Pete Carroll likes to approach every week of the NFL season as if the Seahawks are playing for a championship. Any kind of championship … he’ll make it up if he has to.
But this week’s game needs no artificial contrivances. This is not a drill.
And he’s not even going to talk about the playoff chances or the divisional-title contention that rides on Sunday’s NFC West showdown against San Francisco at CenturyLink Field.
“Nah, because we haven’t done nothin’ yet,” Carroll said Monday afternoon.
Let’s not quibble about grammar or syntax, not when forceful rhetoric is more important for a football coach heading into rivalry week with the postseason on the line.
“Every one of these games are championship matchups,” he said. “Every one of them makes the statement that you’re still in it. We just have to go play this football game, and play it really, really well. We have to go win a football game regardless whether there was something hanging out there (as incentive) or not.”
The 49ers come into town with a game-and-a-half lead over the Seahawks. Although the Hawks are positioned nicely for a wild-card berth, an NFC West Division title is still a possibility requiring two more wins by Seattle and two losses by the 49ers.
Sunday’s game actually makes a broader statement than Carroll suggests, because this is a head-to-head duel for dominance in the division. Since the 2011 season, the Niners have played the role of the big brother who beats you in driveway basketball and then rubs it in every night at the family dinner table.
They’ve taken four straight from the Seahawks, and last season made it to the NFC Championship game while the Seahawks stayed home and watched.
An added degree of difficultly is that San Francisco isn’t just the divisional bully; the Niners now are at the top of many of the NFL power rankings. So, for the Seahawks to be the best in the division, they have to beat the best in the league.
With a 9-5 record, with a three-game winning streak, with a presumptive franchise quarterback in place, an offense clicking at record levels, and a defense remembering how to force turnovers, the Seahawks have worked themselves into the position of being a worthy nemesis to the Niners.
The early betting spread reflects this, with oddsmakers picking the Hawks by a scant one point.
On the Seahawks’ charter flight home after Sunday’s 50-17 bashing of Buffalo in Toronto (Carroll: The Championship of Canada) – the team watched the dramatic San Francisco-New England game.
A New England win would have left San Francisco and Seattle both with nine wins, meaning Sunday night’s game would be waged for the outright division lead.
Some suggested the plane got pretty rowdy as the slow-starting Patriots scored 28 consecutive points to tie it at 31-31 in the fouth quarter. The Niners, though, held on for a 41-34 win.
“The Patriots made it a great game to watch, coming back and getting into it,” Carroll said. “We were thinking maybe they were going to come back and get it done, but (San Francisco) figured out how to put the game away.”
Carroll and the Seahawks got a close look at the challenge they face Sunday.
“… San Francisco (is) coming in with an incredibly good football team; they just proved it again last night,” Carroll said. “It’s a terrific matchup for us and I know coming home the last two games here is a great opportunity for our fans, and we want to really play well in this setting.”
He stressed that both Seattle and San Francisco have “a big divisional finish coming up.” The Seahawks end the season at home against a St. Louis team that has beaten both of the division front-runners, while the Niners play host to Arizona.
Hence Carroll’s reluctance to prematurely discuss postseason possibilities.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done here,” he said, before adding the obvious: “We’ll have no trouble focusing.”Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 email@example.com @DaveBoling