SEATTLE — If the Seattle Seahawks had a gimme on their early-season schedule, it was expected to be Sunday’s game against Jacksonville at CenturyLink Field. The Seahawks were heavily favored to win, and seemingly the only question was by how much.
Well, win they did, and by a margin that was maybe more one-sided than the final score would indicate.
Showing no let-up after last week’s 29-3 thrashing of defending NFC champion San Francisco, Seattle quickly took charge against the Jaguars. In a game that was played in early rain and later sunshine, the Seahawks seized a 31-0 lead in the third quarter and then traded points with Jacksonville through the game’s final minutes.
It was an emphatic outcome for the Seahawks, who improved to 3-0 and are one of three remaining undefeated NFC teams.
“We were real happy to get the win and to play well,” said Seattle coach Pete Carroll. “We did a lot of good things. Across the board we played cleaner and sharper, the way we wanted to, and I was really happy that we did.
“A lot of people expected and asked questions about letdowns (after last week’s emotional win over the 49ers), but we didn’t see it that way at all. … I was fired up for us that we played just the way we should.”
The Seahawks sputtered on their first offensive possession, gaining just 6 yards on three plays before punting. But Seattle quickly got on track offensively, scoring touchdowns on two of its next three possessions and adding a field goal on the fourth drive.
The defense, meanwhile, was playing superbly, holding Jacksonville without a first down through the first quarter and well into the second. And after Seattle stopped the Jaguars with an interception in the final minute before halftime, the Seahawks immediately went 79 yards in five plays and 30 seconds, scoring a touchdown for a 24-0 margin at the break.
Seattle also reached the end zone on its first possession of the third quarter, and by the late minutes of the period Carroll was going to his bench. Among those getting the rest of the afternoon off were quarterback Russell Wilson, who completed 14 of 21 passing attempts for 202 yards and four touchdowns, and running back Marshawn Lynch, who worked hard for 69 yards on 17 carries.
In the Seahawks locker room afterward, nobody cared much that Jacksonville scored 17 points, much of it coming against Seattle subs. The important thing, everyone agreed, was that Seattle had meet the challenge of fulfilling their own expectations.
“It’s (a sign of) maturity for a team that’s pretty confident right now,” said center Max Unger. “We were playing a team that hasn’t had too much success so far (this season) and we were able to go out and put a lot of points on the board. … That’s a sign of having your stuff together.”
“We’re too confident in ourselves to let our game suffer,” said cornerback Walter Thurmond. “Everyone wants (this team) to be great and we take that same mentality each week, regardless of who we play.”
While Seattle was winning on Sunday, NFC West rivals Arizona, St. Louis and San Francisco were losing, with all three dropping to 1-2. Three weeks into the young season, the Seahawks already have a two-game margin in the division race.
“An exciting day for the NFC West,” Carroll said. “A big day for us and the other teams struggled. … I’m glad we could take advantage of the opportunity to get this win.”
But the road ahead will surely be more challenging for the Seahawks, and that is meant both figuratively and literally. While Jacksonville is likely the AFC South’s No. 4 team and a decided underdog on Seattle’s home turf, the Seahawks must now travel to face two of that division’s premier teams, Houston and Indianapolis. The Seahawks will visit the Texans next Sunday and the Colts on Oct. 6.
“Those are two very, very good AFC teams,” Unger said. “We’ll be on the road and the road has been tough for us the last two years. So it’ll be tough, there’s no doubt about that.”
Ultimately, the challenge for this team is to improve every week, regardless of the opponent and regardless of the location. Or as Thurmond explained, “We’re still climbing that mountain. … We just have to keep getting better. And at the end of the day, we should only worry about ourselves.”
“We have a lot of games left,” agreed Wilson. “I think the biggest thing for us is that we want to focus on playing our best football this week. And it’s the same thing every week. If we can go 1-0 every week, then we control our own destiny.
“We want to win the whole thing,” he said, “and to be able to do that we have to be able to go 1-0 every week. We have to focus on that championship mentality week in and week out, no matter what.”