Preaching consistency has led young Hawks to this moment

dave.boling@thenewstribune.comJanuary 1, 2013 

The last time the Seahawks won a playoff game on the road was 1983 — five years before Russell Wilson was born. The franchise once went 21 years without a playoff victory.

So these chances are rare and precious and rife with pressure.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has another thought on how appearing in the playoffs differs from the regular season.

“It’s more fun,” Carroll said Monday as his Seahawks started preparations for Sunday’s first-round game on the road against the Washington Redskins. “There’s an air about it that you can sense it’s different. But the key is not allowing that to factor into what it really takes to prepare well.”

The Seahawks played their way into a wild-card berth by winning seven of their final eight games to finish 11-5. It’s easy to look back at two fourth-quarter defensive lapses that led to road losses at Detroit and Miami and consider how close they were to winning nine straight and earning a bye and home-field advantage.

But those losses contributed to the learning process that was valuable for a team that was the second-youngest in the NFL.

Of the 12 teams in the playoffs, the Seahawks have the least playoff experience: Just 60 combined games off postseason action on the 53-man roster.

Twelve of the Seahawks’ expected starters haven’t been to the playoffs at all, and another six experienced only the two games the Seahawks played in the 2010 postseason — a home win over New Orleans followed by a road loss against Chicago.

For most of Carroll’s three seasons with the Seahawks, he’s preached the value of preparing the same way every week, regardless of the opponent or the game’s significance.

“They’re going to be excited to play, and everybody’s going to have great focus this week just because it’s the playoffs,” Carroll said. “But that’s something we’re trying to create on a regular basis so that when we get to this time, we’ve already been there and done that … so we can play like we’re capable.”

For all the surprising maturity the Seahawks’ youngsters have shown this season, the playoffs should carry another level of challenge. Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson was in the Rose Bowl last year at this time. Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, meanwhile, had played for Utah State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. A nice honor, but not exactly the environment we might expect at FedEx Field on Sunday.

But Carroll isn’t concerned about the kids.

“We’ve been working on these guys for a long time,” Carroll said. “And they’ve been terrific listeners and they’ve carried the message, and we have really good leadership, and they’ll speak to the point of keeping guys on track.”

Ah, yes, the “message.” He repeats some of his core tenets so often they have to seem like a drumbeat in his players’ minds. Always compete. Buy in. Every game is a championship opportunity.

“These guys have heard that message for a couple years now, and hopefully they’ll make sense of it, because it’s about consistency,” he said. “When you get this opportunity, you’ve got to bring what you’ve got and don’t show up without your stuff that day. We know how to do that, and now we have to see if we can bring it to life and not get distracted by the fact that it’s the playoffs.”

The Seahawks made it to the 2010 postseason with a 7-9 record as winners of a dismal division. But there’s nothing suspect about this team’s appearance. And on Monday, Carroll proudly assessed his team’s standing.

“We’re young and we’re fast and we’re tough and we’ve created a physical nature about us that we’re really proud of,” he said. “It’s been three terrific years of retooling the program and roster and staff and getting everything right; we really feel the momentum and youth and the hopefulness for the future.”

Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 dave.boling@thenewstribune.com @DaveBoling

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