In Seattle, players are dancing at practice between plays as music blares from speakers along the sideline. That's what happens when you're playing with house money, so to speak.
And it's not that the Seahawks don't have high expectations, especially now that they've come this far. Any player you ask will tell you a Super Bowl title is the team's goal. But it has been clear the last two weeks that this young team, which has gotten better faster than most expected, isn't tensing up now as the stakes become higher.
"This team is in a real good place," said veteran cornerback Marcus Trufant. "It's good for us that we can focus and just kind of take the challenges as they come, and not get too high or too low. We're just trying to stay the course, and that's been good for us."
Seattle's levelheadedness has led to pretty consistent play all season -- the Seahawks have not lost a game by more than seven points all year -- and keeping things the same in the postseason has helped a young team from succumbing to the pressure of the playoffs.
"It's very important to just maintain the same routine," said fullback Michael Robinson. "(Head coach) Pete (Carroll) does a great job of keeping practice the same."
Meanwhile in Atlanta, players will be hard-pressed not to feel at least a little bit of pressure this week. The Falcons have enjoyed a lot of success since Mike Smith took over as head coach in 2008 with rookie quarterback Matt Ryan leading the offense. But the big knock on the team in recent years has been a lack of playoff success. In the past four years under Smith, the Falcons made the playoffs three times, and three times they have failed to win a game. In 2010, Atlanta was 13-3, was the NFC's top seed, and after a bye, lost at home to a wild card team.
That's a piece of history the Falcons really can't afford to have repeat itself. But while the Falcons are well aware of their past playoff failures, they aren't dwelling on that now.
"There's really no sense in worrying what happened in the past," Ryan said on a conference call. "I think you learn from it and you make adjustments. You try and use it in a positive light, but we talk about it all the time -- what you did the week before, what you did the year before, has no bearing on what you're going to do the next time out."
Smith concurred that previous playoff losses don't matter to his current team, though they can as a coaching staff learn from the past. One adjustment made this year was that the team took on a heavier work load during its bye week. And Ryan added that if anything, the past playoff losses were a motivating factor in the offseason, not now.
"When you lose in the playoffs, it drives your motivation in the offseason," he said. "I think at this time, we're a different football team. We've got different guys around this building, and I'm a different football player. I'm more focused on and motivated by what's in front of us."
Marshawn Lynch did not practice Wednesday and is listed as having a foot injury, though Carroll never mentioned the running back when discussing injuries from Sunday's game, so the day off was most likely precautionary. Cornerback Byron Maxwell and safety Jeron Johnson both sat out with hamstring injuries.
Seahawks make roster moves
As expected, the Seahawks announced a pair of roster moves Wednesday, placing defensive end Chris Clemons and kicker Steven Hauschka on injured reserve, and signing defensive end Patrick Chukwurah and kicker Ryan Longwell.
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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