Tag Archives: George Bush Intercontinental Airport

My Weekend in Houston

2 Oct

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*A detailed summary of my trip to Houston, Texas for the Seahawks game against the Houston Texans*

Saturday: Our flight left Seattle at 10:15 Saturday morning. After getting my Sea-Tac staple meal (Wendy’s breakfast) and enduring a long wait at the gate, I took my aisle seat in 25D and we were in the air shortly thereafter. The plane ride was full of Seahawks fans and a couple Seattle news personalities. Seahawks play-by-play man Steve Raible sat in first class and Paul Silvi of King 5 was seated about 10 rows in front of me. I’ll spare you the details of my flight, as it was, well, a flight. Pretty standard stuff. The only thing worth noting was the beverage service, as the flight attendants took about 30-40 minutes to get to our row. I joked with the guys sitting next to me that we would probably make it into Texas before we got our first round of drinks.

After we landed we took a bus to the off-site rental car facility and got our car. Let me say here that when we walked out of the airport towards the bus the Houston humidity really hit me. I hadn’t felt humid conditions like this since going to New York in the summer of 2006. The drive from the airport to our hotel in south Houston took us right past the downtown Houston skyline and shortly after passing downtown we exited the freeway and were at our hotel, the Crowne Plaza at Reliant Park. The hotel is located right off the I-610 freeway and is a 5 minute walk from what is called “Reliant Park” which includes Reliant Stadium, the Reliant Astrodome, and Reliant Arena. Last season in Arizona I stayed at the Renaissance Hotel which was located about the same distance away from University of Phoenix Stadium that the Crowne Plaza is from Reliant Stadium and I think that the Crowne Plaza was the exact opposite in all facets compared to the Renaissance:

The rooms are small, the ceiling in the bathroom was about two inches taller than my head, the ceiling above the shower was moldy, the bathroom mirror hung at breast level, meaning taller people like me have to bend down in order to see themselves in the mirror, our room faced the highway instead of the stadium, not only was there no free breakfast but there was also no complimentary coffee in the lobby in the morning, and there was only one vending machine in the entire building.

After checking-in we headed to a Buffalo Wild Wings near the campus of Rice University for the UW/Arizona game and to participate in a 12th Man rally. The restaurant was packed with Seahawks fans, thus it was standing room only and it truly felt like I was back at home. After ordering a glass of St. Arnold’s Oktoberfest (a local brew) and a few wings it came to our attention that a cameraman from Kiro 7 news was among the 12th Man faithful. He announced to the crowd that we were going live on TV in Seattle within 5 minutes so I got in prime position to be right in front of the camera. Even with a minimal warning to friends back home on Facebook, my friend Alan confirmed that I was “looking good as always” right in the middle of his TV screen. Success! At least somebody saw me on TV. After watching the Huskies knock off Arizona we picked up breakfast and beer at a local Kroger, headed back to the hotel, and called it a night. My wake-up call for Sunday morning: 7am.

Random Thought: There was a poster hanging at the bar for spicy Bloody Mary’s which included pepper flavored Absolut vodka. You read that right. PEPPER flavored vodka. As in salt and pepper. I have never heard of pepper flavored vodka before and the thought of it makes me want to gag. It must be a Texas thing.

Sunday: I struggled tremendously in getting a good night’s sleep due to the anticipation of the game and the noise from the cars driving on I-610 right next to the hotel. I woke up at 7am, showered and got dressed, bought a cup of coffee downstairs, had a muffin and was watching pregame and drinking Bud Light by 8:45am. This was the third road game I have been to where the Seahawks play in the 10am Pacific Time slot so it is really weird to be in the hotel pre-gaming with pregame shows on instead of the early games. We left the hotel and walked to the stadium at 10:15am and were inside the stadium by 11am. Our seats were in section 523 which was the fourth row of the upper deck. The seats looked straight down the Seahawks sideline so they were about halfway between the goal post and the corner of the endzone.

On the whole, Texans fans were very nice. I only had one notable moment of heckling when I was in line to use the restroom at halftime. The Seahawks were trailing 20-3 and as I was in line I heard phrases like “Seahawks suck,” “Go back to Seattle,” and “who the hell is ‘Hansman?!” in reference to the customized Seahawks jersey I was wearing. The Texans fans around me were also very knowledgeable about their team. The lady who sat behind me was a Texans season ticket holder and she admired the fact that I was a Seahawks season ticket holder who was dedicated enough to travel to see them play on the road. She was the most realist fan I have ever met. Before the game she explained the feeling the Texans fan base has for certain players. As the game wore on she became less and less willing to talk and after the game I politely told her “maybe we’ll see you guys again in February [for the Super Bowl].” She hostilely and angrily replied “no we won’t. Not the way we played today” and walked away.

