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Seahawks looking past the hype, but not the Saints

Posted Dec 1, 2013

Monday night’s game between the Seahawks and Saints at CenturyLink Field is a huge matchup on multiple levels. Just don’t expect Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and his players to second that notion.

There’s the team with the best record in the NFL, the Seahawks at 10-1. There’s the team with the next-best record in the NFC, the Saints at 9-2.

There’s the fact that the game is being played on “Monday Night Football,” and in the noise factory known as CenturyLink Field.

There’s the league’s No. 2-ranked passing offense, the Saints with quarterback Drew Brees. There’s the league’s No. 2-ranked passing defense, the Seahawks with the All-Pro duo of cornerback Richard Sherman and free safety Earl Thomas.

There’s all those memories, not to mention replays, of Marshawn Lynch going Beast Mode on the defending Super Bowl champion Saints during a 67-yard touchdown run to ice the Seahawks’ 41-36 victory in one wild wild-card playoff game in 2010.

There’s the fact that the winner of Monday night’s game will hold the top seed in the NFC as the regular season moves toward the postseason, with the Saints still having home-and-home games against the 8-3 Carolina Panthers and the Seahawks looking at back-to-back road games against the 7-4 49ers in San Francisco and a New York Giants team that has won four of its past five games.

So, what’s left to say about this matchup that has so many things riding on the outcome?

Leave that to Pete Carroll.

“Well, I don’t know that,” the Seahawks’ fourth-year head coach said when asked about this game being his team’s biggest opportunity. “Each one of them is huge. Anyone one of these games, you look back, if we make the mistakes at the end that don’t get us the win that would be the game we might look back to.

“We honestly realize that every one of these games are championship opportunities to us. We practice like it’s the biggest game you’ve ever seen. That’s how we did it. We’ve attempted to do that every week, with the thought of holding that kind of discipline because that’s what it’s going to take to finish this thing off right.”

It’s that mentality and focus that has allowed the Seahawks to win 10 of their first 11 games – for the first time in the 38-year history of the franchise. No game is bigger than the next. No opponent gets overlooked. No detail is too small. No obstacle is too big.

Even with all that said, Carroll does admit, “It happens to be a great football team we’re playing. With tremendous coaching and tremendous players and leadership and all that, that will tax us to the fullest. So that’s understood. We understand that. But other than that, it’s as big a game as we can get and it’s going to be awesome Monday night at the Link. So we’re really excited about it.”

Just not too excited. Or perhaps, overly excited it a better way to describe how the Seahawks are approaching this championship opportunity that really is.

“Like I always say, ‘Every game is a big game,’ ” said second-year quarterback Russell Wilson, not mimicking his coach but helping spread the word that his coach preaches. “That’s the way I look at it. It doesn’t change for me or any guy on our team.

“But I think the biggest thing for us is that’s what we expect. That’s what we hope for. We hope for big-time games, big matchups that mean a lot.”

Hope becomes reality on Monday night, even if the Seahawks aren’t allowing themselves to go there.

“Like I said before, unless they go out there and change the size of the field, or the size of the ball, or the size of the end zone, it’s pretty much the same size field and the same size game,” Sherman said. “There are no big games or small games.

“Like coach Pete Carroll always says, ‘It’s a championship game every week.’ And in this league, every game matters. So we go out there and play every game like it matters. I think that our record is what it is because we focus on everybody.”

Even when there’s enough hype attached to a game to potentially blur that focus.