SEATTLE — Here’s what has set the defending champion Seattle Seahawks apart: They seem to have perfected not overhyping an individual game.
While others are willing to acknowledge the enormity of the moment, the Seahawks thrive by keeping everything even.
“I’m just thinking to myself, ‘It’s the same for us. It’s not going to be different. It’s going to be another football game. It’s going to be us versus y’all,’” Seattle linebacker Bruce Irvin said. “That’s the biggest thing. Our mindset is different. Pete (Carroll) has us at a whole different level than other people think.”
That approach will be tested on Saturday night when the Seahawks (12-4) host the Carolina Panthers in an NFC divisional playoff game. Aside from facing an opponent with similar qualities, the Seahawks will be trying to overcome recent history.
No defending Super Bowl champion has won a playoff game the following year since New England in January 2006. Three defending champs have earned a playoff bye since then only to get upset at home in the divisional round. The most recent was Green Bay, which went 15-1 in 2011 and was knocked off by the New York Giants at home.
That is the history the Seahawks are attempting to ignore and the trend the Panthers (8-8-1) are hoping to continue.
“I think we have the experience of it being the same game to us and understanding that we play a championship game every week and this is no different,” Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman said. “We play it like it’s an elimination game every week so it doesn’t change that for us.”
The Seahawks are riding a six-game winning streak, turning the contentiousness of a 6-4 record into a second straight NFC West title and the No. 1 seed in the NFC. They’ve also won three straight regular-season games against the Panthers.
But the Panthers have a way of making things difficult on the Seahawks. None of the three games were decided by more than five points and neither team scored more than 16.