For the fourth time in five seasons, the Seahawks had a winning record on the road in 2017, a pretty big accomplishment for any team in a league and a sport where home-field advantage can make a huge difference.
At home, however, the Seahawks went just 4-4 last year, marking only the second time in the Pete Carroll/John Schneider era that Seattle failed to have a winning record at CenturyLink Field. Had the Seahawks, who went 7-1 or better at home four times in five seasons from 2012 to 2016, been able to maintain that level of home dominance, they'd have been a playoff team, which is why they know that they need to do a better job of capitalizing on one of the NFL's best home-field advantages.
"It's crucial for having successful seasons," Carroll said. "You have to dominate at home, you just have to. You don't know until the year is out what happens, but you have to play really well at home. Just look at all of our seasons that have been successful seasons—we've really played great football here at CenturyLink. So it's on us, and we're preparing to get that done."
The Seahawks began the year with two straight road losses before winning their home opener, then a road game in Arizona. After Sunday's game against the Rams, Seattle is on the road again for its next two games, playing Oakland in London in Week 6, then at Detroit in Week 8 following the bye. That's a challenging way to start a season for the Seahawks, but the plus side of all those early road games is a steady slate of home games down the stretch, including four home games in December with only one road game that month, a Week 15 trip to San Francisco.
For the Seahawks to stay in playoff contention, they know they'll have to continue to play well on the road, but what could really make or break their season is how well they play at home, starting with their Week 3 win against Dallas and continuing with Sunday's tough test against the 4-0 Los Angeles Rams.
"One of the big things that's always critical is, yeah you want to have a great presence at home," quarterback Russell Wilson said. "You want to be able to win as many games as you can at home—hopefully all of them—and that sets the tone for some tough road games, but if you can win a lot of your home games, that gives you a great chance to do what you want to do for the season. That's a critical part. That's a critical part to any sports team. I think that the best part about when we play at home is the fans. They make it extra special. When we have home field advantage, it's definitely real here, so I think we want to capture that."
Added linebacker Bobby Wagner, "It's really important. Especially if you look at the years that we were a very dominant team, we were very good at home. I think that any team that wants to be good, you have to be good at home. You never want to lose in front of your home fans. We just want to go out there and really use their energy and their spirit to get this win. It's very, very important to show, if you win at home, you get a home playoff game. That's something that you look forward to."
As Wagner notes, the best Seattle teams in recent years have been nearly unbeatable at home. The Seahawks went unbeaten at home in 2012 on their way to the first of five straight playoff berths, then they went 7-1 each of the next two seasons to help secure home-field advantage in the playoffs, which they used to reach back-to-back Super Bowls. The 2016 Seahawks were also 7-1 at home to extend the team's streak of 10-plus win seasons to five straight years, a streak that would have continued last season had the Seahawks had a winning record at home. And since Carroll and Schneider took over in 2010, the Seahawks are a perfect 6-0 in home playoff games.
"Coach Pete always talks about, if you want to be great, you've got to be great at home, and then if you want to be one of the best at the end, you've also got to be able to win on the road," center Justin Britt said. "We definitely want to defend our home. None of us are happy about how anything happened last year. This is a new season. We started 0-0, we're heading into Week 5 2-2. Maybe we're not where we want to be, but we're in a spot where we can still decide our future, we can still decide where we go and how we do it, and it all starts at home, winning at home."
Of course, winning at home will be no easy feat on Sunday while facing the Rams, who feature the league's No. 1 offense that has scored more than 30 points in each game. Last year the Rams won 42-7 in Seattle, one of four losses the Seahawks had in their final five home games, but the Seahawks aren't focused on what happened last year or on avenging that loss, but instead on simply playing better and taking care of business at home.
"You understand when anybody comes in and wins on your home field, it doesn't really feel good," said Wagner, who was hobbled by a hamstring injury in last year's game, an injury he now admits he shouldn't have tried to play through. "… They beat us. That was 2017, it's 2018. You're not going to do it again, that's kind of my mindset. I'm not hurt like I was last year, so that's going to be different. It's just you start identifying everything that's different, everything that you're ready for and I'll be able to move a lot better than I was, so I think that'll be different"
And a big reason why the Seahawks have for the most part been so good at home in recent years is that home-field advantage is more real in football than perhaps any sport because of how crowd noise can affect the way an offense functions. Long known as one of football's loudest fan bases, Seahawks fans can and often do influence a game.
"It's pretty different, especially depending on what kind of environment that you're in," left tackle Duane Brown said of playing at home or on the road. "Week 1 playing at Denver, it was a very hostile environment, you get in those third and longs and those guys are pinning their ears back, you can barely hear anything."
Brown knows better than most how much of a difference fans can make at CenturyLink Field. He was on the opposing offense in Week 8 last year when the Seahawks hosted the Texans, then a week later he played for the Seahawks after Houston traded him to Seattle.
"My first time playing here was when I played here last year the week before I got traded, and this environment is second to none," he said. "Having the quiet to communicate up front means the world to us. We know that snap count, we can get off the ball the way we want to. On the flip side, the opposing offenses have a pretty difficult time. It's always good to play at home."
The Seahawks and Rams will meet for the 42nd time in the regular season this Sunday in Seattle. Take a look back at photos from past games played between the two teams.