If there were any ideas that the Seahawks were going to back off in Sunday’s game against new NFC West champion Arizona to rest players, the loss Sunday to St. Louis and Pete Carroll’s coaching beliefs crushed the idea Monday as if they were a Rams’ defensive lineman pounding a Seahawks’ offensive lineman.
“We’re going to treat this exactly like a championship football game,” the Seahawks coach said. “We’re going to do it in the same fashion we always do. We’ll come right back the next week, wherever we’re going, and do it in the same fashion.”
Earlier Monday on his ESPN 710 radio show, Carroll said the idea of resting was a media fascination.
“When you talk like that, you have to think we only have so many guys able to play — who are you going to rest?” he said. “We are playing everybody all the time anyway. I think that’s overblown. That’s a media thing.’
Carroll has always believed throttling back in a playoff-meaningless encounter is more of a threat than the risk of injury or fatigue. But unlike the past two postseasons, the Seahawks have earned no first-week bye, nor will they get a home game.
In fact, if all were to go as Carroll dreams (see the potential outcomes below), the game Sunday in Glendale, AZ., will be the first of four in a row on the road. A playoff sweep would send them to a fifth road game, Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, CA. He said that recent back-to-back wins at Minnesota and Baltimore showed the Seahawks can handle the road.
“I think we are still playing to get ready for the playoffs and to make sure we are right,” he said. “After looking at (Sunday’s outcome), we need to play more than we don’t need to play.
“We’re giving it everything we got every time we go. We don’t know any other way. Whether it’s preseason or whatever. I don’t think it’s ever a good thing to train a player to not do that, and train a team to not do that.”
The same approach was offered by Cardinals coach Bruce Arians.
“We will approach this game as if it were Game 1 of the season,” he said Monday. “We don’t want to set a pattern of different behavior.”
The chances for success increased a bit Monday when Carroll suggested that RB Marshawn Lynch could return to practice as soon as Wednesday. He has not played since Nov. 15 and had abdominal surgery Nov. 25.
“He’s got a big day (Monday) and a big day (Tuesday) working out,” Carroll said. “We’ll see how that goes. From what I understand, he has a chance, if he does well, that he might be in here for Wednesday.”
Carroll said he heard Lynch was in Seattle over the weekend for an unspecified event, and the two didn’t speak. Lynch apparently returned to the Bay Area to continue rehab/training with mixed martial arts expert Tareq Azim, a former Fresno State linebacker who has worked with Lynch for years. Carroll said the Seahawks trust Azim’s workouts for Lynch since he has always reported in peak condition.
“We’re pretty much relying on the reports they’re giving us, and also the work that’s being done,” Carroll said. “Those guys know him really well. They are the ones that have, for the last few years, really done great work with Marshawn.
“We’re trusting that they’re looking seriously at the preparation level, his endurance, all of those things, to give us a good indication that we can move forward.”
Lynch’s two primary replacements, Christine Michael and Bryce Brown, had 15 yards on 13 carries against the 14-point-underdog Rams Sunday in a 23-17 defeat, ending a five-game winning streak in large part because they didn’t rush for more than 100 yards for the first time this season.
Carroll insisted that there was no let-up either in preparation or emotional readiness prior to Sunday, so he was floored by what happened.
“I was really surprised,’’ he said on his show. “I thought everything had showed up great and we were ready to go.’’
Falling behind 10-0 gave the Rams encouragement to press with their defense and be cautious with the offense under backup QB Case Keenum.
“It seemed like we struggled to get back on course,’’ he said. But he insisted that the play of offensive line, which allowed four sacks and 13 hits of QB Russell Wilson and 13 hits, was not a regression.
“I don’t think it’s a regression at all,’’ he said. “We just made a real bad performance show up. We just gave them their opportunities and they took advantage of it.”
But the facts are that in the past two games against the Browns and Rams, Wilson has been sacked a combined six times and hit 24 times. Late in the fourth quarter Sunday, he also fumbled on a scramble play inside the Rams 10-yard line — he “overtried,” Carroll said — for Seattle’s third turnover of the afternoon.
Wilson got up slowly a couple of times and generally was hit harder and more often than any time this season.
“I was just with him — he’s okay,” Carroll said. “He’s a good athlete. He’s got some ninja in him or something. He can get out of those hits and he’s really great at avoiding getting banged. He got hit a couple times. He’s going to make it.”
Final week playoff scenarios: Minnesota, Green Bay or Washington, D.C.
The six NFC playoff teams are known, only the order remains.
The Seahawks knew last week they will be either the fifth or sixth seed in the NFC playoffs. But the loss against St. Louis means an increased chance that 9-6 Seattle could travel to the home of the winner of the Vikings game at Green Bay Sunday that decides the NFC North titlist between 10-5 teams.
That winner is the No. 3 seed, which plays No. 6, the second wild-card team. The NFC East winner, Washington (8-7), is No. 4, and will host the first wild-card team.
Keep in mind that Carolina’s loss to Atlanta Sunday puts the NFC’s No. 1 seed in play. The 13-2 Cardinals have something to play for against Seahawks — home field advantage throughout the playoffs. If Carolina (14-1) loses to visiting Tampa Bay (6-9) to tie with Arizona, the Cardinals own the tiebreaker.
If Seahawks and Packers win:
Seahawks are No. 5 and play at Washington. The Packers host the Vikings — a back-to-back matchup. The Seahawks get the tiebreaker over the Vikings because of the head-to-head win.
If Seahawks and Vikings win:
The Seahawks play at Minnesota. Packers play at Washington. Green Bay owns the tiebreaker over Seattle because of the head-to-head win.
If Seahawks lose and Packers win:
The Seahawks play at Green Bay. The Vikings would go to Washington based on a better overall record than the Seahawks.
If Seahawks lose and Vikings win:
The Seahawks play at Minnesota. Green Bay would go to Washington based on a better overall record than the Seahawks.
Carroll said TE Luke Willson “has progressed” in his recovery from a concussion Sunday, which is the Seahawks’ most important health issue because third-string TE Cooper Helfet is a poor blocker. Already on the injured reserve list are TEs Jimmy Graham and Anthony McCoy . . . Sunday’s absent players SS Kam Chancellor (tailbone), LT Russell Okung (calf) and DT Jordan Hill (ankle) all “have a chance to play on Sunday,” Carroll said . . . On a crucial fumble by the Rams in the fourth quarter that they recovered and marched on to the game-winning touchdown, Carroll said he thought FS Earl Thomas recovered the ball. But the officials signaled first that the Rams had it, then the Seahawks, and finally the Rams. Carroll said officials should “let them fight it out’’ instead of making an early judgment on possession.