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It’s the biggest game because it’s the next game
In Seahawks’ Nation, Sunday night’s nationally televised home opener against the San Francisco 49ers is as big as a football game can be.
No, it’s even bigger than that.
It’s the defending NFC Champions returning to CenturyLink Field, where the Seahawks spanked the 49ers 42-13 last December.
It’s two of the teams that had been talked about all offseason as being two of the best teams in the NFL.
It’s the team San Francisco-born Pete Carroll used to coach for against the team he now coaches – on his 62nd birthday, no less.
It’s a chance for each team to emerge with at least a share of first place in the NFC West, the division the 49ers have won the past two seasons after the Seahawks captured the title in 2010.
It’s national TV, so the whole league and entire football world will be watching.
Just don’t try selling this hysteria to Carroll and his players.
“It’s a championship opportunity for us,” Carroll said on Wednesday.
Wait a minute, is Carroll also being washed away by the tsunami of hype that has been building for the game?
“As it was last week,” he quickly added, referring to the slightly less-hyped season opener against the Panthers in Carolina. “It’s no different. These games will all weigh in at the end. We have a real strict mentality about that. It’s the biggest game in the world to us, and next week will be the same.”
As much as that sounds like coach-speak the week of a big game against a big division rival, it’s the way Carroll does things – and wants his players to do them. Never look ahead. Never overlook an opponent. Never put so much into one game that it can impede achieving season-long goals.
It’s one week at a time, one game at a time, one play at a time, one practice at a time. It’s also a formula that allowed the Seahawks to win seven of their final eight regular-season games last season, then post the franchise’s first road playoff victory since 1983 and also win last week’s season opener against the Panthers.
Carroll has been preaching to a like-minded crowd of one when it comes to Russell Wilson. But even the Seahawks’ second-year quarterback admitted that his coach’s devotion to this one-game-at-a-time/no-game-is-bigger-than-this-week’s-game attitude has only put more bit into his dogma.
“It’s meshed a lot, and it’s also heightened it,” Wilson said. “We both talk about it a lot. I’ve always talked about it in college; I’ve always talked about it when I was growing up. My dad and my mom always talked about that – just living one day at a time, just trying to do the best you can.”
The rest of the locker room? Count them among the converted, too, especially those players who arrived in 2010 with Carroll.
“I never had the problem where I used to circle games,” said wide receiver Golden Tate, a second-round pick in Carroll’s first draft. “There definitely were games where you thought, ‘Yeah man, I can’t wait for that one.’
“But I feel like now, we don’t care who we’re playing. We don’t care who is it, what the situation is. We just feel like if we do what we do we’re going to have a great chance of winning. As long as we don’t beat ourselves, we have a great chance of winning. So every week, regardless of if it’s the 32nd-ranked team or the first-ranked team, we don’t care. We just try to play championship football.”
The players don’t just mimic what Carroll is telling them, they believe it and make it their own. Count All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas among those who have received Carroll’s repeated message loud and clear.
“I had an overall aware of you’ve definitely got to take it one game at a time, because you can’t skip that game or that’s how you get beat,” said Thomas, a first-round pick in that first Carroll draft. “But obviously when I came here Pete made it more aware. When your captain does that to you, you’re going to take some of his ways.
“Anything he says, boom, we’re doing it.”