybody else."

With the ball on the 32, Zendejas had no thoughts of the earlier miss, he said. "If you're still thinking about the one you missed, you'll miss again. Kicks have to be isolated."

That, Zendejas said, is the philsophy of the kicking Zendejas family: brother Marty who is at Nevada-Reno and cousins Max (Green Bay Packers) and Luis (currently out of the league) who all have been in similar situations.

Tony Zendejas had made 10 of 14 kicks this season from 40 yards or more, so the distance was no problem. He wasn't about to goof this up by trying to see the ball go through the uprights.

The kick was good, and Zendejas was "thankful. Very thankful and very grateful," he said.

Houston Coach Jerry Glanville apparently had similar feelings: "He came back and made the clutch kick when he had to. When he kicked it, I couldn't tell if it was wide right or right down the middle. But it feels right down the middle to me now."