Such is the life of an NFL team preparing to play a Thursday night game. When players have only three days to recover physically and prepare mentally for their next game, there is no time to appreciate even the most thrilling victory.
"We're already on to San Francisco," said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. "This is a challenging day for us to make sure that we get everything right and get organized for the week."
When the Seahawks play the 49ers with a chance to take sole possession of first place -- at least until Arizona plays Sunday -- neither team will be at an advantage in terms of rest or time to prepare. Instead, Thursday's game will be battle to see which team can make better use of the limited time they have.
"We have a big competition this week," Carroll said. "Who's going to prepare the best? Today's huge, tomorrow, every one of these days. It's a unique opportunity and we're going to try to make the very most of it and have a heck of a day down there."
The good news for the Seahawks is that they won their Thursday game last year, beating Philadelphia in convincing fashion. San Francisco, meanwhile, lost its Thursday game, falling to Baltimore on Thanksgiving. Carroll plans to use the same schedule that brought his team success last season. Seattle had team meetings Monday as well as a walk through -- normally players would only come in for meetings and treatment --then the team will practice today, which would normally be a day off for players, then again Wednesday before flying to San Francisco. Practices all week will be significantly lighter than in a normal week when players have more time to recover.
"Well we are utilizing the same system basically from what we did, we thought we played pretty well and got done what we had to get done," Carroll said. "It just a real press on the coaches to get all this stuff and then facilitate the learning. It's physically very challenging for the players, but its relative, so we make no deal about that, so we just got to get there and get ready."
Seattle should be fairly healthy even on a short week. Guard John Moffitt has been ruled out for a fourth straight game with a knee injury, but otherwise Carroll said everyone has a shot to be ready for the game. That includes safety Kam Chancellor, who was listed on Monday's injury report with an ankle injury -- "I think he's fine," Carroll said -- defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, who missed Sunday's game with a groin injury, and cornerback Byron Maxwell, who also didn't play because of a hamstring injury.
"We have to maximize every second that we have, and meanwhile take care of the guys as they return and get their bodies back," Carroll said. "It's a big physical challenge, there's no question about that, but it's equal, and there's a benefit at the other end too by the break that you get. So we're going to try to take full advantage of it, go for it and hopefully get out of there with a win and take advantage of the days off that we'll get."
Based off of their matching 4-2 records and similar styles of play, it would hardly be a surprise if the Seahawks and 49ers took Thursday's game down to the wire. And unlike last season, when the Seahawks were terrible late in games, a close game could be a good thing for Seattle.
Other than the 20-point win over Dallas, every one of Seattle's games this season has come down to the final minutes and each could have had a different outcome had one or two plays gone differently. Seattle won close games against Green Bay, Carolina and New England, and lost when final drives fell short in Arizona and St. Louis.
That's a big improvement over last season when the Seahawks had five games in which they could have tied the score or taken the lead on a late-game possession and came up short every time. The Seahawks fourth-quarter struggles also included a season-opening loss in San Francisco in which the Seahawks were within striking distance until they allowed two return touchdowns late in the game.
Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson certainly deserves credit for the improvement, particularly for his play Sunday, but Carroll also said the Seahawks are better in games because they have devoted more practice time to late-game situations.
"Because of our lack of effectiveness last year, we stepped up and went about it differently this year," he said. "We're close to 1,000 reps in practice in two-minute situations. I know it sounds crazy, but through our walk throughs and practice and everything that we've done, I lost count after when we got around 700. A tremendous increase in focus. Last year by our assessment there were six games that we could've won and we didn't win any of them. This year we have been in five and won three. That's an enormous improvement for us. ... We'll continue to get better, we'll continue to stay focused on it and make it a great priority in the program."
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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