If Sunday’s NFC Championship Game is close entering the fourth quarter, well, the Seahawks will have the Packers right where they want them.
It will be time for “finishing.”
It’s the single word coach Pete Carroll has plastered around the team’s Virginia Mason Athletic Center, on the fronts of T-shirts and signs, and ingrained in his players’ heads. It’s been that way since the first day of his new regime in January 2010.
So when Carroll was reminded this past week of his team outscoring Carolina 17-7 in the fourth quarter last week to seal Seattle’s 31-17 victory in the divisional round, part of the Seahawks’ overwhelming 139-74 edge in the final period all season, the coach flashed a huge grin.
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“I love the question, because it points to something that we take tremendous pride in: It’s about finishing,” Carroll said. “It’s not just finishing the fourth quarter. It’s about finishing the season, finishing the plays and finishing everything.”
The Seahawks enter their second consecutive conference title game on a seven-game winning streak. Their defense has allowed a grand total of seven points in fourth quarter of those seven wins. They are still ticked about giving up a late touchdown last week to Carolina after they took a 31-10 lead on Kam Chancellor’s Seattle playoff-record 90-yard interception return for a touchdown with six minutes left.
“That’s what we do, we finish,” All-Pro middle linebacker Bobby Wagner said. “Whenever a fourth quarter comes around, we understand those are when games are won. That’s when big-time players make big-time plays. And that’s when the good teams show up. You can’t win games in the first three quarters. You have to finish the games off, and that’s what we pride ourselves in.”
It took a couple seasons and more than 200 roster transactions to get the guys Carroll believed in to install this finishing-everything mindset. But it’s installed now, all right.
Since the 2012 season, Seattle is 17-3 in the crunch-time months of December, January and — with last season’s Super Bowl win — February.
In the four seasons immediately before Carroll took over the Seahawks, they were 6-12 in December and January.
“We’re trying to do the right stuff when you’re faced with the clock ticking down and trying to be right longer than the other guys. (That) is really what we’re trying to do,” Carroll said. “Our guys are showing it. I love that characteristic of our team and hope we can hang on to it and show it one more time this week.”
THE BEAUTY OF YOUTH
Wagner has one season after this one and $977,427 in base pay remaining on his rookie contract from 2012. He stands to get a huge payday and extension like the ones Seattle has already given the other core members of its top-ranked defense: Chancellor, Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and K.J. Wright.
The oldest of those cornerstones is the not-exactly-ancient and zooming Bennett. The defensive end is just 29.
“I don’t think there is a ceiling, because a lot of our guys are 23, 24, 25, like we’re not even close to 30 yet. So we’re still relatively young,” Wagner said of Seattle’s defense. “We’ve still got a lot of room to grow. We feel like we’re still good players but we can still get better at and still have room to grow.
“We feel like if we make those improvements, it could really be scary.”
The forecast for the Seahawks’ earliest kickoff in CenturyLink Field history, 12:05 p.m. Sunday: a 90-percent chance of light rain, 50 degrees, winds around 16 miles per hour. … This is Seattle’s fourth conference title game. The Seahawks lost at the Los Angeles Raiders at the end of 1983 season, the 2005 team beat Carolina at home to advance to Super Bowl XL, and last year’s team beat San Francisco at home to reach Super Bowl XLVIII. … The Seahawks are 10-2 at home in the playoffs, with an eight-game winning streak dating to Jan. 8, 2005. That mark includes the Kingdome and now CenturyLink Field.