Making history is rarely easy.
The Seattle Seahawks, winners of their three games this season, have never started a season 4-0. And the reward for the fast start and high national praise is the reality that opponents bring their best games and highest energy.
As the No. 1 team in most of the NFL power polls, the Seahawks are on people’s minds to the unusual extent that 49ers fans at a game in St. Louis on Thursday were chanting nasty things about them even though the Seahawks weren’t even involved in the game.
Consequently, when Seattle coach Pete Carroll looks at the Sunday meeting with the Houston Texans (2-1), he knows “we’re going to get a great shot from those guys.”
The teams will kick off at 10 a.m. at Reliant Stadium, and Carroll calls last season’s AFC South champion “a loaded football team.”
More than that, the Texans are also a bit wounded, and probably dangerous. Their two wins were squeakers and last week they fell 30-9 to the Baltimore Ravens.
“I know they’re hungry to get back on track,” Carroll said.
The hungriest is All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt, who racked up 20.5 sacks last year and faces a Seattle offensive line that might feature two new starters if center Max Unger and right tackle Breno Giacomini can’t recover from their “questionable” injury status. And Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung is on the short-term injured reserve with a torn ligament in his left big toe.
Lemuel Jeanpierre and rookie Michael Bowie would jump in at center and right tackle.
Houston defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is known for his aggressive schemes and heavy blitz packages, a challenge for even veteran and cohesive offensive lines. Against a patchwork line?
“They have the ability to really wreck a game for you,” Carroll said of the Texans’ pass rush.
“These guys are as tough as it gets.”
Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson hopes to counter with a strong running attack and quick passes.
“I think the biggest thing is getting the ball out quick,” Wilson said. “When you get the opportunity to make plays deep downfield, you got to hang in there and just stay in the pocket and step up and slide and just make some plays sometimes.”
Despite their pressure, the Houston defense has been reasonably accommodating to opposing quarterbacks, who have thrown six touchdowns and one interception for a 94.2 passer rating.
The statistics of this match-up – Seattle is No. 1 and Houston No. 2 in yards allowed – suggest a tight, low-scoring game. That might be misleading. The Seahawks are also first in points allowed (9), while the Texans are giving up 27.3.
The Seahawks have been more successful in creating and avoiding turnovers, as well, being plus-6 to Houston’s minus-3 in turnover margins.
That, according to All-Pro Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman, will be key.
“It always comes down to taking the ball from your opponent,” he said. “If you do that well, you’ll win.”
Carroll said the Houston rushing game, featuring backs Arian Foster and Ben Tate, is similar to the Seahawks’ zone blocking scheme.
“Their defense is great at limiting big plays, just like we are; they make sure they keep a top over the defense,” Sherman said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to be a close game because these two offenses have explosive players as well. They’ve got (receiver) Andre Johnson, Arian Foster … Ben Tate has been running the heck out of the ball. (Tight end) Owen Daniels can catch it just about anywhere.
“On our offensive side, they can get explosive at any time,” he said.
He’s right: The Seahawks have scored an average of 34.9 points a game in their past eight regular season games – all victories.
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (3-0) at HOUSTON TEXANS (2-1)
10 a.m., Reliant Stadium, Houston
TV: Ch. 13. Radio: 710-AM, 97.3-FM.
The series: Seattle and the Houston Texans have met twice, with each team winning on its home field. Houston won the last meeting, 34-7, on Dec. 13, 2009.
What to watch: This is the sixth time the Seahawks have started a season 3-0, the first since 2006. They have never been 4-0. They’ve won eight consecutive regular-season games, and nine of 10 including two postseason games. This is the first of four games in a five-game span that Seattle spends on the road. The Seahawks (1) and Texans (2) are the top two teams in total defense (yardage). But the Texans are giving up 27.3 points per game, while the Seahawks allow 9. Houston quarterback Matt Schaub has had interceptions returned for touchdowns in successive games. The Seahawks have forced 10 turnovers, Houston one. While the Seahawks are without Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung (toe) and possibly center Max Unger (triceps) and tackle Breno Giacomini (knee), the Texans also have two stars who are listed as questionable: Pro Bowl tackle Duane Brown and receiver Andre Johnson. Johnson is second in the NFL in receptions (25).
The pick: Seahawks, 24-17
No. Name, Pos., Ht., Wt., Year
24 Marshawn Lynch, RB, 5-11, 215, seventh
This game could feature a duel between two of the game’s best rushers, Lynch and Houston’s Arian Foster.
3 Russell Wilson, QB, 5-11, 209, second
With a makeshift offensive line, Wilson will need to get rid of the ball quickly or be very evasive.
25 Richard Sherman, CB, 6-3, 195, third
While Brandon Browner will also see time on Andre Johnson (if he’s active), it could be a great showdown if Sherman lines up against him.
31 Kam Chancellor, SS, 6-3, 232, fourth
Houston TE Owen Daniels has three TD catches this season. Chancellor could find himself in primary coverage.
54 Bobby Wagner, LB, 6-0, 241, second
Houston’s rushing attack, keyed by backs Foster and Ben Tate, will challenge the Seattle front seven. Wagner will need to be sharp on his assignments.
No. Name, Pos., Ht., Wt., Year
8 Matt Schaub, QB, 6-5, 235, 10th
He’s been intercepted four times, with two being returned for touchdowns.
80 Andre Johnson, WR, 6-3, 230, 11th
The veteran will challenge Seattle’s Legion of Boom secondary, but he’s been slowed by a concussion and a shin bruise. He was listed as questionable.
44 Ben Tate, RB, 5-11, 217, fourth
While Arian Foster gets most of the attention, Tate has a better average, picking up 6.8 yards per carry.
99 J.J. Watt, DE, 6-6, 289, third
Watt is the reigning AFC Defensive Player of the Year with 20.5 sacks last season. He has three sacks already this season and faces a makeshift Seahawks offensive line.
56 Brian Cushing, LB, 6-3, 249, fifth
After missing most of last season because of a knee surgery, he bounced back with an interception return for a touchdown in the season opener.