SEATTLE – Qwest Field has been sold out for weeks. Even the Seattle Seahawks’ employees had trouble scoring tickets. The Seahawks are 12-2, the Indianapolis Colts 13-1. Their game today features the most regular-season victories among opponents in NFL history.
But as the long-anticipated matchup has drawn near, the game has become less about a possible Super Bowl preview and less still about the Colts.
It’s now mostly a chance for Seattle to secure the right to play at home for the NFC’s divisional and championship rounds. That’s enough to keep a team interested. “It is a very important game for us,” coach Mike Holmgren said.
The Colts, having already secured the home-field edge in the AFC, are mostly concerned with avoiding injuries and lending support to Tony Dungy in the coach’s time of need. Dungy will miss the game to be with family after his 18-year-old son, James, died early Thursday.
Assistant head coach Jim Caldwell will lead the Colts today. Wednesday, Dungy tried to set the tone for a team that suffered its first loss of the season last week.
“Number one, we are coming out to win,” Dungy said. “We don’t want to give that approach like we’re treating this like anything other than a very, very tough game.
“We’re going to play some guys and get them in some spots where we need to see them, so we’re probably going to play everybody that dresses. But we’re coming out with the approach that we want to win the ballgame.”
The Seahawks are approaching the game as though they need to win.
Holmgren seemed a bit cranky during the week, more so than his team’s 10-game winning streak might seem to warrant. He was not happy with the play of his defense during a 28-24 victory at Tennessee last week. The pass rush was ineffective and the secondary struggled to hold up.
Seattle seeks to improve in those areas against a Colts team planning to play its starters only so long. Backup quarterback Jim Sorgi will take over for Peyton Manning at some point, Dungy said. Receiver Marvin Harrison will miss the game to protect a broken hand. The Colts will also rest numerous defensive starters.
Even Manning might appreciate the rest after suffering a swollen knee against San Diego last week. The Chargers sacked him four times. His offensive line faces additional challenges today without injured right tackle Ryan Diem; right guard Jake Scott has moved to tackle, with rookie Dylan Gandy moving into the lineup in Scott’s usual spot.
“It’s not really a concern,” Dungy said. “Everyone wants to throw up all these danger signals. We had a tough game. We played the same way against San Diego last year.
“They came into our place and played really well. We just happened to win that game last year by three points in overtime. We’ve played close games. We’ve had teams that have done a good job against us, but we seem to bounce back and I think we will.
“We are certainly not discouraged. We are disappointed we didn’t play better, but we think we’ve got a pretty good thing going and we just have to play our style of football throughout the playoffs.”
Seattle’s motivation might go beyond securing home-field advantage.
Running back Shaun Alexander still has an outside shot at becoming a 2,000-yard rusher. He must average at least 166 yards per game over the final two games to join Jamal Lewis, Eric Dickerson, O.J. Simpson, Barry Sanders and Terrell Davis in the 2,000-yard club.
Alexander has averaged 119 yards per game this season. He rushed for 172 yards against Tennessee last week.
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