INDIANAPOLIS – Andrew Luck has made it a habit of staring down talented opposing defenses and with the Colts having won 14-of-20 games, he has done so quite well.
Well enough that the starting record he has pieced together ranks with John Elway (1983) as the best through 20 games of any quarterback drafted first overall.
Sunday is the newest obstacle, a Seattle defense playing very well in the franchise's first 4-0 start. It is an opponent that has won its last nine straight regular-season games.
Two of those are road comeback triumphs this year, with a noteworthy one coming last Sunday at Houston when a 20-3 deficit with 20 minutes left flipped into a 23-20 overtime victory.
An impetus was cornerback Richard Sherman's 58-yard interception return for a score, and the Seattle secondary highlights a talented defense.
"These guys are definitely good," said Luck. "Richard's got incredible ball skills. I think they have seven interceptions on their team already. Three of the guys in the secondary have two apiece.
"They're all physical (and) fast. They have all the attributes. Not just fast, they can also catch the ball. They're also big. They do a great job in press (coverage). They do a great job off (the ball)."
The Seattle defense has not ranked below fifth in the league this year, not below fourth in pass defense, and the secondary has multiple interceptions in the last three games.
The Seahawks swiped three Colin Kaepernick passes in a 26-point win in week two, then got Matt Schaub twice last week. The secondary has helped the Seahawks to a plus-seven turnover ratio that ranks third in the NFL, while the unit's 11.8 points yielded per game ranks second.
Corners Brandon Browner (6-4, 221) and Sherman (6-3, 195) are imposing defenders, as are safeties Kam Chancellor (6-3, 232) and Earl Thomas (5-10, 202). They have spearheaded a unit whose three touchdowns allowed passing rank behind the Colts, Carolina and Cleveland (two), and opposing quarterbacks have mustered a 60.7 seasonal rating that tops NFL defenses.
"To have two (corners) like they have, they get up in your face, they're great press-man corner guys, they challenge you, they make it extremely difficult to get off the line of scrimmage," said Chuck Pagano. "Our guys are going to have to do a great job of working constantly to get away from those guys.
"They basically get up there and get their hands on you and they can take you out of a game. They're playmakers. It's going to be extremely difficult for our wide receivers to get away, get loose and get open."
Luck respects the quality of competition, but does not think the ability of the corners will cause the team top operate out of the ordinary.
"I don't think so. Our receivers know what they're going up against. I have all the faith in the world in them. They'll run great routes," said Luck. "Reggie Wayne has gotten open for 12, 13 years, he'll get open. T.Y. (Hilton) is going to get open. DHB (Darrius Heyward-Bey) is going to get open. (Coby) Fleener will get open.
"I don't think it changes the rhythm of the drop or the throws. You just realize you have to put it at the right spot. It really goes for every week when you're playing NFL secondaries."
Indianapolis also has been good in the turnover department, having two turnover-free outings and sporting a plus-two margin in three games – all wins.
Facing Seattle's bunch means no additional focus for a team that stresses ball security.
"I don't know if it's (facing Seattle) any more or less. As an offense, one of our big goals is no turnovers every week. We know that gives us a chance to win," said Luck. "Coach Pagano has preached that since day one. Turnover margin is (an) indicator, not the biggest, of winning and losing. We do realize they can take it to the house if they get their hands on it."
This game had sizzle from the season's outset because of the play of each team in 2012 – the Colts making a nine-game jump in the standings and Seattle, also playing with a rookie quarterback in Russell Wilson, reaching the Divisional Playoffs.
That sizzle has held up as the season's second quarter starts, and that is fine with Luck.
"We've got our work cut out for us. We're excited about the challenge," said Luck. "As football players, as athletes, that's what you want to do. You want to face good players, great players."
COLTS, NFL POPULAR WITH VIEWERS – The Colts-Jacksonville game had a 34.0 local rating and 57 share, and Indianapolis was one of 28 markets across the league where NFL games were the top-rated local program of the week. NFL telecasts ranked 1-2 in viewership among all television programs during last week's "premiere week" debuts of network primetime programming. Since Labor Day, NFL game telecasts rank as the nine most-watched shows on television.
PRACTICE REPORT – Did not participate: RB-Ahmad Bradshaw (neck), FB-Stanley Havili (ankle), S-Delano Howell (toe), DT-Ricky Jean Francois (groin), S-LaRon Landry (ankle), LB-Bjoern Werner (foot); Limited Participation: CB-Vontae Davis (foot), G-Hugh Thornton (shoulder).