SEATTLE – The Seahawks will play their second-most meaningless game under coach Pete Carroll today. That doesn’t mean their regular-season finale against the Rams at CenturyLink Field is entirely meaningless, though. While improving Seattle’s playoff seeding would require a San Francisco loss to Arizona, there’s more at stake for Seattle than just postseason logistics. There’s the matter of momentum – an important question of consistency for this young team that has just now found its stride.
“We’re not going to slow it down because it’s out of our control,” safety Earl Thomas said.
The most compelling question in today’s game is how this Seahawks team will handle success after finally breaking through to the other side of an extreme rebuilding process.
“If we’re going to have a really good team that can run it this time of the year,” coach Pete Carroll said, “you have to be comfortable with the success, and it’s got to be normal for you.”
It hasn’t been normal here. Not for a franchise that has had three different coaches during a run of four straight losing seasons that started in 2008.
Seattle went 7-9 each of Carroll’s first two seasons in Seattle, but in all that time, last season’s finale at Arizona was the only time under Carroll in which Seattle took the field knowing the playoffs were impossible.
This season, the postseason is assured. Seattle has won 10 games, guaranteed itself at least the NFC’s No. 5 seed and has scored more points over the past three games than any NFL team in the past 60 years.
Even if the 49ers beat a Cardinals team that has lost 10 of 11 and clinch the division, Seattle still has plenty to play for.
“If we don’t finish strong, it just feels like we’re taking a step back,” safety Kam Chancellor said. “We don’t want to take any steps back. We want to keep pushing forward.”
For three years Carroll has sought to implement a regimen that gets his team to prepare for each week with the same level of focus. There are no extra-important games just as there are no gimmes; there is only the next game.
It’s why he breaks each week down into different days, which really boil down to mental cues. Tell the Truth Monday, Competition Wednesday and Turnover Thursday are all hokey ways of getting players to prepare for the next game without regard for the previous outing.
That’s why this game is important. The Seahawks have shown how they respond when backed into a corner. They demonstrated that in Week 2 against Dallas after dropping the season opener in Arizona. They showed it by winning two straight home games after losing at San Francisco and Detroit in October. They demonstrated it by responding to a come-from-ahead loss at Miami with four consecutive victories that have earned Seattle the unofficial title of “The Team No One Wants to Meet in the Playoffs.”
And now, Seattle will show how it handles success. That Seahawks might not have much to gain in terms of postseason position against St. Louis, but how they handle this game may show how far they can go.
“There are four more games coming up after this one if you do it right,” Carroll said. “So you have to learn how to handle it, so we’re working on that now as a young team.”