One of the subtexts to Pete Carroll’s Tuesday press conference was the reminder that the NFL playoffs are a time of rebirth and renewal, with a clean slate and equal opportunities for the lucky dozen teams extant.
“Everything that’s already happened doesn’t matter at all,” he said at one point.
It’s a perfect message for a team that can no longer run the ball, blocks sporadically, suffers strange competitive lapses at times, and was so inconsistent it couldn’t string together consecutive wins at any point since before Thanksgiving.
Doesn’t matter, Carroll said. Not at all.
He’s correct to the extent that this week is about nothing but finding ways to defeat the Detroit Lions at CenturyLink Field on Saturday night.
And putting the erratic regular season behind them is Step 1 of five I’m going to offer as ways the Seahawks can not only beat the Lions, but to be mentally and emotionally prepared to continue stretching out this season.
1. Ignore everything about this season except maybe the win at New England.
The Seahawks learned that day that they have the ability to beat any team in the NFL.
How? They forced three turnovers and committed none. Russell Wilson threw three touchdown passes to Doug Baldwin, and the defense came up with a crucial goal-line stand in the final minute.
The big lesson from that one was that they had to play full-bore for 60 minutes and they did, maybe the only time this season they brought that level of play in all phases for an entire game.
Nothing less will do at this point.
2. Toss out about half of the offense.
The bread-and-butter of recent seasons is no longer effective because they can’t run the ball.
Teams will no longer respect the “give” option on read-options, and are fully focused on nailing Wilson on keepers and bootlegs. So scrap those.
The Lions give up 4.4 yards per rush, so the run can’t be dumped entirely.
Sometimes Seattle’s more effective with some power-action runs or inside traps with tight ends coming across to block.
If Thomas Rawls is healthy this week, he deserves the start. But if he’s not producing, give rookie Alex Collins an early heat-check.
Rawls averaged 1.8 yards a carry against the Niners, but Collins came on and showed some nice burst and power, averaging 7.9 a carry.
And while they’re at it, leave in seven or even eight some times to protect Wilson on passes. The Lions don’t have a lot of sacks (26), but Wilson will be best if he’s kept clean.
3. Target Jimmy Graham with monotonous regularity.
There’s no excuse for the 6-foot-7 tight end to get fewer than 10 targets, and none of those passes should be lower than 10 feet high.
The Lions have nobody in their secondary taller than 6 feet.
His 42-yard catch against the Niners on Sunday was the absolute blueprint for how Graham needs to be used. He got the defender on his hip, he blocked him out, and then elevated for the catch.
It is indefensible by almost every NFL secondary.
4. Let the defense play its game.
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has a gifted arm, but the Lions have lost three straight games (against opponents who made the playoffs) in which they failed to score more than 24 points.
At one point on Tuesday, Carroll said: “Hopefully, we’ll keep our wits about us and play really sharp and poised.” That seemed particularly apt for a veteran defense that has had the occasional breakdown.
Keep your wits and be sharp.
Injured free safety Earl Thomas is irreplaceable, but if everybody else is assignment-correct, replacement Steven Terrell should face less exposure.
5. Bring back the energy.
Maybe the films they should watch this week are of playoff successes in the past, all of which were brought about by collaborative enthusiasm and unrelenting energy.
Cue up highlight clips of Richard Sherman’s decisive pass deflection in the NFC title game against San Francisco, and the last quarter of the offense against Green Bay in the NFC championship game the next season.
Have a loop playing of Kam Chancellor’s message-sending hit on Bronco Demaryius Thomas early in the Super Bowl win.
Heck, go back to 2010 to Marshawn Lynch’s BeastQuake run.
Isn’t that what this 2016 Seahawks team really needs? To get fired up?
Don’t they need to remember those great adrenaline rushes?
What better way to tap into their best selves?
And that’s the most important message Carroll needs to get across this week: To remind them who they’ve been — and who they might once again be.