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Another championship opportunity
It’s called a trap game, for the obvious reasons.
On one sideline at CenturyLink Field on Sunday afternoon will be a team that is 2-0, coming off an emotional victory over the defending NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers in its nationally televised home opener and features a defense that leads the NFL in points allowed, average yards allowed, average passing yards allowed and turnovers.
On the other sideline will be a team that is 0-2, has scored only one touchdown, ranks last in the league in offense and is coming off a week of being sequestered in Bay Area hotel after playing – and losing to – the Raiders in Oakland last week.
These are the kind of games that can trip up the unbeaten team on any given Sunday, and comeback to bite them later when a loss to a team it should have beaten costs them a division title or playoff berth.
“The message does stay exactly the same,” the Seahawks’ fourth-year coach said this week as his 2-0 team was preparing to face the 0-2 Jacksonville Jaguars – who just happen to be coached by Gus Bradley, the Seahawks’ popular and energetic defensive coordinator the past four seasons.
“The highly hyped game is long gone already. That one is behind us. The message is, for us, to be disciplined about the way we prepare. It isn’t about who you’re playing, it’s about how we prepare. It’s been that way going on four years now, talking this way and getting these guys convinced how powerful that is and how that gives you the best opportunity to be highly consistent.
“We do not want our play to vary based on who we’re playing.”
And how’s that going? Let second-year quarterback Russell Wilson handled that one.
“We’ve got to treat this like a championship game, because it is,” Wilson said. “At the end of the day, every game in the National Football League matters. So we have to make sure this week, this day that we have right now is our best practice we’ve ever had. So that’s our mentality.”
All the Seahawks have to do is revisit what happened last season to understand the importance of what Carroll preaches and the players have embraced. Despite winning seven of their final eight regular-season games to post the third-best record in franchise history (11-5), the Seahawks finished half a game behind the 49ers in the NFC West.
If they had not blown fourth-quarter leads in losses to the Lions in Detroit and Dolphins in Miami in Week 7 and Week 12 – their only loss in the second half of the season – the Seahawks would have been division champions.
“This isn’t the NFC West, so we’ve got to make sure our biggest thing is that we’re ready to go. This is a good football team we’re going to play. They play in the National Football League. So we have to make sure our mindset is right and our mindset is that this is a championship week, which it is. So we’re excited about that opportunity.”
Still not convinced that they’re convinced? Richard Sherman, please.
“We approach it one game at a time, one week at a time,” the Seahawks’ All-Pro cornerback said. “And we give our opponents every bit of respect that you can. Last week, San Francisco had our full attention. The week before that, Carolina had our full attention. This week, Jacksonville has our full attention.
“We don’t look past anybody. We don’t look ahead to anything. Because you’re taking it one game at a time, one play at a time. … Pete has done a great job of containing that focus and preaching that mindset and instilling in a lot of our players.”
Because it’s the players who will determine whether Sunday’s game is another championship opportunity, or a trap that could trip them up on the way to their ultimate goal.