HOUSTON (AP) — The undefeated Seattle Seahawks are already feeling this could be a special season, and improving to 4-0 for the first time would be another huge move toward that end.
"We have a lot to prove every time we step out and this is just another stepping stone, the next team in our way," said Seattle safety Earl Thomas, a key to the Seahawks' top-ranked defense.
That opponent is Houston, and the Texans are no slouches on defense either. Houston (2-1) is second to Seattle in yards allowed in the NFL.
The Seahawks are 3-0 for the sixth time in franchise history and the first time since 2006. Their defense is also the stingiest on the scoreboard, limiting teams to just nine points a game.
Coach Pete Carroll is using the experience he gained in leading so many outstanding teams at Southern California to help teach the Seahawks how to handle their early success, and outside expectations.
"We had those No. 1 rankings year after year after year," Carroll said of his time at USC. "You become comfortable with that and that's where you want to be. You want to get to the point where you understand why people talk about you as they do, and then you want to constantly remember that you live up to that."
Naturally, a key to Seattle's early success has been that staunch defense, which has been a force at forcing turnovers. The Seahawks are tied for second with a plus-6 turnover differential.
"It's a winning formula in itself," Carroll said. "We do it because it's the single-most important factor to winning for us. Our numbers have kind of proven that out."
Both teams have good reason to feel great about their defenses, but recognize they'll have to improve on offense to contend for a championship.
Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson said going against the top defense in the NFL every day in practice has helped the offense get better. He hopes that will help in dealing with Houston this week.
"This game's going to be a huge game," Wilson said. "It's one of the teams that obviously is a 'Super Bowl contender,' and is a team that's got a lot of talent and everything."
Five things to know about the Seahawks-Texans game:
CARROLL & CUSHING: Houston linebacker Brian Cushing played for Carroll at USC from 2005-08.
"He was ... a very influential person to me at a critical stage in my career and in my life," Cushing said. "A guy that's helped me tremendously to grow up as a person and a football player."
Carroll had plenty to say about his former player, and joked about how hyper-competitive he has always been before raving about his play.
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