Talent is all over the NFL, of course. Every team has top players that are among the best in football.
The differences between teams are often within the mind.
That's where the Seahawks may be better off now for Sunday's Super Bowl rematch with the Denver Broncos than they were even a week ago.
It’s only the sixth game between Super Bowl foes in the following regular season, and the first in 16 years. The champions are 3-2 in the previous encores. And the Seahawks are far hungrier, far angrier, far more “serious,” to use their coach’s refrain all week, for the Broncos than they were even a week ago. Until then, all the chips for this game were on Denver’s shoulders -- as tends to happen to teams that lose championship games by 35 points.
But the 30-21 defeat last weekend in which Seattle basically melted into the San Diego turf, just the Seahawks’ sixth defeat in 31 games, had All-Pro safety Earl Thomas saying he got his “championship spirit” back this week.
As intense as he already is, he seemed ready to run through the gates of CenturyLink Field – on Thursday.
“We’re ready to play right now,” Thomas said that day. “I love when we have something to prove.
“And a lot of times when we’re on top like this, we’ve got to protect what we have. This is not a one person game, this is a team sport and we have to capture every moment.”
Thomas and the Seahawks would not be thinking that heading into this Broncos challenge had they beaten the Chargers. They wouldn’t be, well, humbled, just two games into their title defense.
“It definitely helps,” said wide receiver Percy Harvin, who again will have a prominent role catching passes, running fly sweeps and option pitches and returning kickoffs as Seattle’s most supersonics threat. “It lets you that you can get knocked off at any given time. … It let us know we need to get a lot better on third downs
“It let us know we’ve still got a lot of work to do.
“Anytime you can learn a lesson, losing one, that’ll give you a kick. … It’s still early in the season. I’d like for us to have the bumps now instead of further on down the road.”
Asked if he felt his Seahawks may be more mentally sharp for Denver than they would have been if they were 2-0 right now, always-glass-half-full coach Pete Carroll said: “It could be.
“We’re hopefully making this into a positive and we’re going to get a little bit better and we’re going to improve in the areas that will make a difference. In that regard, we’ll try to take advantage of it.”
The rest of my game advance story for the Sunday News Tribune is here.
--Here is my Seahawks Gameday preview box, with my pick for the game:
DENVER BRONCOS (2-0) AT SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (1-1)
1:25 p.m., CenturyLink Field, Seattle
TV: Ch. 7. Radio: 710-AM, 97.3-FM.
The series: The Broncos lead the series 34-19, with 49 of those 53 games coming when Denver and Seattle were AFC West rivals from 1977-2001. Maybe you recall the last meeting: Seattle 43, Denver 8, in February’s Super Bowl in New Jersey.
SEATTLE’S KEYS TO VICTORY
Mess with Manning: One of the largest of many reasons the Seahawks rolled in the Super Bowl was their front four got into the face of Peyton Manning, making him very uncomfortable and rushing his already quick throws. But Seattle doesn’t have Chris Clemons on the defensive line any more, rush end Bruce Irvin is questionable with a rib injury and Denver now has its stud left tackle that missed the Super Bowl with injury, Ryan Clady. If Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, O’Brien Schofield and friends can get home without the Seahawks having to blitz, that will again free more of Seattle’s linebackers and defensive backs to swarm Denver’s receivers as soon as – if -- they catch the ball.
Be big and Burley on Welker: Slot receiver Wes Welker, Manning’s favorite third-down target, makes his season debut after a suspension for amphetamines. That means more three- and four-wide receiver sets for Denver – thus more five-defensive back counters from Seattle with fill-in nickel back Marcus Burley. Burley needs to stay tight to and close quickly on Welker, who is great after the catch. Burley, a second-year man who is going to be active for only his fourth NFL game since a trade from Indianapolis, has only been with the Seahawks three weeks. “Oh, yeah,” Burley said, “I’m up to the challenge.” He needs to be.
A load of “Beast Mode”: Marshawn Lynch had just six carries last week because Seattle had only 40 offensive plays at San Diego. Look for offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to feed the “Beast” early and often to re-establish how the Seahawks play best, with the running game and from the front. Since the Seahawks traded for Lynch in 2010, they are 16-2 when he gets at least 22 carries in a game.
The pick: Seahawks, 27-23.
No. Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Year
24 Marshawn Lynch RB 5-11 215 eighth
After mostly idle game last week, Seahawks will try to re-establish right away how valuable 24 is.
68 Justin Britt RT 6-6 325 rookie
DeMarcus Ware, Von Miller, every DEN pass rusher back to Randy Gradishar will be testing Britt.
28 Marcus Burley CB 5-11 185 second
When it’s third down and Manning looks for Welker, Burley is the first man who must stop them.
No. Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Year
83 Wes Welker WR 5-9 185 11th
Think he’s debut after suspension to be just a bit player vs. Super Bowl champs? Me neither.
78 Ryan Clady LT 6-6 315 seventh
Was out injured for the Super Bowl, when SEA’s front 4 messed up Manning. Different deal now.
58 Von Miller OLB 6-3 250 fourth
Also missed Super Bowl. Usually rushes off strong side. SEA Ts Britt, Okung must slow him down.
--And if you missed it, here is my profile from Saturday's News Tribune on Britt. As big as his task is on Sunday against Ware and Miller, it's only his second-most important job.