Perhaps he just needed a gentle reminder.
Seattle Seahawks head coach Jim Mora said during his first press conference in January that he had his eyes on unseating the Arizona Cardinals, who grabbed the NFC West division crown away from the Seahawks for the first time in five seasons.
“We have to take back the dang NFC West,” Mora said in January. “The NFC West champions are playing for the NFC championship this Sunday and that is great and I hope they win and I hope they go and win the Super Bowl. It gives us another challenge to go out there to go get, and it motivates us and inspires us.”
The Cardinals managed to win the NFC championship and finished a play away from winning the Super Bowl.
Fast forward eight months, and Arizona comes to Qwest Field today with a 2-2 record, and looking to defeat a 2-3 Seattle squad in a pivotal game that will no doubt figure into playoff aspirations for both teams.
NFC West division leader San Francisco has beaten each team once, and is already 3-0 in the division. The winner takes the lead path in controlling its future in a possible playoff run. The loser, meanwhile, falls to third place in the division race with two division losses and likely will need help from other teams down the road to catch the Niners.
Asked about the weight of facing the Cardinals, Mora fell back into coach-speak this week.
“We’re anxious to play them,” he said. “We play them twice a year. We know them pretty well, they know us pretty well. We always have pretty good games. I think we’re just going to be excited about it.”
However, Mora’s players said things in more urgent tones when asked about today’s contest.
“This is a big deal,” said Seattle receiver Nate Burleson. “Within any division, the early games count the most because you’re trying to get a leg up. We know we have to face them again in Arizona, which is going to be a difficult task. So we’re trying to get any type of advantage we can in the series.”
Cornerback Kelly Jennings was even more blunt: “This is a game we must win, regardless of who we’re facing or regardless of the receivers. We’ve got to make plays and win the game.”
Seattle again goes into the game short-handed, missing six starters because of injuries. But better things could be in offing for Seattle.
The Seahawks get a much-needed bye next week, and are hopeful of getting injured players such as offensive linemen Sean Locklear and Rob Sims, linebacker Leroy Hill and defensive back Marcus Trufant back for the Nov. 1 game at Dallas.
A win over Arizona this afternoon is even more critical because of a daunting stretch of games awaiting Seattle in November – four road games during that month at Dallas, Arizona, Minnesota and St. Louis.
Mora and his players understand what’s at stake, particularly if the team wants to accomplish the goals he established for this team in January.
“We see good things on the horizon with some of the guys we’re going to get back,” Mora said. “We get through this game this week and have a heck of a week of preparation and play a real good game, have some success hopefully, and then get a week off, the bye week, where we look forward to getting some very good football players back on the field for us.
“Who knows what can happen? It’s a long season.”
Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437
ARIZONA (2-2) at SEATTLE (2-3)
Kickoff: 1:05 p.m., Qwest Field.
TV: Ch. 13. Radio: 710-AM, 97.3-FM.
The series: The two teams meet for the 21st time during the regular season, with the Cardinals holding an 11-9 advantage. Arizona has won four of the past five, and swept last season’s series, winning at Qwest Field for the first time since 2002.
What to watch: Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner has thrown for 300 or more yards in the last two games this season, and the Cardinals are 31st in the league in rushing, so expect them to try to find success through the air against Seattle. … The Seahawks might also turn to the passing game today. Even though the Cardinals are No. 1 in the league in rush defense, they are last in the league in defending the pass. In fact, Arizona has given up nine passing touchdowns this season, fourth-worst in the league in that category, and the other three teams have played one more game than the Cardinals. Arizona has not had a sack in two games.
TNT pick: Cardinals, 27-24.
78Kyle Williams (OT)6-6295third
In only his third career start, Williams needs to protect Matt Hasselbeck’s blind side.
84T.J. Houshmandzadeh (WR)6-2203ninth
The Seahawks gave the clutch receiver big money in free agency for these games.
59Aaron Curry (LB)6-2254first
The team’s defensive playmaker needs to get pressure on Kurt Warner.
26Josh Wilson (CB)5-9192third
He’ll be an important part of shutting down Arizona’s passing game.
13Kurt Warner (QB)6-221412th
Cardinals’ triggerman sets the tone for his team’s offense
11Larry Fitzgerald (WR)6-3217sixth
The most explosive playmaker among a talented group of receivers.
90Darnell Dockett (DE)6-4285sixth
Sets tone for defense up front.
29Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (CB)6-2182second
Has great acceleration, and can make plays with his hands and feet.
Eric D. Williams, The News Tribune