Pete Carroll won’t talk about it, and the Seahawks’ coach will do everything in his power to make sure his players aren’t thinking about it, but two seasons are potentially on the line when Seattle plays at San Francisco today.
For the 4-8 49ers, a loss means playoff elimination – and yes, it’s amazing that a 4-8 team hasn’t already been eliminated, but that’s the NFC West for you – while the Seahawks desperately need a road win to keep themselves in a favorable position in the division race.
But even if this game in all likelihood will play a big role in determining the Seahawks’ playoff chances, Carroll isn’t about to admit to it.
“We’re not on that at all,” he said. “It’s just this game.”
That’s been one of the most consistent messages preached by Carroll this season. No game is bigger than another, and no game is smaller. The way he sees it, if they treat every game as important, the moment will never overwhelm his players.
It’s a message that his players seem to be hearing loud and clear.
“You’ve got to, you’ve got to stay within yourselves,” linebacker Lofa Tatupu said. “Like Pete’s preached to us on Saturday nights before the games, there’s such a thing as trying too hard. He doesn’t want us to go outside of ourselves and try to be something we’re not.”
But human nature says the Seahawks have to see this as a particularly big game, right? After all, not only can they eliminate the 49ers this weekend, they can also potentially take a one-game lead over St. Louis, which plays at New Orleans. And with games against Atlanta, perhaps the best team in the league, and at Tampa Bay up next, this is likely Seattle’s best shot at another win before its last game of the season, a home contest against the Rams. The way the tiebreakers are shaking out, the Seahawks can go into that season finale with a chance to win the division as long as they win at least one of the next three and St. Louis loses one of its next three, so this game has to have a little extra meaning, right?
“They’re all big,” quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said, shooting down everyone’s hopes for extra pregame hype. “They’re all big games, and this is one that someone could point to and say, ‘This game’s bigger than the second to last game or the third to last game.’ But they’re all big. That’s how we got to approach it; that’s part of the mind-set of change that we’ve got going on here right now.”
Well, fine then. But even in the Seahawks’ world of every-game-is-a-big-game thinking, the fact that Seattle is in a playoff race three-fourths of the way through the season counts for something.
“That’s what you want in this league, to have it mean something in December,” safety Lawyer Milloy said. “I’ve been in situations where, come December you’re out of it, and it sucks. It sucks coming to work. It’s fun to be in this position, and now we’ve got to do something about it, because you don’t want to go into January feeling like you lost out on an opportunity.”
“It’s been three years since the games in December have had any significance really,” Tatupu said. “It’s amazing. We’re really grateful and thankful for the opportunity, and we want to make the most of it.”
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