1-2 starts have removed luster of Colts-Seahawks matchup

Frank Gore and the Colts hope to take advantage of a low-ranked Seattle run defense.
AP

As the Indianapolis Colts head to Seattle to take on the Seahawks in a prime-time Sunday night matchup, the schedule-makers must be experiencing a letdown.

Before the season started, this game looked to be loaded with offensive firepower. But Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has yet to play or even practice this season and won’t play Sunday. The rushing attack of the Seahawks begs to have Marshawn Lynch back. So instead of fireworks, this is simply a matchup of two 1-2 teams that have fired some duds in the first three weeks of the season.

The Colts are coming off their first win, having defeated the Cleveland Browns in Week 3. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who has been on the roster for only a month, rushed for two scores and threw for another. The second-year player is grasping the new playbook and finding some continuity with his teammates after being obtained from the Patriots late in the preseason.

“Brissett’s done a great job in a very short time,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “He had experience in New England, but this was (about) learning a new system and terminology. That’s hard.”

Communicating with his newer teammates is something Brissett will have to work on this week in practice. CenturyLink Field is always one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL, and Pagano acknowledged that challenge.

“Bring earmuffs to practice this week because we’re going to have the noise blaring,” Pagano told reporters. “(The Seahawks fans) make it tough to operate on offense.”

While the noise may be an issue, Seattle’s one-time top defensive squad shouldn’t be. The Seahawks, who lost to the Tennessee Titans 33-27 last week, rank 23rd in the NFL in total defense and have struggled to stop the run in consecutive weeks. Missed tackles and improper alignments have cost the team victories.

“Different mistakes, but we’ve made a couple big mistakes and they’ve really cost us,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “Really fine running backs have been able to take advantage of it and really maximize them. We made an error and we misread a formation and didn’t hit it just right on the run play and the ball got out.”

The Seahawks can’t allow such mistakes against the solid rushing attack of the Colts, especially with Brissett being able to make plays with his legs.

Running back Frank Gore is no longer the bell cow he once was but is still able to pick up needed yardage. He developed a history of playing well against Seattle when he was with the 49ers. Gore has rushed for 1,421 yards in 18 career games against the Seahawks. He has rushed for more than 200 yards twice and added another two 100-plus rushing games. Gore is 20th in the NFL in rushing.

Seattle’s run game has been the weakness of the team. Some of that is due to poor offensive line play. Seattle believes it can help correct that issue by inserting Oday Aboushi into the starting lineup at right guard.

Some is because of the injury to running back Thomas Rawls. Free-agent running back Eddie Lacy was supposed to carry the load, but he has struggled, gaining just three yards in five attempts in the only game he played this season.

The Colts’ rushing defense is among the top 10 in the NFL in yards allowed per game at 85.7.

This means the Seahawks will have to count on the play of quarterback Russell Wilson again.

The Indy pass defense is 29th in the league and has given up a league-high 20 passes over 20 yards.

Wilson is coming off a career-best game in which he threw for 373 yards and four touchdowns. Wide receiver Doug Baldwin is quietly tied for sixth in the NFL with 20 catches and has gained 212 yards.

The Colts start a rookie at safety in Malik Hooker. Rookie cornerback Nate Hairston has been starting at nickelback. Cornerback Rashaan Melvin, who has been a journeyman in the NFL, starts opposite former Seahawks corner Pierre Desir.

Melvin had his best day as a professional against the Cleveland Browns. He registered two interceptions and four pass breakups. If the Colts hope to contain Wilson and Co., Melvin and Desir will need to play the best games of their careers.

That all could change if cornerback Vontae Davis is able to play. He has been out since the start of the season because of a groin injury, but he practiced Wednesday. His return would provide a lift for the pass defense.