Sixty minutes of football. It gives me chills just thinking about that number. We’re so close to everything that we want, everything that we’ve been thinking about since summer workouts. It feels good to be so close to that.
But we’re not there yet.
Last week’s game went just like we thought it was going to. We knew to expect a more balanced attack from the Saints after watching their previous games. We knew they were going to try to air the ball out as well. We definitely wanted to try to eliminate explosive plays. I think we did a good job of that, except on my tipped ball.
It was definitely a shocker that I missed that one.
During the regular season, we never really see that type of action with me being in the middle of the field. Nobody really tries to throw deep against us. But we knew that, because it’s the playoffs, they were going to have to try to throw a post at some point. So that was my money ball.
I got over it quick. I clapped my hands together, and screamed out loud, “Just try me again!” That kind of got me back refocused.
In football, there are so many situations throughout the game that can really have a big role in how things shift one way or the other. But we came back and stopped them after that. That missed field goal — both those field goals that they missed, really — helped out and kept the momentum on our side.
After the game, there wasn’t much celebration or emotion amongst our team at all. We still had this feeling of incompleteness. It’s important to stay as even keeled as possible. The mind is so powerful. You don’t want to start filling it with the wrong things that might mess up your flow and your rhythm. So I definitely stayed in my little bubble, or as I always say, “in my zone,” looking forward to who we’d play next.
We found out the next day that it would be the San Francisco 49ers. I was excited. You always want to knock off the top guys, and some people actually think they’re better than us. So this is a great opportunity to show who we are as a whole.
That’s what our mindset has been all week, and it’s been another great week of practice. Everybody has been on it. The attention to detail has been incredible. We’re very consistent in our preparation because our belief is, why change now just because we’re in the playoffs?
That’s another thing that separates us from the rest. We’re not really stressed out right now. We’re still having fun. A lot of guys still have that childlike mentality when it comes to football. You should never lose that type of spirit. There is a lot of positive energy here, especially trickling down from Coach Carroll.
That perspective was something I lacked when I first got into the league. When you first get to the NFL, you don’t know what to expect. But you realize that it’s always football. My freshman year in high school, I was 14 years old on varsity. The speed of the game was so fast to me. That’s how the speed of the NFL felt my rookie year.
But when you get experience, everything slows down .You understand the scheme, and you really understand how to put yourself in better positions to make plays to help the team. That’s when it becomes fun.
It’s just football. The whistle, the yards, the field and everything else is still the same.
SAME STYLE, DIFFERENT APPROACH
This game is going to be a special because our two teams are so much alike. We both have great defenses. We both want to run the ball. We have a lot of good core players in our arsenal. They have good core players in their arsenal as well.
I respect football, and love anybody that puts out good tape. They obviously put out good tape, just like we do. You can tell they have great leaders, especially on the defensive side of the ball, and they really own it. That’s what it’s all about, owning your moment, owning every opportunity you get. They make it hard on offenses, just like we do. So there’s definitely a respect factor there. With every opponent, you have to respect their best, and when they don’t bring their best, that’s when you just pound them.
Their offense is unique in how they can attack you. They have so many moving parts. They have that downhill running attack with Frank Gore. Then you add Vernon Davis with his speed off play action passes, plus Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree in the receiving corps. All those options keep you on your toes.
But that’s the type of game you want to play anyway. You never want to relax, and you definitely can’t when you talk about playing a team like that.
Colin Kaepernick is in total control of that offense, and that’s what you want your quarterback to be, especially at this point in the season. But I don’t think he has changed much since he entered the league. He started off hot early on. The biggest difference between how he started and how well he is playing now is strictly confidence. That can take you a long way.
Gore is a guy who is very patient, and you have to understand that. He’s not the fastest guy, but that’s how he’ll get you. He has that quick twitch about him. If you overrun him, he’ll cut back on you. It’s very important to just be patient. We’ve been doing a good job of that.