Random Thought: A lot of Texans fans do not like Matt Schaub. That was evident after the game when a handful of Texans fans burned his jersey in the parking lot. They do not have faith in his decision making at all and they think it’s time that the Texans move on from both Schaub and head coach Gary Kubiak, who they believe is a package deal; they feel you have to get rid of both of them or neither of them. It reminded me of the last couple years of the Matt Hasselbeck era in Seattle. The feeling with Hasselbeck seemed to be “we like you, you got us to the next level, but you’re past your prime and you make terrible in-game decisions now. It’s time to part ways.”

At the end of the game I went absolutely crazy. We stuck around at the seats to watch the Seahawks celebrate on the field and to wait until most of the Texans fans had left. We walked down the ramps of Reliant Stadium (which were a similar set-up to the ramps at CenturyLink Field) with a large group of Texans fans and they were all visibly frustrated. Nothing negative was said in our direction but it was a very hostile feeling. Myself, my dad, and the two other guys we went with couldn’t shake our feeling of amazement and disbelief; we couldn’t believe what had just taken place inside that building.

After the game we went out to dinner to a Mexican restaurant called Pappasitos Cantina and celebrated with a couple rounds of cervezas. If you are ever in Houston, I highly recommend going to Pappasitos and trying the chicken and beef fajitas. They were the best fajitas I have ever had. The meat was juicy and the onions, Pico de Gallo, and beans added flavor that I had never experienced at a Mexican restaurant before. After watching the San Diego Chargers beat the Dallas Cowboys (to the delight of the Texans fans at the restaurant) we walked back to the hotel to relax and to see the highlights of the Seahawks/Texans game, something that we were hoping to see during halftime of the afternoon games but didn’t.

During the first part of Sunday Night Football I went for a walk around Reliant Stadium one more time to bask in the glory of seeing the Seahawks win live on the road for the first time since 2007. Upon my arrival back to the hotel, I somehow stayed awake for the rest of Sunday Night Football and shortly thereafter, I crashed. What a day.

Monday: I made up for the lack of sleep I had got the night before, as I slept in later than I had planned. After getting ready for the day we checked out of the hotel and headed for downtown Houston, where we would spend our afternoon before heading back to the airport to come home. We were contemplating different ideas on how to spend our Monday afternoon. A small road trip to the Gulf of Mexico, touring NASA headquarters, and touring Minute Maid Park (home of MLB’s Houston Astros) were among our ideas but we did not do any of these which was too bad.

After walking around the downtown core we ate lunch at Tejas Bar and Grill and drove over to Minute Maid Park to walk around the stadium. Even though we did not tour the stadium you could still see into the stadium from the outside. One cool thing about Minute Maid Park was that they incorporated a previous standing building on the property into the stadium; much like how the San Diego Padres incorporated the Western Metal Supply Co. building in left field of Petco Park. The left field plaza was an old train station terminal building that they turned into a waiting lobby, the Astros team store, and a restaurant. Afterwards we headed back to the airport to fly home. From the end of the game to our arrival back home, I still could not believe that I witnessed one of the greatest comeback victories in Seahawks history.

All in all, Houston is a city that I would only visit again in special circumstances such as Super Bowl LI in February 2017. It was a fun trip and I was glad that I was able to come home happy.

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Seahawks/Texans Preview

28 Sep

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Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Houston Texans

Site: Reliant Stadium (Houston, Texas)

Kickoff: 10:00am

The Seahawks now enter a brutal stretch where 4 of their next 5 games are on the road. This stretch starts Sunday when the Seahawks head to Houston to take on the defending AFC South champion Houston Texans. The Seahawks are 3-0 and are coming off a 45-17 butt-kicking of the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Texans are 2-1 after a 30-9 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Baltimore last week. This is the third matchup all-time between the Seahawks and the Texans. They have split the two previous matchups. The last time they played was in 2009 when the Seahawks lost in Houston 34-7. That loss to the Texans was the first of 4 straight blowout losses that ultimately cost former head coach Jim Mora his job. We may look back on this game later this season and say this was one of the biggest tests of the season. Here are some things to watch for against the Texans this week.

The biggest key for the Seahawks to be successful on offense this week is to mobilize Russell Wilson. It may be a necessity considering the Seahawks offensive line and the talent Houston displays along the defensive line. All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt already has 3 sacks this season after recording a Texans team record 20.5 sacks last season. His size and strength gives him the ability to overpower the offensive line and get to the quarterback easier than a lot of other defensive players around the league. Having Wilson scramble to make throws could limit Watt’s role in Houston’s defensive game plan significantly. Wilson is the shortest quarterback Watt has ever played against so Wilson will also need to make sure to elevate his passes to prevent Watt from knocking them down. One other way to limit Watt’s impact is to be successful in the running game. The Seahawks have the highest running rate in the NFL so far this season (57% run, 43% pass). Getting Marshawn Lynch going early could benefit the entire offense to chew clock, score points, and rest the defense. If Lynch struggles, I believe Darrell Bevell will change to a more pass-heavy offensive scheme to try to improve the offense.

