The champs still have a sense of control over their playoff fates.
At least Michael Bennett does.
The Seahawks have made the talkative defensive end the newer "podium" guy replacing safety Earl Thomas the player that follows Russell Wilson out in front of the television cameras for a more formal press briefing than our usual talks in front of the players' lockers. Yesterday Bennett addressed the fact Seattle (6-4) trails Arizona (9-1) in the NFC West by half as many games as they have left (six) entering Sunday's meeting at CenturyLink Field.
"I think it’s a tough challenge to be able to play two of the best teams in the NFL, two of the best defenses, two of the best offenses, and it’s going to be a tough schedule, but I think we’re good for it," Bennett said of last weekend's loss at Kansas City preceding this must-win Sunday against the Cardinals. "It’s good because we actually have our destiny right in our hand and the division is up for grabs.
"Yes, we want to be able to control it and I think that’s where we’re at right now. Everything is in our hands. If we play the way we’re capable of, we should be happy."
That isn't entirely true.
Even if the Seahawks win out against this brutal finishing schedule (Arizona and San Francisco twice each, plus at Philadelphia and home to a St. Louis team that already beaten them) there remains the possibility Arizona doesn't lose another game besides the two it has remaining against Seattle. In that scenario the Cardinals would still win the division. But -- dare I say it -- a 12-4 Seahawks team would almost certainly be good enough for one of the NFC's two wild-card spots, especially since the other three division leaders in the conference have at least three loses already and thus won't all win out. NFC East and North co-leaders Dallas and Philadelphia and Green Bay and Detroit still have to play each other so two of those four teams are guaranteed to have four losses (barring rare overtime ties, of course).
Yes, the Seahawks have to tackle infinitely better than they have recently. They have to be far better in the red zone offensively and defensively. They need to get healthier and they need to protect quarterback Russell Wilson on his drop backs far better. They need all that, and pronto, if they have any chance of truly controlling their own postseason destiny. And it's shaping up like 11-5 may be the record it takes to ensure a wild-card spot this season.
But the mere fact that the Seahawks still have that chance -- after a tumultuous 10 games that have included four losses plus a narrow escape past Oakland and not having played a completely satisfying game from start to finish since the opening against the Packers almost three full months ago -- is what this team is rallying around and encouraged by this week coming off the loss that could have been a huge win against the Chiefs.
"I think our team is ready for the challenge right now," Bennett said. "I think our team has the right attitude. We’re going about practice the same way that we always do and not trying to make it bigger than what it is. I think we have a lot of great players.
"Arizona is a good team but they still have to line up and play. And we still have to line up and play."
Below is all of what Bennett had to say yesterday before the outdoors practice in Renton. The Seahawks have another, lighter workout today. We talk to Pete Carroll after it, when we will get word of the Seahawks who are playing, too injured to play and iffy for Sunday's game.
--Here is my story in this morning's News Tribune, detailing Seattle's pass-game numbers -- and highlighting again the fact Wilson stated four times in 10 minutes that the struggles there "are on me."
--Thanks for posting in the comments last night the news the Seahawks have been told "Sorry" by the NFL for missing two pass-interference calls against the Chiefs for bumping Doug Baldwin on the fourth-and-goal late and Jermaine Kearse in the end zone earlier. It, of course, does absolutely zero good for them at this point. But, hey, maybe it makes them feel better. Or not.
If you missed it, here it is.
DE Michael Bennett
November 20, 2014
(On playing division rivals back to back for four weeks) I think it’s a tough challenge to be able to play two of the best teams in the NFL, two of the best defenses, two of the best offenses, and it’s going to be a tough schedule, but I think we’re good for it. It’s good because we actually have our destiny right in our hand and the division is up for grabs—especially it being tough to play St. Louis when they’re playing good football too.
(On the team controlling their destiny) Yes—we want to be able to control it and I think that’s where we’re at right now. Everything is in our hands—if we play the way we’re capable of, we should be happy.
(On the defensive line and the new guys) It’s different because last year we had the same group of people—some seasons you have no injury and some seasons you have a lot of injuries. I think this is the season that we’re having a lot of injuries and we have to come in with the young guys, we can’t expect any drop off and let them know that we’re depending on them and hopefully they make the same plays as the guys that we lost make.
(On Kevin Williams) Kevin is a proven player—he’s been to the pro bowls, he’s been to the all-pro six times, made a lot of money—he’s done it. So he knows exactly how to play this game and I think whether he’s playing defensive end, three technique or nose—I think he’s going to be good at what he does.
(On not making the game bigger than what it is) I think it’s easy not to allow it to be as big as it is because it’s not a championship game. It’s the next game and I think we approach it like that. It’s not like, ‘we need to make it bigger than what it is,’ the [Arizona] Cardinals are a good team and we’re a really good team and the fans get to watch a really good game. So I think that’s what makes it special.
(On him looking forward to it) You always look forward to division games because the division games are the games that really count in the league. If you see the NFC South, they’ve lost a lot of games outside of the division, but the division is still up for grabs and the best team has four wins.
(On playing division games) We’ve been waiting a long time to play division games and we’ve played against some great teams and gotten ready. Arizona [Cardinals] is a really good team, San Francisco [49ers] is a really good team, and St. Louis [Rams] is a really good team.
(On Bobby Wagner) I think B-Wags coming back is great—he makes a lot of tackles and he makes a lot of plays for us. He opens up our playbook for him to be able to do the things that he usually does. You look forward to him getting ten or fifteen tackles every game—so we’re just happy to be able to get him back.
(On the team’s mindset) I think our team is ready for the challenge right now. I think our team has the right attitude—we’re going about practice the same way that we always do and not trying to make it bigger than what it is. I think we have a lot of great players—Arizona is a good team but they still have to line up and play and we still have to line up and play and we can’t let the media or the fans think that the game is already won. We just have to go out there and play.