A soul-searching Sunday

Posted Nov 10, 2012

As the Seahawks and Jets prepare to meet at CenturyLink Field on Sunday, they seem to be two teams heading in opposite directions. That’s why each coach is focusing more on his team than the opponent.

The Seahawks not only are unbeaten at home this season, they have knocked off the Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots and Minnesota Vikings – a four-pack of favorites entering CenturyLink Field who are 19-11 against the rest of the league.

Russell Wilson, their rookie quarterback, has a passer rating of 120.0 in those games, in large part because he has thrown nine touchdown passes and no interceptions. Marshawn Lynch, the NFL’s second-leading rusher, is averaging 96.3 rushing yards in those games. The Seahawks’ No. 4-ranked defense has allowed more than 20 points only once in those games, and held the Cowboys to seven and the Packers to 12.

But Rex Ryan has had other – even more-pressing concerns – this week while preparing his New York Jets for their game against the Seahawks at CenturyLink on Sunday. Like his own 3-5 team that has lost four of its last five games while looking nothing like the Jets everyone was expecting to see this season.

“We have to fix ourselves before we really worry about who we’re playing,” the Jets’ coach said this week during a conference-call interview. “Some things that we have really laid our hat on in the past haven’t really showed up to our standards.”

For instance? “Primarily our defense and special teams,” he said. “Usually those are things that we really lay our hat on, and they really haven’t been to our standards at all.”

The Jets’ defense is No. 16 in the league, and the rushing defense ranks No. 29. The special teams are No. 7. But, Ryan is quick to point out, “We have had two punts blocked, we’ve given up some returns for touchdowns. And obviously, that’s not who we are either.”

The offense, meanwhile, has been erratic as the Jets have scored 48, 35, 26 and 23 points, but also zero, nine, 10 and 17. The running game is averaging 3.9 yards per carry and the quarterback, Mark Sanchez, has thrown eight interceptions and is completing 52.9 percent of this passes.

Then there’s Pete Carroll. His Seahawks have been as consistently good at home as they have been inconsistent on the road (1-4). And Sunday, they’re playing a Jets team that even their coach admits is not playing to expectations.

Time for the Seahawks’ coach to rub his hands together as he prepares his team for Win 5 at home – against the first team to hire him as a head coach in the NFL; and fire him, after only one season – right? Those thoughts couldn’t be more wrong.

“We really, really stay away from what’s going on with the opponent, because those things change and they are so far out of our control that that’s something that we try to not even factor in,” Carroll said. “We consider all our opponents championship matchups for us, and that game might be one that is a championship game at the end of the year that we needed.

“We regard them as high as we can possibly regard them.”

The Jets did play for the AFC Championship just two years ago, losing 24-19 to the eventual Super Bowl champion Steelers in Pittsburgh – after knocking off the Peyton Manning-led Colts in Indianapolis and the Tom Brady-led Patriots in New England.

But last year the Jets slipped to 8-8, and they’ve now lost eight of their past 11 games.

Carroll has turned a deaf ear to all the negativity being generated the Jets’ disappointing start, and is trying to get his players to do the same.

“There’s information out there and stuff that works with you, too, and suddenly that can get in your thinking and we try really hard to not let that happen and be very, very disciplined about that,” he said. “It’s one of the things that I spend a lot of time and effort on and try and make sure that we maximize each day and each week to get our bodies out there playing like we’re capable of.

“So it’s a bigger challenge than it sounds. That’s why teams go up and down all the time.”

And the Seahawks definitely have found a way to be up when they play at home. Even the self-focusing Ryan concedes that.

“This week is probably about as difficult of a challenge as a team can face,” he said. “Here’s a team that’s 4-0 at home, with wins over Dallas, Minnesota, Green Bay and New England.

“It starts with the running game, of course. But, oh by the way, the quarterback has a 120 rating at home, which would be the best in the National Football League. So that’s certainly going to be a challenge. And on defense, they’re the fourth-rated defense in the National Football League. They’re a big, physical group with some guys that can really rush the passer. So it’s definitely a huge challenge for us.”