In my Jaguars review I briefly touched on how the Seahawks used many different receivers and how using all those weapons could come in handy against the Texans. Looking at Houston’s secondary, cornerbacks Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson are 5-11 and 5-10, respectively. Due to the undersized Texans secondary I am looking at Sidney Rice and Stephen Williams to make a big impact on the outside this week. Given the height advantage these two receivers have, Rice and Williams have the perfect opportunity to exploit Houston’s cornerbacks and gain large chunks of yards if Russell Wilson is confident enough to throw the ball in their direction. If Wilson is flushed out of the pocket, Doug Baldwin becomes an even bigger impact player. Lining up in the slot, Baldwin leads all Seahawks receivers with 177 receiving yards on the season. Baldwin is very good at improvising if plays are not executed as planned and he has an uncanny ability to get open if Wilson is looking downfield for a receiver while being chased. Keep an eye on these three receivers on Sunday.

On defense this week my focus isn’t really on individual matchups but on certain trends that need to come to fruition in order to be successful. The Seahawks tend to struggle a bit on the road no matter who the opponent is so the following things must happen to prevent our first loss of the season. First, they need to limit the number of penalties. On the road, penalties such as pass interference and personal foul penalties are called more often due to the reaction and influence of the home crowd. The Seahawks need to play clean football and make sure the defense can get off the field and the offense can stay on the field longer. Second, the defense needs to limit big plays. Fortunately for the Seahawks this point may not be as difficult as the common person would think. Starting Texans running back Arian Foster’s longest run of the season is only 16 yards and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins’ 30-yard catch against San Diego in week one is the longest catch by a Texans starting wide receiver this season. Third and most important, the Seahawks need to get off the field on third downs. In road games dating back to the beginning of the 2012 season (11 total), the opponent has converted 43.8 percent of third down opportunities. In road games dating back to the beginning of the 2012 season which resulted in a loss (6 total), the opponent converted 47.1 percent of third down opportunities. Although the margin between these numbers is small, they are both close to a 50 percent third down conversion rate which is utterly unacceptable. The Seahawks will not win this game if they cannot get off the field on third down. Stopping Foster, Andre Johnson, and running back Ben Tate is necessary in these situations because they are on the field for most of Houston’s third down chances.

In regards to the individual matchups between the Texans offense and the Seahawks defense, Arian Foster will face one of the best run stopping defenses in the NFL. Foster is averaging only 3.9 yards per carry so far this season. Wide receiver Andre Johnson is nursing an injured shin and will be a game-time decision on Sunday. If Johnson is active, he will line up across from Richard Sherman and DeAndre Hopkins will line up across from Brandon Browner. If Johnson is inactive, Sherman will defend Hopkins and Browner will defend the Texans number three receiver Lestar Jean.

When looking at the Houston Texans, most look directly at their defense and J.J. Watt. Although Watt is the most important player on defense for Houston, my Texans X-Factor player to watch this week is outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus. Mercilus, the Texans 2012 first round draft pick, is tied for the third most tackles by a Texans defender so far this season with 13. He also has one sack. Mercilus is the Texans weak-side linebacker meaning he will line up on the right side of the defensive formation and will blitz from Russell Wilson’s blind side. If Paul McQuistan struggles at left tackle this week for the Seahawks, Mercilus could wind up having a big day for the Texans solely from getting to Wilson behind the line of scrimmage.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will most likely wear white jerseys this week. I am not sure about our pant color… The nice thing about the Texans is that they post their uniform combinations for the entire season on their website. That makes it easier to know what we are going to wear opposite of them… Chris Myers and Tim Ryan have the call for FOX this week… Tony Corrente is the referee this week… I get the sense from a lot of my friends that 10am kickoffs in Seattle are kind of a pain in the ass. In Houston this week the game is a noon kickoff. The game I went to in 2011 in Dallas against the Cowboys was a noon kickoff and it was kind of too bad because I am used to going to Seahawks games here in Seattle at 1pm. It feels like the entire day gets going earlier when you go to a game that starts at noon… My hotel is walking distance from Reliant Stadium, much like my set up last season in Arizona. I’ll be pre-gaming in my hotel room instead of tailgating in the parking lots for the second straight year… On Saturday night a group called “Houston Seahawks” is organizing a 12th Man rally at a Buffalo Wild Wings a couple miles away from our hotel and I’m really excited for it. It will be cool to be in a different city but it will feel like I am right at home… I have seen 6 straight losses on the road. It would be nice to finally break that streak.

Prediction: This game will be close all the way until the end. Unfortunately, I think that J.J. Watt and the Houston defense will succeed in rattling Russell Wilson. The Texans will win the turnover battle 3-1 and it will feel like they will have a commanding lead in the game because of it, even though the game will be close. The Seahawks will get the ball one last time in the final two minutes but the final drive will stall at about midfield. The Seahawks will head home with their first loss of the season and for the 7th straight time, I will sit at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport on Monday afternoon disappointed (I hope I am wrong, obviously).

Texans 23, Seahawks 20

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Since I will not be around a computer all weekend I will not be able to post my Texans review until Tuesday afternoon most likely. Enjoy the game everyone! I’ll be sure to bring some 12th Man love to the lone-star state. Go Seahawks!