They have a great tandem in the receiving corps. There’s a reason why Boldin is a champion. What he brings to the table is championship caliber. And he fits San Francisco’s scheme so well. He’s that concrete foundation. He has that same hard-nosed, I’m-going-to-run-you-over, I’m-going-to-get-in-the-mud, I’m-going-to-get-down-and-get-dirty mentality as we have on defense and they have on defense. You can’t help but love that about him.
I respect his game. He’s not the fastest guy and he’s getting older, but he’s able to adapt and that’s what it’s all about. When you’re able to adapt, you’re going to outlast everybody else. He uses his body well, and if you try to jam him, he’ll battle you. He’s almost fighting you from the line of scrimmage. He’s separating by pushing you or using his crafty technique. He’s definitely a very physical guy, and can cause a lot of damage.
Crabtree is another competitor. I’ve met him a couple times off the field, and he’s also a great guy. We’re both signed with Jordan Brand, and that’s big in the NFL because Jordan is mostly basketball players. When a football player can reach that level of accomplishment, that just says a lot about each of us.
It’s kind of funny that our names have been intertwined for a while, starting with facing each other in college, and now being with Jordan. We’ve got people showing our shoes and making a big deal out of who is going to win out of the Jordan Brand between us. It’s great to be a part of.
Obviously, he’s a great player. You could tell that it was a different San Francisco team the second time we played them, when they had him back. They were able to capitalize more because he’s a great receiver. He can cause matchup problems with any corner.
But the great thing is we have great corners who can equalize that. We’re confident in Sherm, Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane against Crabtree and Boldin.
It’s going to be a great matchup. It’s good on good everywhere you look.
PRAISE FOR THE MEN UP FRONT
We have a lot of great players on this team and when my career is over, it’s going to be fun to look back, and just be able to say that I played with them.
The guys in the Legion of Boom are going to do their jobs. So is the rest of the defense. That’s part of the growth that we’ve had this season, and what separates us from last year, when we lost to Atlanta.
Our whole defensive line and linebacking corps have been playing great. Bobby Wagner is a hidden gem. He’s freakishly athletic, and you’ll see him make some big plays on Sunday. On the defensive line you’ve got Big Red Bryant, Tony McDaniel and Brandon Mebane. Our d-linemen do a great job of disrupting teams. Everything is about timing. When those guys are playing disciplined, getting after the quarterback, keeping contain and making him step up, it makes our job on the back end very easy.
I think Mebane is the best nose tackle in the league. I say that with 100 percent faith. I really believe he has the ability to take over a game any time that he’s in the zone. He’s already like a bowling ball. You saw him take over the St. Louis game. He’s pushing the center back into the fullback, and that’s disrupting the running back. When I see that, I’m just a fan. I always try to encourage him and Tony because I feel like those guys have all the potential in the world, and they can still get better.
I can too. We all can.
Once guys recognize that and own that, the sky is the limit.
RUSSELL, BEAST MODE AND THE SHERM OF OUR OFFENSE
Everybody in our organization knows what Russell can do, and what he brings to this team. We know better than anybody else the type of athlete he is, and the type of quarterback he is. Since he stepped in, we’ve done nothing but go up, 100 percent. We’ve been winning. We’ve only lost one game at home in the last two years. That’s hard to do in the NFL, and he’s a part of that.
He puts so much stress on a defense because he can run the ball, too. They have to prepare for that. I know how hard it is to prepare for. With quarterbacks like Russell and Kaepernick, you definitely have to focus on both aspects.
Russell has a very calm demeanor, and he understands when it’s time to make that big play. Like last week, when he threw that big pass to Doug Baldwin — he’s going to come through for us every time. So he’s not worried about what anybody else is saying. If the defense is going to give him something, he’s going to take it because he trusts his teammates. As a teammate, I really appreciate that about him. It shows the leader he is. He’s putting his pride to the side, and not trying to force anything, or make it about Russell Wilson. It’s about our team.
