“Let Burien Chevrolet make you a great deal!” - Elise Woodward
If the Seahawks don’t yet understand how fleeting top-dog status can be in the NFL, they need only consider the Houston Texans over the past year.
Eleven months ago, the Texans had arrived as the NFL’s best team. They destroyed the Baltimore Ravens 43-13, similar to Seattle’s 42-13 blowout of San Francisco last December or its 29-3 Niners beatdown two weeks ago. The victory over Baltimore gave the Texans a 6-1 record, and by early December, they would improve to 11-1.
The Texans looked like a Super Bowl team: balanced offense featuring running back Arian Foster and wide receiver Andre Johnson, top-notch defense led by the league’s best performer, J.J. Watt, and plenty of star power in its prime. Houston was so good that, with four games remaining in 2012, it had already earned a second consecutive playoff bid and set a franchise record for victories in a season.
But the NFL has a way of dismantling the anointed. Even when you’re rolling, you’re not that far ahead of the pack. New England, the team that never goes away, blew out the Texans 42-14 last December, and Houston ended the year with three losses in four games. The Texans went from thinking about byes and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs to being in the wild-card game. They won a home playoff game over Cincinnati but lost 41-28 at New England in the divisional round.
And crazy enough, Baltimore — the team Houston smashed last October — recovered and won the Super Bowl.
The Texans were left with so many questions about why they lost their edge. They wondered what might have been if linebacker Brian Cushing hadn’t injured his knee early in the season, or if Johnson hadn’t played in pain all season, or if quarterback Matt Schaub had played a little better in certain critical situations. They wondered about their bad luck, about peaking too soon last season and about having to play without Schaub in the postseason a year earlier. And on the outside, many wondered if the Texans had blown their best chance to win a championship.
Now, as the Seahawks (3-0) prepare to face the Texans on Sunday, you see a Houston team that is still very good, still very much in the playoffs conversation, but many are uncertain whether the Texans will ever be special again. The 32-year-old Schaub is under scrutiny for his mistakes. All of a sudden, Johnson, 32, is no longer in his prime. Foster may be slowing down after a heavy workload the past three years. Watt, Cushing and the rest of the defense are still progressing, but overall, the Texans leave something to be desired. Their window hasn’t closed, but their road is much more difficult than it seemed last December.