Seahawks say they won’t be overconfident against Saints
Seattle players say they haven’t forgotten playoff loss to Atlanta last year, and won’t let easy win over Saints in December affect their focus for Saturday’s game.
Seattle Times staff reporter
RENTON – As the NFL playoffs begin, the Seahawks like where they are.
“We are in a great situation right now,’’ receiver Golden Tate said this week in anticipation of Saturday’s divisional playoff game against the New Orleans Saints at 1:35 p.m. at CenturyLink Field. “We have lost one game at home the last two years; we are sitting at the number one seed.’’
They also, though, understand where they have come from.
And that, they say, will serve as a continued motivating force as well as a protector against any of the ills that have sometimes struck other teams in their position in recent years.
While Seattle’s current status is enviable, needing to win just two home games to get to the Super Bowl, it’s also a spot that’s been fraught with danger in recent years in the NFL.
In fact, since 2005, teams with the No. 1 seed are just 7-9 in the divisional round. And they are just 2-5 against teams seeded No. 6, as the Saints are after winning 26-24 at No. 3 seeded Philadelphia on Saturday in the wild-card round.
Receiver Doug Baldwin, apprised of that stat this week, said he thinks No. 1 seeds have at times fallen victim to feeling like the heavy lifting is already done.
“You get a bye week and you get complacent,’’ he said. “You’re not on your P’s and Q’s, and not on the details going into the game. The sixth seed, they’re hungrier, they just came off of a game, they’ve refined their tools, refined their focus. So they’re probably more focused, usually.’’
Baldwin, though, said he thinks the Seahawks are immune to that feeling, citing the history of so many of the players on the team. Baldwin is an undrafted free agent, Russell Wilson a third-round pick many figured was too short to make it big, Richard Sherman a fifth-round pick considered by many as a reserve.
“I mean, let’s be real,’’ Baldwin said. “The guys on this team, for whatever reason, we all have chips on our shoulders. We all feel like we are underdogs in some aspect. So I don’t think that is ever going to creep into our mind that we are the top dog. That just doesn’t correlate with us. We don’t relate to that. So our mindset is always that we are the underdog, and always have a chip on our shoulder.’’
What they also remember is the feeling they had a year ago in the same divisional round after blowing a lead in the final 31 seconds and losing at Atlanta, 30-28.
“All the time,’’ safety Earl Thomas said this week when asked how often he thinks about that game. Thomas said he reminds his teammates often of that moment.
“That’s when you really think ‘I’m not taking this drill off today,’ ’’ Thomas said. “In practice, you are going to do everything like it’s gamelike. That’s my saying to everyone right now — when you are in practice, in walk-throughs, everything is gamelike.’’
The chips on the shoulder, the memories of Atlanta. All of that, they say, makes irrelevant any worry of overconfidence from having beaten the Saints 34-7 at CenturyLink Field on Dec. 2.
“We’re not going to take this for granted because we know how talented those guys are on the other side of the ball,’’ Baldwin said.
The Saints, meanwhile, said from almost the minute the gun sounded on their win at Philadelphia last Saturday they wanted another shot at Seattle, hoping to atone for what they considered an embarrassing night.
Seattle scored on all four of its first-half possessions and also returned a fumble for a touchdown in taking a 27-7 lead at halftime and cruising from there.
In what might have been their best performance of the season, Seattle outgained the Saints 429-188, holding New Orleans to a season-low 144 passing yards.
Each team, though, is a little different now.
The Saints have tweaked their offensive line and are running the ball more, gaining 185 yards on the ground against the Eagles.
The Seahawks, meanwhile, hope that an offense that struggled down the stretch as Seattle lost two of its last four games, will get a boost from the return of receiver Percy Harvin.
Harvin, acquired for three draft picks in March and signed to a contract that guarantees him $25.5 million, has played just once, on Nov. 17 against Minnesota. In 19 snaps and one kickoff return, though, Harvin did enough to key two scoring drives and jump-start an eventual 41-20 victory.
“What has happened in the past doesn’t tell the story of what’s going to happen in the future,’’ Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told his team earlier this week. “One way or the other.’’
For the Seahawks, it all starts anew against the Saints.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @bcondotta