By Eric D. Williams The News Tribune
RENTON — Because of the NFL’s flex scheduling at the end of the season, the Seattle Seahawks will have a chance to flex their muscles against NFC West rival San Francisco in a nationally televised game.
The league announced Monday that Seattle’s game against the 49ers on Dec. 23 at CenturyLink Field has been flexed to the Sunday night game at 5:20 p.m. on NBC. The game originally was scheduled for a 1:25 p.m. start on Fox.
The San Diego Chargers-New York Jets game initially scheduled for NBC prime time slot moved to a 10 a.m. kickoff on CBS.
The NFL also moved the Week 16 New York Giants-Baltimore Ravens game from a 10 a.m. kickoff to a 1:25 p.m. kickoff on Fox.
With the changes, San Francisco will play on Sunday nights in back-to-back weeks, with the 49ers taking on the Patriots this weekend in a prime time, Sunday night tilt.
The upcoming rematch between Seattle and San Francisco will be the Seahawks’ third nationally televised game this season. Seattle defeated Green Bay 14-12 in Week 3 on Monday Night Football, and lost at San Francisco in Week 7, 13-6 in a Thursday night game on the NFL Network.
The Seahawks-49ers game has some appeal for a national audience because it could help decide the division title, with San Francisco at 9-3-1 traveling to New England on Sunday, and the Seahawks (8-5) 1½ games back playing Buffalo in Toronto.
If the 49ers lose to the Patriots and Seattle wins against the Bills, victories for the Seahawks over San Francisco and St. Louis in the final two weeks of the season would bring Seattle the NFC West title for the second time in three seasons.
But Seattle head coach Pete Carroll isn’t looking that far ahead.
“Yeah, whatever,” he said. “It (the game time) is moved back a bit. That’s two weeks from now. There’s really nothing to talk about. What does that mean? We’ll just stay in the hotel a little longer, and then go play.”
The Seahawks last were flexed into the Sunday night game at the end of the 2010 season at home against St. Louis, a 16-6 win that earned Carroll his first NFC West title.
Flexible scheduling is used late in the season to put the best games in the time slots when the most people can watch. The final schedule for Week 17 will be announced at the conclusion of Week 16.
Carroll: Seahawks didn’t run up the score
Carroll once again emphasized that the Seahawks did not try to run up the score in the team’s 58-0 thumping of Arizona on Sunday.
Starting quarterback Russell Wilson and running back Marshawn Lynch left the game early in the third quarter.
Carroll did let reserve quarterback Matt Flynn throw nine times for 68 yards — the first time Seattle’s free-agent addition has played in a regular-season game.
Carroll said he wanted Flynn to get some work in case Wilson gets injured in the coming weeks and Flynn has to play. The Seahawks threw the ball just 22 times all game.
“I’m very clear about how you do it, and have done it a lot,” Carroll said. “I’ve been in games where we’re taking a knee at the end of the second quarter to get the clock ran out.
“So it’s a sensitive situation. I understand that. But we have a very clear way that we go about it. And we’re trying to really accomplish a lot of stuff in that situation, as well as just finishing the football game.”
If Arizona head coach Ken Whisenhunt was displeased with the way Carroll handled himself during the game, he didn’t express it afterward.
“It’s our job to stop it,” Whisenhunt said. “You have to give them credit. They’re doing their thing. I have no comment on that other than to say, it’s our job to stop them and we didn’t get that done.”
Carroll said he was in similar situations several times as the head coach at USC, so he has a feel for how to handle the situation.
“What you’re trying to do is make first downs,” Carroll said. “You’re trying to get first downs and keep the football, with the sensitivity of the situation. And you know you’re going to run the football like crazy, which was awesome. We love to do that.
“So we got a lot of things done yesterday. And unfortunately on the other side, it was a very hard day for those guys. I get it.”
Carroll said reserve safety Chris Maragos suffered a hamstring injury against Arizona that the team will monitor this week. Veteran cornerback Marcus Trufant could miss a third straight week with a lingering hamstring injury, and linebacker Leroy Hill (ankle) is set to return, but might have a hard time getting his starting job back because Malcolm Smith is playing well in his place at outside linebacker.