HOUSTON (AP) — The Seattle Seahawks will attempt to win consecutive games for the first time this season Sunday when they visit the woeful Houston Texans, losers of 10 of their last 11.
Seattle (4-8) got a 30-23 victory over the 49ers last week to snap a three-game skid as Russell Wilson had his best game since returning from finger surgery on Nov. 14. He threw for 231 yards and two touchdowns, and Seattle’s defense had a late goal-line stand to secure the win.
Now the Seahawks will visit a Houston team coming off a 31-0 loss to the Colts at home that is searching for answers in this increasingly difficult season.
“We’ve got to capture some of the rhythm that we felt in the game last week and add to it,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “I would love to see us play a good complementary game where we are feeding off one another on offense and defense, maybe capture some of the opportunities that could arise on special teams, and just play really good football. ..
“It’s a big week for us to come back, capture a win this week, and take the next step.”
Despite their struggles this season, Houston coach David Culley knows better than to underestimate the Seahawks.
“It’s a very good group,” he said. “They’ve had a history of always being a very good group. It’s a team that always keeps the ball in front of you, and it’s a team that has also taken the ball away.”
The Texans benched veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor in favor of rookie Davis Mills and coach David Culley said Mills will start for the rest of the season, beginning Sunday.
Culley benched Taylor for Mills in the third quarter of last week’s defeat with the Texans (2-10) trailing 21-0. Culley evaluated the position this week before announcing his decision Friday.
“He gives us the best chance to win,” Culley said of Mills.
Mills, a third-round pick from Stanford, threw eight interceptions with seven touchdowns in 6½ games filling in when Taylor was injured. Taylor has five interceptions with just two TD passes in the four games since returning from a strained hamstring.
Ryan Neal returns to the starting lineup at strong safety with Jamal Adams out for the season after suffering a torn labrum in his left shoulder and undergoing surgery.
Neal has been used in spots throughout the season as a sixth defensive back, but has not played consistently. It is notable that Seattle’s defense started to make a turn in its third down numbers once it went to six defensive backs and got Neal on the field in passing situations.
When Adams missed time with injuries in 2020, Neal played very well in a starting role. The issue for Seattle is putting Neal into the starting lineup may limit some of those packages using extra defensive backs.
“I really hope that me shadowing him and learning from behind him can help us remain having that flexibility in our defense and not have to shy away from anything that we’ve been doing,” Neal said. “That’s the hope that I can give the coaches and hopefully they can trust me to do the job.”
The Texans will be without one of their most consistent defenders Sunday after waiving outside linebacker Zach Cunningham on Wednesday following his second suspension for violating team rules this season.
The Texans drafted Cunningham in the second round in 2017 and signed him to a four-year, $58 million contract extension before last season. He went on to have his best season in 2020, setting career highs and leading the NFL in both total tackles (164) and solo tackles (106).
Cunningham was suspended for Sunday’s game after violating team rules after being suspended for a quarter earlier this season for the same thing.
WAKE UP CALL
Playing games with early kickoffs in the Eastern or Central time zones used to be a problem that lingered with the Seahawks as a franchise until 2012.
Since then, they’ve been great anytime they’re asked to play at 10 a.m. Seattle time. The Seahawks are 20-7 in their last 27 games with early kickoffs and have won 12 of the past 13.
This will be the second and final early kickoff of the season for Seattle. The Seahawks won at Indianapolis in Week 1.
Tyler Lockett may not reach the mark this week, but he’s on the verge of joining rare company. The Seahawks receiver needs 119 yards receiving to reach 1,000 yards for the third straight season.
The only other player in franchise history to do that is Hall of Famer Steve Largent. Lockett has a good chance of setting a career high in yards this season as well. His previous best came in 2019 when he had 1,057 yards receiving.
“He’s been a marvelous pro. I say that because of his consistency and his consistency at such a high level,” Carroll said. “He’s never not been at the top level of play. He isn’t always recognized for it for whatever reason, although I think in the past couple of years his numbers have been so crazy positive that everybody is aware of him.”
AP Sports Writer Tim Booth contributed.
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