By John Boyle
Early in San Francisco’s divisional round victory over Carolina, several Panthers players, and defensive backs in particular, looked like they were losing their minds. In a physical, chippy game, it was pretty evident that San Francisco’s players, who were also doing their share of talking, were in the heads of the Panthers, and the Panthers were the ones crossing the line and drawing critical 15-yard penalties.
So with the Seahawks hosting their biggest rivals with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, you’d better believe the need to keep their composure is a big topic for the Seahawks this week. The Seahawks like to jaw as much as anytime—OK, more than a lot of teams—but they know there are lines they can’t afford to cross, not with so much at stake, and not in a game that figures to be tight and low scoring, the kind of game that could turn on one 15-yard penalty.
“It’s really important,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of keeping emotions in check. “It’s important across the board. This is a very intense matchup anyway, regardless of who you’re playing and where it comes from, because it’s championship time. Everybody’s going to be at the edge, so we need to do a really good job of being poised and taking care of business and playing between the whistles.”
San Francisco receiver Anquan Boldin is known for his in-game chatter—and as Earl Thomas noted, his ability to back it up—and he definitely was getting in the head of Panthers cornerbacks last weekend. Asked about Boldin and about avoiding costly penalties, Richard Sherman said, “No, we won’t get caught up in the moment. We have a disciplined football team that understands those moments and the intensity of playoff football, we’ll deal with it well. You go out there and you compete, and if that’s how he competes, and he wants to yap, then we’ll deal with it. But you don’t have to head-butt him and do all this crazy stuff to react to him. You know what I’m saying? You slow him down and you stop him. If you don’t want him in your face every day, don’t let him touch the ball.”
Seahawk tackle Breno Giacomini, who last year was on the wrong end of too many post-whistle penalties, has cleaned up his act this year, sometimes acting as peacekeeper, and other times being the one who baits opposing defenders into penalties. He knows better than anyone how important it is to keep his cool.
“Everything’s amplified, you know?” he said. “You can control your emotions until kickoff, then after that you’ve just got to play football and let loose… A few of those penalties will add up, believe me I know.”
Asked how he turned things around this year, Giacomini said, “We want to set a tempo, and that kind of takes away from it. And just figuring these refs out, knowing when to stop.
“A lot’s on the line here, but you’ve definitely got to control your emotions, and just hit him on the next play. There’s no need for that, that’s something I’ve learned. Just get them on the next play.”