At the urging of head coach Pete Carroll, the Seattle Seahawks are programmed to ignore external distractions. In the World According to Pete, athletes shall be oblivious to details beyond their control.
It’s a sound philosophy, obviously, and it figures to come in handy Sunday night when the Seahawks will participate in what is being touted as the important regular-season game the Arizona Cardinals have ever played.
That’s not an exaggeration. If Arizona wins, the Cardinals will be NFC West champions owning the more pertinent designation as the conference’s No. 1 seed, worth home-field advantage through the playoffs and a first-round bye.
If the Cardinals lose, they could drop down to as low as the fifth seed, requiring them to begin the playoffs on the road. They’d also forfeit the bye-week benefit.
Most important regular-season game in Arizona Cardinals history?
But it also might be the most important regular-season game in Seahawks’ history, because the same parameters are at stake: Possible home-field advantage through the playoffs, along with that invaluable week off for Marshawn Lynch to rest his ailing back, and for Max Unger to nurse his high-ankle sprain, and for Russell Okung to recover from his chest-wall bruise.
If applying such a lofty status to the showdown at University of Phoenix Stadium — most important regular-season game in Seahawks history —seems like something done hurriedly, it’s because, well, it was done hurriedly.
Last Sunday, the Hawks’ best-case playoff scenario appeared to rest on tiebreaker components — all together now — beyond their control.
But then Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers suffered the worst day of his Hall of Fame-bound career, and the Packers were upset at Buffalo while the Seahawks were taking care of business against the San Francisco 49ers.
All of the sudden, the Hawks’ fuzzy playoff picture achieved high-definition clarity: If they beat Arizona on the road and the St. Louis Rams the following week at CenturyLink Field, they’re safe at home through January.
After his team’s 17-7 victory over the 49ers, Carroll acknowledged the Packers’ toe-stubbing in Buffalo with the casual shrug of a man indifferent to the plight another man’s toe.
“That stuff is so far out of what we’re concerned about,” he said. “You think maybe I’m just saying that? I don’t care about that stuff right now. We have two more games to play, and we have one more game that’s at hand right now. That’s all we’ve got. The rest of it doesn’t matter.”
Just a hunch, but I get the sense Carroll isn’t preoccupied by the fever-pitch climate awaiting the Seahawks in Arizona on Sunday night.
Such upper-case issues as Where and When don’t concern a coach whose only priorities are Here and Now.
No game on the schedule is more significant than the next one, Carroll will tell you.
He’d also tell you distinguishing any contest as “the most important regular-season game in franchise history” merely creates noise his players don’t need to hear.
But, hey, these lulls between football Sundays can take forever — they’re almost as long as the lulls for time outs and replay reviews — and since the Seahawks resolved some internal-combustion concerns related to the trade of Percy Harvin, conversation topics are sparse.
So here’s one: What other regular-season game has found so much riding on the outcome than Seahawks vs. Cardinals?
New Orleans’ Monday Night Football visit to Seattle in 2013, when the Hawks put their 10-1 record on the line against the 9-2 Saints, comes to mind. So does last season’s home opener against the 49ers, and this season’s opener against the Packers, as well as the Broncos-Seahawks Super Bowl “rematch” two weeks later.
Extending the view into hindsight, the Hawks’ unanticipated 37-31 victory at St. Louis on Oct. 9, 2005 propelled an 11-game winning streak responsible for the franchise’s first NFC championship.
But that’s in retrospect. The Seahawks were 2-2, with seemingly modest playoff aspirations, when they took the field.
At Arizona, the defending Super Bowl champions, with a 10-4 record and aspirations of building a dynasty, will challenge the 11-3 Cardinals for divisional supremacy. That the game will be seen by a national television audience tuning into NBC only adds to the hoopla.
Pete Carroll won’t say it because he can’t say it, but I’m liberated to say it: The Seahawks are four days removed from the most important regular-season game in their history.
Until next week at The Clink, where the Rams could sabotage everything.