Seahawks vs. Texans: Breaking Down Seattle's Game Plan

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Seahawks vs. Texans: Breaking Down Seattle's Game Plan
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks travel to Reliant Stadium to take on the Houston Texans on Sunday. This game features two playoff contenders who are philosophically very similar teams. 

Both teams run the ball well, throw off play-action and put tremendous emphasis on protecting the football. Both teams play good defense and have great depth on that side of the football. The special teams units for both squads are always among the best in the league. 

When the teams line up across from each other on Sunday, it will almost be like looking in a mirror. Almost, because the Texans don't have a playmaker at quarterback like Russell Wilson

The Seahawks are looking to win their ninth straight regular-season game, dating back to last season, and their 10th game in their last 11, including the playoffs. Seattle is also looking to win its fourth straight regular-season road game and the fifth in its last six on the road, including the playoffs. 

 

The Competitive Edge

Comparisons are compiled as a combination of stats from NFL.com and performance ratings from Pro Football Focus (subscription required), as well as game tape study. 

 

Passing Offense

Defining which team has the better passing offense depends on how "better" is defined. Houston has out-gained the Seahawks though the air overall but has use considerably more passing attempts to do so. When comparing yards per attempt, the Seahawks (9.8 yards per attempt) actually have a very large advantage over the Texans (6.5 yards per attempt).

 

Rushing Offense

The situation for the rushing offenses is the opposite of that of the passing offenses. Seattle has more yards rushing but also has considerably more attempts. Houston on the other hand, has a much better yards-per-carry average.

The Texans (4.9 yards per carry) have out-gained Seattle (3.5 yards per carry) by almost a yard-and-a-half every time they hand the ball off. 

 

Defense 

The Seahawks have the edge when comparing the defenses. The Seahawks lead the NFL in points allowed, yards allowed, and passing yards allowed. Houston is No. 2 in yards allowed and passing yards but just 24th in points. 

Houston is giving up more points per game (27.3) than the Seahawks have given up all season (27). 

 

Special Teams

This is a matchup of two of the top special teams units in the NFL. In the Pro Football Focus ratings for special teams (subscription required), the Seahawks are fourth while the Texans are sixth. And there is only 0.8 in total performance separating the two. 

 

Seattle's Offense vs. Houston's Defense

Defensively, Houston is very underrated. It ranks second in total yards allowed and passing yards allowed, right behind Seattle in both categories. 

The problem is that the Texans haven't been able to prevent their opponents from scoring like the Seahawks have. This has partly been due to the defense's inability to get the timely turnover. It is also partly due to the Houston offense turning the ball over and forcing its defense to defend a short field far too often. 

 

Protect Russell Wilson

Russell Wilson vs. Pressure
Passer Rating
No Pressure 131.3
Pressure 74.7
Blitzed 131.7
Not Blitzed 97.7

Pro Football Focus

As the chart indicates, getting pressure on Wilson is the key to slowing down the Seattle offense. When the offensive line gives Wilson time, he can dice apart just about any defense.

The difficulty is that Wilson is actually better against the blitz than against a base defense. When opposing teams have to blitz to get pressure, Wilson is adept at using the holes it creates in the defense to get completions. 

The best way to stop Wilson is to get pressure on him without blitzing. 

 

Neutralize J.J. Watt

Luckily for the Texans and unluckily for the Seahawks, Houston has the personnel to get pressure on Wilson without blitzing. J.J. Watt is arguably the best 3-4 defensive end in the NFL and dominates offensive tackles every week.

If the Seahawks can't contain Watt, he's going to cause some serious problems for Wilson and the Seattle passing game. 

Look for the Seahawks to double-team Watt on almost every play, whether it being with a guard or tight end helping the offensive tackle, or having a back "chip" him before heading out on a pass pattern. 

Hopefully, this will be enough. Other teams have used the same strategy on Watt for the past two seasons, and he has still managed to rack up 26 sacks in his last 19 regular-season games. 

 

Hit on the Big Play

According to Pro-Football-Reference, the Texans have given up six passes of greater than 20 yards, which is an average of two per game. The Seahawks offense has already connected on 13 passing plays of 20 yards are more.  

The Texans defense has been vulnerable to giving up the big play, and the Seahawks have been adept at generating those explosive plays. The Seahawks need to make sure they take some shots down the field early and often in this game. 

 

Seattle's Defense vs. Houston's Offense

The offenses of these two teams are very similar. Both are run-first by design, both use play action as much as possible, and both teams like to go deep. For the Seahawks defense, this game will feel a lot like practicing against the Seahawks offense, sans the mobile quarterback. 

 

Stop the Rushing Attack

Houston's 4.9 yards per rush is the fifth best in the NFL. Oddly, though, its 79 rushing attempts through three games is just 16th. This means that even though the Texans have been successful at running the ball, the coaches haven't been willing to stick with it throughout the game.

If the Seahawks can stop the running game early and get a lead, it is likely they will force the Texans to become one-dimensional. With the pass-rushers the Seahawks have, that can only mean good things for Seattle. 

 

Don't Get Beat by Play Action

The strength of the Texans offense is their running game. With so much emphasis being placed on stopping Ben Tate and Arian Foster, teams have a tendency to leave themselves open to play action. 

Texans quarterback Matt Schaub's passer rating when using play action is 21 points higher than with standard passes. The Seahawks must stay disciplined and not overcommit to stopping the run. 

 

Get Pressure on Matt Schaub

Matt Schaub vs. Pressure
Passer Rating
No Pressure 102.1
Pressure 64.2
Blitzed 75.2
Not Blitzed 95.6

Pro Football Focus

As with most QBs, Schaub isn't nearly as efficient when he's under pressure. 

Unlike with Wilson, Schaub hasn't been been proficient at beating the blitz. The key to slowing the Houston passing attack is just to get pressure, and it doesn't seem to matter what has to be done to get to the QB. 

The Seahawks' blitz percentage is among the lowest in the NFL, look for that to change this week as the they look to get pressure on Schaub every time he drops back to pass. 

 

Game Stats and Facts (via Pro-Football-Reference and NFL.com)

Predict the outcome:

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The all-time series between these two teams consists of only two games, with each team hosting one game. The home team has won each time, and both games were blowouts. 

The last time these teams played, the Jim Mora-coached Seahawks went on the road to Houston and got crushed 35-7, back in 2009. 

The Seahawks have run the ball 30 times more than the Texans (109 to 79) through three games. That is an average of 10 more rushes per game. 

Seattle is giving up just 147 yards per game through the air, which is the best in the league. 

The two offenses have gained almost the same number of total yards though three games. Houston has out-gained the Seahawks by only 26 yards, which is less than nine per game.

The Seahawks have done a better job of turning those yards into points. The Seahawks have scored 86 points. The Texans have scored just 70.

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