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Countdown to kickoff: Seahawks at Colts
INDIANAPOLIS – Greetings from Lucas Oil Stadium, where the 4-0-for-the-first-time Seahawks play the 3-1 Colts today in a game that will look nothing like the last time these two teams played here.
That was on Oct. 4, 2009. Jim Mora was the Seahawks coach and a secondary comprised of cornerbacks Kelly Jennings and Ken Lucas and safeties Deon Grant and Jordan Babineaux were toasted on both sides by then-Colts QB Peyton Manning to the tune of 353 yards on a 31-of-41 passing performance in a 34-17 romp. The Seahawks tried to disrupt the Colts passing game by blitzing, only to have Manning go to the vacated area for drive-sustaining completions as Indy went 90, 80, 80 and 78 yards for touchdowns.
Manning is now in Denver lighting up opposing secondaries for the Broncos and has been replaced – at the position, if not completely in the minds of some Colts fans – by Andrew Luck, the first pick overall in last year’s NFL Draft. And the secondary Luck will face today features a total makeover from the 2009 edition – the All-Pro tandem of free safety Earl Thomas and cornerback Richard Sherman, the NFC Defensive Player of the Month for September; as well as the Pro Bowl-caliber duo of strong safety Kam Chancellor and cornerback Brandon Browner.
But these aren’t Manning’s Colts, for more than the obvious reason. This Colts team can run the ball, regardless of who’s running it. They are averaging 149.5 rushing yards to rank No. 4 in the league – yes, ahead of the Seahawks, who are No. 5 with an average of 144.3. The Colts’ per-carry average of 4.9 yards also in the fourth-highest in the NFL.
The Colts have had a different leading rusher in three of their four games – Vick Ballard, Ahmad Bradshaw (twice) and Donald Brown. They’ve also run for at least 100 yards in each game. If they can hit at the century mark against the Seahawks, it will be only the third time in the team’s Indy era that the Colts will have opened a season with five consecutive triple-digit rushing games, and the first time since 1988.
Bradshaw, the Colts’ leading rusher, won’t play today because of a neck injury that has him contemplating whether to have surgery or go the rest-and-rehab route. So the lead Colt in their ground game will Trent Richardson, the third pick overall in last year’s NFL Draft who was acquired last month in the trade with the Cleveland Browns.
And the Seahawks won’t be the only team playing with replacement parts on their offense. In addition to Bradshaw, the Colts have lost tight end Dwayne Allen to a season-ending hip injury; Ballard, last year’s leading rusher, to a torn knee ligament; guard Donald Thomas to a torn quadriceps; and fullback Stanley Havili will miss today’s game because of an ankle injury.
“It stinks when guys get hurt, but it’s an opportunity for another person to step up,” Luck told the Indianapolis Star. “As players and coaches, when you see someone new come in, you don’t baby them, in a sense. He knows he’s expected to fulfill what the guy in front of him did and try to do better.”
The Seahawks and QB Russell Wilson definitely can relate. Paul McQuistan will start at left tackle for injured Pro Bowler Russell Okung (toe) for the third consecutive game, with James Carpenter replacing McQuistan at left guard. At right tackle, rookie Michael Bowie will make his second NFL start for an injured Breno Giacomini (knee). And it’s looking like the Seahawks could be without All-Pro center Max Unger (arm) for the second week in a row and also tight end Zach Miller (hamstring). If they can’t play, Lemuel Jeanpierre will start at center again and rookie Luke Willson will step in for Miller.
The team that wins the battle of attrition likely wins this game.
So, sit back and see what’s happens – and who’s able to make it happen – with kickoff and televised coverage on Q13 (channel 13 in Seattle) set for 10 a.m. PT.