On the surface, the Seahawks’ game at Arizona is about matters of postseason seeding.
And although pairings and home-field dates are significant, some will consider this is a relatively meaningless season finale.
It is not.
This is fueled by the ideologies of the coaches, the genetic coding of the teams they’ve fathered and the competitive constancy they’ve nurtured within their players.
Richard Sherman, Seattle’s cornerback, philosopher and societal observer, once said football mostly was about “testosterone and adrenaline.”
Strip away the salaries, the fame, the lifestyle, and it comes down to the primitive desire to beat the man in front of you, and to stop him from taking what’s yours.
“We’re giving it everything we’ve got every time we go out. We don’t know any other way. We’re going to play ball; we’re playing ball to win.”
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll
The Cardinals already have the NFC West title, and the Seahawks have a wild-card invitation, but this one will have nothing to do with coasting into the playoffs.
Both coaches — Seattle’s Pete Carroll and Arizona’s Bruce Arians — have said they have no interest in resting key players this week unless they’re injured and need the time off to complete their rehabs.
Arians said he will coach this game with the same goals as the first of the season. Carroll called it a championship opportunity, which he says every week, whether a championship is in the balance or not.
The temptation is to say it’s an old-school mindset, with Carroll at 64 years old and Arians 63. The Gray battling The Bald.
“I don’t think you get anything out of resting guys, especially playing a team that’s in our division.”
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians
But it’s totally about the culture that has lifted these teams.
“I don’t think you get anything out of resting guys, especially playing a team that’s in our division,” Arians said during the week’s preparation. “And we haven’t beaten them at home in a couple years.”
Pete Carroll, likewise, rejected the concept of diminished commitment. “We’re giving it everything we’ve got every time we go out. We don’t know any other way,” he said. “We’re going to play ball; we’re playing ball to win.”
You’ll note that Arians pointed to home losses to the Seahawks. Seattle has claimed lopsided victories (34-22 in 2013 and 35-6 last season) in Arizona the past two seasons.
The Cardinals dominated the first half of the season’s first meeting in Seattle, leading 19-0, and holding on for a 39-32 win. The Seahawks’ defense was torched by quarterback Carson Palmer and receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Malcolm Floyd.
But, because it serves as better motivation, Arians chooses to remember the Cards’ loss in December 2014 at home when the Seahawks rolled up 596 yards of offense.
Think the Cardinals defenders have forgotten that? Arizona defensive end Calais Campbell said of this meeting with the Seahawks, “… I definitely circled that game on the calendar.”
Seattle has claimed lopsided victories (34-22 in ’13 and 35-6 last season) in Arizona the past two seasons.
The 13-2 Cardinals are riding a nine-game winning streak, including a 38-8 demolition of Green Bay last week.
On the final Sunday, if Tampa Bay beats Carolina and Arizona tops Seattle, the Cardinals will earn home-field advantage through the NFC title game.
Depending on various outcomes, which won’t be determined until the conclusion of the Sunday night game between Green Bay and Minnesota, the Seahawks will be on the road next week against either the Redskins, the Packers or the Vikings.
Neither the Cards nor Seahawks seem interested in looking beyond this grudge match in Glendale.
To what degree? Arians said this week that certain Cardinals came up to him shortly after the blowout win over the Packers with an important message. Nobody wanted to be rested; none wanted anything but an all-out, all-hands-on-deck aggressive approach to beating the Seahawks.
That’s how these teams are built. It’s in their DNA. And it makes this game anything but meaningless.