Russell has a saying, “Ignore the noise.” It’s been contagious on our team because that’s very true. You can’t worry about what people say about you. They don’t know you, for one, and also, they don’t define you.
I’m definitely glad to have Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch on my side. Marshawn is the heart and soul of our offense. I love that guy. Just watch the way he runs. He fights for every yard. I just watch sometimes and think, “Man this guy is amazing.” You just watch a guy like that take over the game. He’s got people throwing the Skittles at him. We’re blessed to see him. This could be history. He could go down as one of the best to ever do it.
One of the other guys who has really impressed me this year is Doug Baldwin. He is one of the hardest working receivers we have. He doesn’t get the credit he deserves. He’s an undrafted guy, and came in on day one to make an impact on this team. And he’s growing every year. At that slot position, people talk about Wes Welker, but I think Doug has a chance to be better. Welker is not that fast, but he’s crafty, he’s quick and he uses your leverage against you. Doug is the same type of player, and he wants to be the best.
Doug and Sherm are actually very much alike. They’re both very outspoken, they went to the same college and they leave it all on the line every time. You can’t do anything but respect that. They go against each other in practice, and it’s fun to watch. Doug goes against everybody, and I think he gets the best out of everybody. He’s tough on us. One-on-one is an offensive drill as it is and when you’ve got a shifty guy like him in the slot, and you give him all that grass, sometimes he’s going to get the best of you. It kind of goes back and forth between the receiving crew and us.
(But I think we win the most.)
TRUST, TECHNIQUE AND TRUTH
As we head into this week’s game, we do so with a lot of confidence. We know who we are. We don’t have any indecision. We’re not sitting back second-guessing ourselves. We just need to be us. I always say control what you can control. I think if we do that, we’ll be fine.
We definitely have to have our big boy pants on because it’s going to be a very physical game. It’s just going to come down to a rhythm. When you play a team that you’re very familiar with, you just want to get in that groove because you know how they’re going to try to attack you. It’s going to be a matter of going back to the fundamentals.
Tackling is obviously a must. I truly believe we’re going to win this game if we tackle well. Those are the things that will carry you to the top. When you control small things like tracking and technique, they turn into big things. That’s what we bank on. The technique never changes. The player and his style will vary, but if you work your technique to a T — just the simple technique of proper tracking inside out — in practice and walkthroughs, you can tackle anybody.
I know for myself, when I’m getting all pumped up, doing all kinds of crazy stuff, it’s not so much taunting. It’s me feeding off my own energy. And my teammates see that. Sometimes I just stare at them. I just look at them eye-to-eye, and they know what time it is. They feel that connection.
When I stare at the opposing sideline, I want to let the whole team know what they’re up against. I want to let that team feel what we’re all about. I know they feel it because when we’re shaking hands after the game, guys are telling me, “Man, you’re a bad man,” or “Man, it’s just great to watch you play.” I’m so into the game when I make a play, I’m not even screaming at them half the time. It’s just a statement that I’m here, and I’m going to be here the whole game.
Some games, teams don’t come at you and you have to act accordingly. You try to run to the ball and get your plays that way, and also just encourage everybody else. So when the ball is coming your way, you definitely want to soak all that up, and fill the stadium with your energy.
That’s what I’m all about. I want everybody in the stadium to feel what I’m about.
That’s why I always say we’re all connected. We understand what it takes to have that Hawk energy, to finish 60 minutes and win big games. When you add in the variable that we’re only 60 minutes away from the Super Bowl, that’s incredible. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Some guys will play in the league eight or nine years, and won’t ever reach this point.
I’ve been keeping a journal since Week 2 of this season. It’s made me realize that we all have the opportunity to write our own story. This Seattle Seahawks team — along with the 12th man — is a prime example of that, and proof that no destination is too big if you put your mind to it.
I can’t wait to see what the next part of our story is going to be.
Let’s find out.