Countdown to kickoff

Greetings from Reliant Stadium. Or should that be “Howdy,” since we’re in fog-shrouded Houston for today’s game between the Seahawks and Texans.

These are a pair of 5-7 teams, but they’ve come at their matching records from very different directions. The Seahawks have won two in a row, while the Texans have lost four in a row.

The Seahawks are the last team in the league to visit Reliant Stadium, and the last time they played in Houston was in 1994 – against the old Oilers, who are now the Titans. The past six teams to play here for the first time have lost – the 49ers this season, the Lions and Bears last season, the Saints, Buccaneers and Broncos in 2007 and the Dolphins in 2006.

To snap that streak, and win their third consecutive game, the Seahawks need to start fast, protect Matt Hasselbeck and contain Andre Johnson.

They have not scored a touchdown on their first possession this season. But have scored first-quarter TDs in the past two games – wins over the Rams and 49ers; after doing it only once in their previous seven games – five of them losses.

Hasselbeck was sacked five times by the 49ers last week, tying his season high. He also got hit eight other times and aggravated a bruised right shoulder when he took a knee to the back while scrambling. It can’t continue against a Texans defense that has only 19 sacks — third-fewest in the league.

Johnson isn’t just a big-play receiver; he’s a big receiver – 6 feet 3, 228 pounds. Or as cornerback Marcus Trufant put it, “He’s a big guy who moves like a little guy, and that’s what makes him so dangerous.” The Seahawks can’t give Johnson anything cheap — and also need to pressure QB Matt Schaub, who separated his left shoulder last week.

As for running the ball, coach Jim Mora was somewhat vague about who will start at running back, but did say that Julius Jones and Justin Forsett will get carries after each has missed time recently (2½ games for Jones) or been limited (Forsett last week) because of injuries. The Texans are allowing an average of 118.9 yards rushing for the season, but have trimmed that to 90.2 over the past nine games.

Also keep an eye on No. 42 on special teams for the Texans – it’s Brian Russell, the Seahawks’ starting free safety the past two seasons when he was wearing No. 25. He was released on the final roster cut and then signed with the Jaguars, playing at Qwest Field in October and wearing No. 26. After the Jags released him, Russell signed with the Texans.

For those interested in such things, the roof will be closed at Reliant Stadium today. Presumably to keep the dense fog that is blanketed this sprawling city at bay.

We’ll be back later with the inactives.


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