By John Boyle Herald Columnist
SEATTLE — After 11 games and many weeks (15 if you count the preseason), the Seattle Seahawks certainly are ready for a break. Yet a little part of head coach Pete Carroll couldn’t help but lament this week’s bye following Sunday’s win over Minnesota.
“I don’t think it comes at a great time,” Carroll said. “Because we would like to keep playing, to tell you the truth.”
Through 11 weeks, the 10-1 Seahawks are unquestionably one of the top teams in the NFL. They’ve positioned themselves well to not just win the NFC West, but to earn home-field advantage in the postseason. And at a time of year when most teams are trying to survive mounting injuries, the Seahawks are actually getting stronger, particularly on offense, adding Percy Harvin to the mix while bringing back injured offensive linemen Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini.
But Carroll is still at least a little wary of this bye week because he knows that all his team has done thus far won’t mean anything if they can’t pick up where they left off playing two of their best games of the season against Atlanta and Minnesota. As Carroll put it on Monday, “I feel like we’ve accomplished a lot to get to this point in some regards, and in other regards we haven’t done anything yet.”
This is what happens when a team comes into a season with sky-high expectations, then somehow exceeds them into November.
Instead of complain about what is wrong with the team, all you can do is worry if they can keep it up. If maybe they’ve peaked too soon. If heartbreak is just around the corner. Because let’s face it, with how the Seahawks have set themselves up so far, anything short of earning the NFC’s top seed will be a letdown, and from there, a playoff loss at home would be huge disappointment. So essentially, this has become a Super Bowl-or-bust season for the Seahawks.
And let’s not forget that, even if the Seahawks finish the regular season as the NFC’s top team, the NFL postseason is a fickle beast, one that doesn’t care much about how you were playing in October or November. Instead, the Super Bowl spoils go to the team peaking at the right time, not the one that had the most sustained success.
In the past 10 seasons, only once have the top seeds from both conferences — the 2009 Saints and Colts — met in the Super Bowl. And other than that New Orleans team, only one other No. 1 seed has won a Super Bowl in that span, the 2003 Patriots.
Six times in the past 10 years, a team has used home-field advantage to get to the Super Bowl, only to lose the big game (you don’t need to be reminded of one of those, do you?), while three times in the past five years, neither conference’s top seed has advanced to the Super Bowl.
But enough of the negativity, there’s good news in all of this. The Seahawks, despite what they’ve done so far, don’t in any way look like a team that is peaking too soon. As I mentioned, Seattle is adding impact players late in the season, not losing them. And after so many close, or if you’re more of a pessimist, ugly, wins earlier in the year, the Seahawks played what Carroll called two of their most complete games on consecutive Sundays.
Much more important than the fact that you and I see room for improvement in this already very good football team is the fact that the team looks at it that way, too.
“It’s scary to see where we can ultimately be,” safety Earl Thomas said, “But right now we’re just staying in the moment and enjoying the process.”
That process takes a break this week, but despite Carroll’s reservations, this team is prepared to pick up where it left off when players return next week from a deserved break. You can call it cliche, but those words we hear every week out of Carroll, Russell Wilson and the rest of the Seahawks — “every week is a championship week,” or “our goal is to be 1-0 every week” — they’re getting through to the Seahawks.
Yes, some players, and some members of the secondary in particular, may possess a level of swagger that borders on cockiness, but nobody in the Seahawks locker room is satisfied with what they’ve done so far.
The fact that Wilson followed another brilliant performance Sunday by saying he wants “to be great one day” perfectly illustrates the mentality of the team now, and is why the bye shouldn’t derail the Seahawks’ momentum.
“We haven’t done anything yet,” Wilson said. “We’re 10-1, that means a lot, but it doesn’t mean anything. Our goal is to win the whole thing, and to do that, you take it one game at a time. … That winning mentality can never slow down.”
And despite Carroll’s concerns about the bye, the Seahawks’ winning mentality isn’t going anywhere in what has become Seattle’s Super Bowl-or-bust season. If anything, things should only get better for the Seahawks going forward.
“It’s exciting for us,” Carroll said. “We know we can get better. That’s really what this is about right now; we have to keep getting better. Our guys know that that’s out there for us. We have a lot of work to do to finishing this thing off right.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.