INDIANAPOLIS — Washington Street in downtown Indianapolis is flanked by old street lights that have images of the Colts flapping from them.
Coach Chuck Pagano, wide receiver Reggie Wayne, quarterback Andrew Luck blow in the breeze about three blocks north of Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Colts, much like their city’s downtown, are trying to add to tradition.
A new, glass-faced Marriott hotel stretches into the sky just blocks from war memorials stemming from the 1880s. In his second season, Luck heads one of the league’s great franchises.
Barnstorming into this Midwest environment are the undefeated and audacious Seattle Seahawks (4-0). They take on the talented Colts (3-1) at 10 a.m. Sunday on Ch. 13.
The Seahawks are 21/2-point favorites, according to the soothsayers in Las Vegas. That suits the Seahawks because when things become tight, on the field and scoreboard, they have excelled. Last week’s narrow overtime win against the Houston Texans was quarterback Russell Wilson’s seventh fourth-quarter comeback in 22 career games.
More daunting numbers show up when teams enter Seattle’s red zone this season. Seahawks opponents have had 11 possessions inside the 20-yard line. Four times they have scored a touchdown. Four times Seattle has come up with an interception.
Those are staggering and game-changing plays. Safety Earl Thomas intercepted Houston quarterback Matt Schaub in the red zone last week after Schaub’s pass was tipped multiple times.
Thomas also picked off San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick when the 49ers were on the 5-yard line in Week 2.
“I think we are already aggressive from the start, then when you get to the red zone, everything is condensed, everything is happening faster,” Thomas said. “You can jump stuff and be as aggressive as you want
“Essentially, the back line is your help.”
Luck has 20 interceptions in his career since being selected No. 1 overall in 2012. Two of those have come in the red zone. Neither of his interceptions this season have been in that territory. Avoiding red-zone interceptions exemplify his smarts and decision-making talents.
“Every now and then a ball will get tipped up. It’s football, and crazy things happen in every game,” Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman, Luck’s college teammate, said. “Obviously, everybody makes mistakes here and there, but he definitely limits them.”
Pagano put his gravel-and-cold-based voice to work this week, lauding the Seahawks’ defense. Even though he didn’t quite have his metaphors correct, the point was taken.
“It’s like Scary Movie 3,” Pagano said.
That film was a farcical flop that mocked other movies. If Pagano intended to say Seattle’s defense has been a horror show for everyone other than the Texans in the first two quarters last week, then he would have a point.
Despite good production in the first 30 minutes by the Texans’ offense, the Seahawks’ defense is fourth in yards allowed, sixth in third-down percentage and fourth in opponents’ passing yards.
Those numbers are enough to turn the effervescent Pagano into a Seahawks hype man.
“Their defense is as good as there is in the National Football League,” Pagano said. “They play fast. They’re physical. (They’ve got a) secondary that is huge. (They’’ve) got ballplayers all over the place, and they play hard and they play fast and they play with an attitude and (they’ve) got a swagger. (We’ve) got our hands full.”
Which is what the Seahawks will have with Luck, all while managing another game with a shortened offensive line.
Pro Bowl center Max Unger will be a game-time decision. Right tackle Breno Giacomini remains out after knee surgery Monday. Rookie Michael Bowie is expected to start again in place of Giacomini. At the least, he and left tackle Paul McQuistan will have another week of practice to lean on.
“I mean, we can see the difference,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “You know, Michael Bowie feels much more comfortable, and Paul is another week older at his spot.
“Really, we’ve had no trouble with Lem (Lemuel Jeanpierre, Unger’s replacement) at all. He just stepped right in and did a really good job. We expect them to play really clean and sharp football, and they’re going to have to.”
They’re not the only ones if the Seahawks want to leave evolving Indianapolis with a win.
SEATTLE (4-0) at INDIANAPOLIS (3-1)
10 a.m., Lucas Oil Stadium
TV: Ch. 13. Radio: 710-AM, 97.3-FM.
The series: Colts lead 6-4. The Colts won the last meeting, 34-17, on Oct. 4, 2009, in Indianapolis.
What to watch: Will the Seahawks’ offensive line be any better? Pro-Bowl center Max Unger (triceps) is questionable, and tackles Paul McQuistan on the left and rookie Michael Bowie on the right were abused last week by Houston. The Colts will use linebacker Robert Mathis, whose 7.5 sacks ties for the NFL lead, to pressure quarterback Russell Wilson. The Colts’ defensive line uses quickness they way the Texans’ uses size. Another week of practice should help McQuistan and, particularly, Bowie. They can’t be much worse than they were last week.
The pick: Seahawks, 27-20
24 Marshawn LynchRB5-11215seventh
He should be on this list every week because this is where the Seahawks’ offense starts.
89 Doug BaldwinWR5-10189third
He’s the leading receiver for a team that rarely throws, but when it does, he shows up.
29 Earl ThomasS5-10202fourth
Thomas will be one of the keys against the Colts’ play-action passes, something they use to produce big plays.
82 Luke WillsonTE6-5252first
With Zach Miller (hamstring) questionable, Willson is in. Solid in mop-up duty against the Jags, he otherwise does not have a catch.
41 Byron MaxwellCB6-1207third
The Seahawks tried Maxwell on Houston tight ends last week. It didn’t work. He may get another shot against Coby Fleener.
12 Andrew LuckQB6-4239second
He can throw, he can read defenses. Just his second year and he’s only getting better.
87 Reggie WayneWR6-020013th
Hard to believe Wayne is in his 13th season. Marvin Harrison’s former sidekick is on pace for an 88-catch season.
44 Coby FleenerTE6-6247second
Fleener is Luck’s old pal from Stanford and one of the Colts’ main targets, particularly in the red zone.
98 Robert MathisLB6-229811th
Mathis is one sack away from becoming the 30th player in NFL history to have 100 sacks.
34 Trent RichardsonRB5-9225second
Acquired two weeks ago in a big trade, Richardson has been mediocre. He’s averaging 2.9 yards a carry.
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