Countdown to kickoff: Seahawks at Texans

Posted Sep 29, 2013

The Seahawks put their 3-0 record on the line Sunday at Reliant Stadium against a Texans team that is coming off a 30-9 loss to the Ravens in Baltimore last week but has the best September record in the NFL since 2010 (10-3, including 5-1 at home).

HOUSTON – Greetings from Reliant Stadium on the fourth Sunday of the 2013 NFL season, when the Seahawks will be looking for their first 4-0 start in franchise history as they take on the Texans.

The overriding storyline all week has been how the Seahawks will block J.J. Watt, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, with an offensive line that will be missing Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung, who has been placed on injured reserve with a designation to return because of a toe injury; and likely will not have the injured duo of All-Pro center Max Unger (arm) and right tackle Breno Giacomini (knee).

But another angle worth examining is how the Texans’ offense will fare against a Seahawks defense that leads the league in points allowed (27), average yards allowed (241.7) and average passing yards allowed (146.7).

The last time the Seahawks played here, QB Matt Schaub and 6-foot-3 wide receiver Andre Johnson turned what was supposed to be a football game into a game of catch. Johnson caught a 64-yard touchdown pass on the first play and by halftime he had 10 catches for 184 yards.

But that was in 2009, and the secondary – cornerbacks Marcus Trufant, Kelly Jennings and Josh Wilson and safeties Deon Grant and Jordan Babineaux – that allowed that to happen is long gone. They have been replaced by the All-Pro duo of cornerback Richard Sherman and free safety Earl Thomas, the Pro Bowl-caliber duo of cornerback Brandon Browner and strong safety Kam Chancellor and nickel back Walter Thurmond.

They provide the length and aggressiveness needed to matchup against Johnson, who has been knocked out of the Texans past two games with a concussion and a bruised shin. Despite that, Johnson still has 25 receptions, and has been targeted 35 times. He had 12 catches for 146 yards on 16 targets in the game he finished (against the San Diego Chargers), and eight for 76 on 13 targets (against the Tennessee Titans) and five for 35 on six targets (against the Ravens) in the two he did not.

“They’re big. And they’re very aggressive,” Johnson told the Houston Chronicle. “As for those corners, they’re long guys (with) good foot speed. Normally when you go up against big, long guys like that, they don’t have to get close to you just to touch you. It kind of throws you off a little bit with your timing.”

An element that helps set the Seahawks’ “Legion of Boom” secondary apart that might not show up on the video Johnson has been studying is its collective confidence.

Asked this week about Thomas saying the goal each week is to hold the opposing passing game to 150 yards, Sherman offered, “Under 100, usually. But, yeah, we do. That’s the kind of standard that we have in our (meeting) room. We would hope to hold people under 100 yards, and anything over that is kind of a disappointment for us in our room.”

So it’s been a disappointing season, so far, because the Seahawks’ top-ranked pass defense is allowing that average of 146.7 yards – 11 fewer than the second-ranked Texans. The Panthers’ Cam Newton got 125 in the season opener, so close. The 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick got 127 in the home opener, so close again. But last week, the Panthers’ Chad Henne got 235. And that’s why the defensive players were upset after the game and have remained out of sorts all week.

Now comes Schaub, who has 664 passing yards in three games but also has had an interception returned for a touchdown in each of the past two.

So, sit back and enjoy what’s about to unfold, with kickoff and televised coverage on Fox (Q/13 in the greater Seattle area) set for 10 a.m. PT.