Colts at Seattle: What to look for Sunday

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INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 17: Jacoby Brissett #7 of the Indianapolis Colts runs downfield against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 17, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Areas of interest in the Indianapolis Colts’ Sunday night meeting with the Seahawks in Seattle’s CenturyLink Field.

Kickoff: 8:30 p.m.

Broadcast: NBC

  • Ready for prime time?: Jacoby Brissett’s progress has been steady and impressive. Now comes the next and without question most demanding step. He’ll no longer benefit from operating a Colts offense he’s still learning in the friendly confines of Lucas Oil Stadium. He’ll have to deal with the maelstrom that is CenturyLink Field.

Brissett has a pretty good idea what to expect.

“We’re playing nighttime,’’ he said with a smile. “Everybody’s drunk then. I’m guessing it will be very loud.’’

He guesses correctly. The Seahawks’ vaunted “12th Man’’ support has contributed to opposing offenses being penalized for an NFL-high 155 false starts since 2005. Through three games, the Colts have jumped the snap early 7 times, tops in the league.

The environment can be difficult for even the most experienced QB and offense. It’s worth mentioning Brissett will be making just his fifth career start, and first on the road. The extent of his road “experience’’ consists of nine fourth-quarter snaps and three passes in the Colts’ season opener against the Rams. It’s also worth mentioning he’ll be using the silent cadence with center Deyshawn Bond, an undrafted rookie.

“The key for all of us is to maintain our poise and composure,’’ coordinator Rob Chudzinski said. “Understand just like any game, there are going to be good plays, there are going to be bad plays.’’

The key to quieting the crowd is maximizing the former and minimizing the latter. It’s getting things done against a Seattle defense that was the NFL’s stingiest from 2012-15 before “slipping” to 3rd last season.

“Just play your game,’’ Brissett said. “They’ll scream for what they want to scream for and they won’t scream for what they don’t want to scream for. So we’ve just got to do what we came to do.’’

  • Escape artist: His given name is Russell Carrington Wilson. Chuck Pagano has another name for Seattle’s elusive QB.

“I know Chuck used the name ‘Houdini,’’’ defensive coordinator Ted Monachino said. “He’s got a little bit of that in him. Even when you think you’ve got him, even when he’s on his way down, sometimes he can make some special plays.’’

Seattle’s offense is hardly imposing. It ranks 15th in yards per game (323.3), tied for 18th in rushing (96.7), 17th in passing (226.7) and tied for 26th in scoring (16.0). A young and unstable offense line has allowed seven sacks.

But the uniqueness of Wilson has more than compensated for the flaws. He’s passed for 729 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions. He’s Seattle’s second-leading rusher with 100 yards on 21 attempts. He avoids the rush, buys time for his receivers to work free, drives defenses absolutely batty with his escapability.

The Colts last met the Seahawks was in 2013 in Indy, and they got a full dose of Wilson. In a 34-28 loss, he passed for 210 yards and two touchdowns and rushed/escaped 13 times for 102 yards.

Pagano’s message to his defense: Wilson is “a different animal.’’

“I told the guys, ‘He’s going to get out. It’s going to happen. So what, now what? Move onto the next play.’ We’ve got to do a great job in the back end plastering wide receivers when he does escape. He’s got a really, really strong arm and he’s always got his eyes down the field.’’

Veteran cornerback Vontae Davis makes his season debut, and it’s imperative the two-time Pro Bowler helps with the overall discipline of a young secondary.

  • Weather the storm: And trust us, the Colts will face a storm or two in Seattle. They should anticipate the Seahawks coming out angry following last week’s 33-27 beat-down by the Tennessee Titans in Nashville. They’re a team that thrives on being physical and aggressive, and aren’t the least bit shy of attempting to bully an opponent.

The Titans rebuffed Seattle’s bullying tactics, especially when Richard Sherman delivered a late sideline hit against Marcus Mariota. The Colts must respond in kind when the Seahawks flex their muscles.

Pagano always stresses the importance of the first five minutes of a game. That will be especially true Sunday night.

Arguably the best way to put a lid on crowd noise is to come out with a methodical running game. The Seahawks have been awful against the run – 30th in yards per game allowed (146.0) and 32nd in yards per attempt (5.3) – but the Colts have yet to get their running game going. They’re 25th in yards per game (81.0) and dead last in yards per attempt (2.7). Frank Gore is tied for 20th with 145 yards and is averaging just 3.0 yards per attempt.

  • Encore for Hilton? It was encouraging to see T.Y. Hilton emerge from two quiet games and slap the Browns with 7 catches, 153 yards and a 61-yard touchdown. Now, do it again under what promises to be oppressive conditions. Seahawks DBs don’t cover receivers as much as they assault them.

“They play as a group,’’ Hilton said. “They’re fast, they’re athletic and they feed off one another.’’

Sherman has 30 interceptions and 97 passes defensed since 2011, most in the NFL. He and strong safety Kam Chancellor have been voted to four Pro Bowls. Free safety Earl Thomas is a five-time Pro Bowler.

In the 2013 meeting with Seattle in Indy, Hilton got the better of the Legion of Boom: 5 catches, 140 yards, 2 TDs. He’ll be squarely in the Seahawks’ crosshairs.

  • And the winner is: Seahawks 31, Colts 17. This just isn’t a good matchup. The Seahawks are 1-2 and still fuming after getting whipped by the Titans. The Colts are young and led by a QB who’ll be making his first career road start at arguably the toughest road venue. If Indy can withstand the early onslaught, it can keep things competitive. If not, keep the TV remote handy.