Conference championship games draw assessments and predictions from media across the country.
One expert offered an interesting opinion, stating that the pressure in the Seattle-Green Bay NFC title game was all on the Seahawks.
Yes, all that noise at their home stadium can be bothersome. Maybe winning seven consecutive games by double digits can make things boring. Then there’s the fact that the franchise has won each of its past eight home postseason games.
How uncertain they must feel.
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Those sensing that the Seahawks might be playing with tight collars this game haven’t been paying attention. I doubt there’s been a team as loose and confident at this point of a season since the 1985 Chicago Bears.
The Seahawks, favored by a touchdown, are susceptible to an upset like any team. Such things happen frequently in the NFL. Green Bay won 12 regular-season games, is playing exceptionally well, and is led by a quarterback among the historically elite.
If the Seahawks fall, it won’t be because they’ve succumbed to the pressure of the game. If anything, a greater threat would be overconfidence. Maybe a false sense of invulnerability attends the success they’ve enjoyed.
I think that, too, is highly unlikely. Playing with roughly 100-percent confidence already seems to make it impossible to suddenly become overconfident.
Coach Pete Carroll explained the approach this week: “We prepare to do everything we possibly can, every single time out, every day at practice, every day forever, and try to stay with that mentality and that discipline so that when the games come, like this one, this is a normal preparation for us.”
Yes, they have an every-day-forever confidence. It’s the sort of thing that has to be constructed over time, and allowed to harden into place. Once it does, it’s tough to shake.
For instance, when asked about the possibility that Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers might be at less than top form because of a calf injury, the Seahawks scoff. They believe that being the best is about beating the best, particularly when they’re at their best.
“No matter what’s wrong with him, you can’t just doubt him or say that it’s going to be a little different because he’s hobbly and wobbly,” strong safety Kam Chancellor said about Rodgers’ condition, with a bit of a Dr. Seuss inflection. “If he’s in that game, no matter how he’s feeling, he’s still Aaron Rodgers.”
How committed is Chancellor to making an impact, and playing by the rules? He has his nickname “Bam Bam” tattooed so that one “Bam” is on each shoulder. He calls it his “stamp,” so that when he hits an opponent legally with his shoulders (not his helmet), it will be so hard that the ref can see a “Bam” stamped on the opponent.
You think this guy is going to take any game lightly? If I was that committed to being a great columnist, I’d have “Active Verbs” tattooed across the back of my typing hands.
You think safety Earl Thomas is going to be overconfident? Not after he implanted those red lasers that shoot from his eyes.
Even Chancellor looks a little frightened when he says that Thomas “takes his job very seriously.”
Rodgers, hobbled and wobbled, or healthy and well, can beat anybody. Linebacker Clay Matthews has been moved around enough that he’s a disruptive inside force as well as a pass rusher.
And receiver Randall Cobb has become the threat that Carroll and general manager John Schneider thought he would be out of college. They conceded after the 2011 draft that Cobb was a player they targeted but couldn’t get because the Packers got him first.
Both teams are so different from what they were in the Seahawks’ 20-point, season-opening win that it should be discarded as a method of handicapping this one.
The Packers, particularly, have improved their rushing and their rush defense, and that should make this a closer game if nothing else.
The Seahawks seem fairly unimpressed, though.
As middle linebacker Bobby Wagner said this week: If they want to throw at Richard Sherman, he’ll intercept it. If they want to throw at Earl Thomas, he’ll intercept it. If they want to run the ball, they’ll get swarmed.
“Whatever you want to throw at us, we’re ready,” Wagner said before offering a promise. “You’re not going to out-physical us.”
Nobody’s going to out-confidence them, either.