Up next: Houston Texans

Posted Sep 24, 2013

The Texans were off to a 2-0 start, but then dropped a 30-9 decision to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday in a mistake-marred performance that has coach Gary Kubiak and his players looking for answers.

A look at the Seahawks’ opponent this week as they prepare for Sunday’s game against the Texans in Houston:

When: Sunday, 10 a.m. PT, Reliant Stadium, Houston

Record: 2-1 after Sunday’s 30-9 loss to the Ravens in Baltimore

Where they rank: No. 7 in offense (9th rushing, 9th passing); No. 2 in defense (No. 9 rushing, No. 2 passing)

TV: FOX (Q13 in Seattle), with Chris Myers, Tim Ryan and Jennifer Hale

Series: Tied 1-1, with the Texans winning the last meeting 34-7 in Houston in 2009

Star power: J.J. Watt. Not that there aren’t other candidates on this team – the Pro Bowl trio of running back Arian Foster, wide receiver Andre Johnson and quarterback Matt Schaub; linebacker Brian Cushing, the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2009; and free safety Ed Reed, a future Hall of Famer and nine-time Pro Bowl selection in 11 seasons with the Baltimore Ravens who signed with the Texans in free agency this year. But in 35 games since being the 11th pick overall in the 2011 NFL Draft, Watt has 29 sacks – including a league-leading 20.5 last season, when he was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year and voted All-Pro and to the Pro Bowl. He also had 16 passes defensed, a league record for a defensive lineman; and was involved in 95 plays that resulted in no gain and lost yardage. This season, he has three sacks.

And Watt was ESPN’s Texan of choice when it came to making a promo of this season’s “Monday Night Football” lineup. As Seth Adler, the network’s senior director of marketing, told the Houston Chronicle, “J.J. is such a star – so personable, very marketable – and was so cooperative and enthusiastic that he was the perfect choice for us. We love his story. He has a terrific personality, and we like to use athletes who are up and coming and whose trajectory is on the rise, and he was a perfect fit.”

As for Watt the player, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll offered, “He’s as good as you can get. He’s a phenomenal football player. … He has the great motor that we talk about, is just a relentless pursuit guy. He’s good at the point of attack. He chases the ball well. He’s a very creative and disruptive pass-rusher. He’s just a great football player.” 

Unsung hero: Shane Lechler. A seven-time Pro Bowl selection while with the Oakland Raiders, Lechler signed with the Texans this offseason and the veteran punter has picked up right where he left off. Lechler’s average of 48.3 yards on 15 punts ranks No. 7 in the NFL, 2.4 yards behind league leader Marquette King, who replaced him with the Raiders. But Lechler also has put 11 of his punts inside the 20-yard line, which ties for the second most in the league.

On the spot: Schaub. The two-time Pro Bowl quarterback? Yes, the same Matt Schaub. Commuters in Houston on Monday morning saw “Cut Schaub” spelled out in cups inserted into a chain-link fence on the North Street Bridge that crosses I-45. After the game, John McClain of the Houston Chronicle gave the QB an “F” for his performance, which includes having an interception returned for a touchdown for second consecutive game.

Burning question: How will the Seahawks’ Legion of Boom secondary matchup against Johnson? The last time the Seahawks played the Texans in Houston – the only time the Seahawks have played the Texans in Houston – Johnson had 11 catches for 193 yards and two touchdowns. In fact, Johnson scored on a 64-yard pass from Schaub on the first play of the game – 16 seconds into the Week 14 game – and he had 10 catches for 184 yards by halftime. The Seahawks’ secondary that day was comprised of cornerbacks Marcus Trufant, Kelly Jennings and Josh Wilson and safeties Deon Grant and Jordan Babineaux. 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. After three games, Johnson is tied for the league lead with 10 third-down receptions and ranks third with 25 catches for 258 yards – despite leaving the Texans’ Week 2 game with a concussion and Sunday’s game with a bruised shin. Johnson is listed as day-to-day for Sunday’s game.

Numbers to know: 1, the Texans are the only team in the league to rank among the Top 10 in all six average-yards offensive and defensive categories. … 1, also the number of passes intercepted by the Texans, and Cushing has it. … 14 for 113, penalties and wrong-way yards for the Texans in Sunday’s loss to the Ravens. … 34-6, the Texans have been outscored by that margin in the second quarter. … 3.9, Foster’s average on 49 carries. … 55, that’s the uniform number of Texans’ center Chris Myers, who has the same name as the play-by-play man for Fox’s telecast of Sunday’s game.

Familiar faces: After last week’s multi-connection matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars, this one comes down to running backs coach Chick Harris, who was the Seahawks’ running backs coach from 1983-91.

The last word: “This better be a wake-up call because we can’t keep playing like this. We keep digging holes, and good teams like the Ravens make you pay for that. We’ve got to get going from the beginning.” – Cushing after Sunday’s loss, when the Texans went up 6-0 early in the second quarter only to be outscored 30-3 the rest of the game