(Sports Network) - The Seattle Seahawks have been up to the challenge so far
The Seahawks' next hurdle is picking up a victory in Houston, where they
battle the Texans looking for the first 4-0 start in franchise history.
Seattle has bookended a big victory over the rival San Francisco 49ers with
expected wins against Carolina and Jacksonville. But Seahawks head coach Pete
Carroll deserves some credit for preventing his club from having a let down
last Sunday against Jacksonville.
The 'Hawks were coming off a 29-3 thumping of the defending NFC champion
Niners and didn't take their foot off the gas in a 28-point triumph over the
Jaguars. Russell Wilson matched a career high with four touchdown passes and
was a spectator by the end of the 45-17 rout. He threw for 202 yards and was
picked off once while losing a fumble before giving way to Tarvaris Jackson.
"It was huge win for us," Wilson said. "Offensively we made a statement. Guys
made tremendous plays, communication was great."
Sidney Rice and Zach Miller caught two touchdown passes each and Golden Tate
led the Seahawks with 88 receiving yards on five catches.
Seattle improved to 3-0 for the first time since 2006 and has won each of its
past eight regular-season games, outscoring its opponents by a 279-87 margin.
That run has quickly elevated the Seahawks to the top of the class in the NFC.
"Well, we don't shy away from the challenge," said Wilson. "I believe that we
have such great competitors in our locker room and just our coaching staff
believes in us. We believe in them. The way they prepare us, like I always
said to the guys, 'The separation is in the preparation.' And we have to
prepare the right way. Every week, we go into it, it's a championship
Added Wilson of the upcoming meeting with the Texans, "This game's going to be
a huge game. It's one of the teams that obviously a quote-un-quote Super Bowl
contender and is a team that's got a lot of talent and everything."
Houston was unable to make this a meeting of unbeaten teams as it was hammered
30-9 in Baltimore last weekend. The Texans had rallied to win each of their
first two games, but couldn't overcome 17 straight points scored by the Ravens
in the second quarter.
Up 6-0, Matt Schaub had an interception returned 37 yards for a score by
Baltimore linebacker Daryl Smith and the Ravens followed a stalled drive by
the Texans with an 82-yard punt return for a score.
"Over a four-play sequence, we give them 14 points," Texans head coach Gary
Kubiak said. "That's where the game turned, and we were playing catch-up all
Schaub ended 25-for-35 passing for 194 yards in the setback. Houston, which
was flagged for 14 penalties for 113 yards, trailed at halftime for the third
straight game and managed just 107 yards of offense in the second half.
The Texans got three field goals from Randy Bullock while getting denied its
second straight 3-0 start.
This will mark the third meeting between the Texans and Seahawks, with each
team having previously won at home.
Seattle took the first meeting 42-10 on Oct. 16, 2005, while the Texans came
through with a 34-7 triumph on Dec. 13, 2009 in Houston.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
This matchup will pit the NFL's current top-two defenses against each other.
Seattle is ranked No. 1 at 241.7 yards allowed per game and is yielding an
NFL-best 9.0 points per game.
Houston is second at 249.0 YPG, but is 24th in scoring defense (27.3 PPG).
Schaub will have to quickly shake off his costly pick-six against a talented
Seahawks defense that features a pair of talented corners in Richard Sherman
and Brandon Browner as well as safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas.
Browner missed the first two games of the season with a hamstring injury
before playing against the Jaguars, while defensive end Chris Clemons played
for the first time since suffering a major knee injury during last year's
Schaub threw for 365 yards with a pair of touchdown passes and one pick in his
only meeting with the Seahawks and knows he has a tough challenge ahead of
"They're very good. They're good across the board," he said of the Seattle
defense. "They're fast, big, physical, especially in the secondary, which is
unusual. They cover a lot of ground. They challenge you, so we've got to be up
to that task."
Seattle has 10 takeaways already this season, tied for the second most in the
NFL, and Sherman has logged five interceptions and a pair of touchdowns in his
last seven games. Chancellor has a pick in each of his last two games and
defensive end Michael Bennett has posted 2 1/2 sacks over his last two games.
A telling sign of this defense was how disappointed it was to yield 17 points
to the Jaguars.
"Yeah, it's good that their standards are set very high and they played really
well for a long time and then Jacksonville was able to make some plays and
move the ball down there," said Carroll.
"We love the attitude of our guys. They've been together enough now, they know
what they want to get done and how we're trying to get it done and so they
have very high expectations."
Houston has plenty of playmakers on its defense, including defensive end J.J.
Watt and linebacker Brian Cushing, who played at USC under Carroll.
Watt has a sack in each of his last two games and three on the season, while
defensive end Antonio Smith has notched four career sacks versus Seattle.
Cushing, meanwhile, leads the Texans with 24 tackles to go along with 1 1/2
sacks and an interception he returned for a score.
"He's a tremendously competitive, aggressive kid. Incredible all-around
athlete," Carroll said of Cushing. "Really one of the best players we ever
recruited. He had such a great all-around ability that he could do a ton of
things. The fact that he's continuing to do it is no surprise to me. He's a
great team member."
Cushing and Watt will try to disrupt the red-hot Wilson, who is 10-1 over his
last 11 games with a 117.3 passer rating in that span. Seattle currently ranks
fourth in the NFL with 28.7 PPG and is eighth in offense at 379.7 YPG.
"He's one of those dual threats that the league is moving to now," noted
Texans corner Johnathan Joseph. "He can throw the ball down the field
obviously he can extend plays with his legs and kind of create a different
mismatch with the option read at the quarterback position."
Both Schaub and running back Arian Foster (190 rushing yards, 1 TD) have
really yet to get it going this season, while wide receiver Andre Johnson has
been forced out of the past two games due to injury.
He suffered a shin injury last weekend and is day-to-day, likely a game-time
decision versus Seattle.
Johnson still leads Houston with 25 receptions and 258 yards, while rookie
DeAndre Hopkins has notched 18 catches for 243 yards to lead all rookies.
"He's (Hopkins) playing well. He's doing a lot of good things. He's making a
lot of mistakes too. He's a rookie. We're trying to get him cleaned up from
that standpoint, but he's obviously a big contributor to what we're doing
right now. He should only get better with the more he plays," said Kubiak.
Like Wilson said, this game certainly features a "Super Bowl contender" but
that club is on his sideline. Seattle is off to a fast start and is getting
the type of defensive effort that wins games and allows Wilson and the rest of
the offense to play loose.
That is not the case for Houston, which dodged some bullets in the first two
weeks before getting a reality check against Baltimore.
On the bright side for the Texans, they don't have to make the tough trip to
Seattle, but that is about where the good things end this week for the club.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Seahawks 20, Texans 16
The Sports Network