In last Sunday’s loss to the San Diego Chargers, Earl Thomas admitted he didn’t feel quite like himself.
“That game was so weird,” ET III said a meeting with the media Thursday. “It was different. It just felt funny out there. Even my body language when I watch myself on film, I have no regrets from the game, but one thing I can say, just my technique and my posture wasn’t aggressive. I just think that’s part of my mindset that I need to turn on.”
Battling extreme heat and humidity, Earl and the rest of the Seahawks were never able to find a rhythm offensively or defensively, and fell 30-21.
Rather than get down on himself about the loss, ET III—who missed part of the game with incapacitating leg cramps for the first time in his career—used the game as a learning opportunity for how to deal with adversity.
“That taught me a valuable lesson just to fight those negative thoughts in your head, because when you’re playing football and you’re in that arena, I think your biggest competitor is yourself,” No. 29 said Thursday. “Because you’re battling your thoughts and you’re battling this and thought, but you overcome those.”
Even immediately after that defeat, ET said he would treat it as a learning experience. And rather than entering Sunday’s pivotal Super Bowl rematch against the Denver Broncos with his spirits down, Earl says that he has a reenergized psyche and championship desire.
“I think I definitely got my championship spirit back after that loss,” ET III said. “My crave, my hunger and my desire to be unstoppable. I didn’t think I lost it, but after that game it was like, dang, something just hit me. I’ve been focused ever since, and it definitely feels good to be feeling like this.
“I’m thinking I was on the right path, but I guess this is the [championship feeling] 2.0. I can’t speak for everyone else, but believe when I’m in this mindset, I’m going to go on a tear.”
The Seahawks will need everything the three-time All-Pro has to offer as they attempt to bounce back against the Broncos at CenturyLink Field. Peyton Manning and Co. have started out the season on a high, capturing two close wins against the Indianapolis Colts and the Kansas City Chiefs.
With Wes Welker coming back from suspension to join Denver’s already stacked receiving core, No. 29 and the Legion of Boom will have their hands full. Even after he missed three regular season games due to concussions, Welker was third on the Broncos in receptions (73), and fourth in receiving yards (778) and fifth in overall touchdowns (10) last season. ET is approaching the game as if Welker will be in his usual Pro Bowl form.
“They’re putting [Welker] in the game,” Earl said. “They’re not going to waste him and put him on the sidelines, I don’t care how many games he’s missed. He’s that vital to that offense. Especially when you’re playing a defense like ours, you need all of your great players out there. We know what type of receiver he is. He’s a feisty slot guy, option guy, gonna go away from your leverage. They do a great job of just getting him open in space with a lot of pick routes so we have to be prepared for that.”
On the season so far, Manning is 43-of-62 with six touchdowns and no interceptions, good for 511 yards and a 126.5 quarterback rating. Having seen him work in the past, ET is prepared for the type of elite quarterback that will be across the field Sunday.
“He knows so much,” Earl said about Manning. “He’s been in the league a long time. You have to deal with the false stuff he does, the fake audibles and when he recognizes an indicator that we’re giving him I think we have to kind of hold in our shell and not show the cover three that we always do. I’m not trying to say we need to change what we do, but we need to be more patient.”
The Legion of Boom will have to keep a special eye out for tight end Julius Thomas, who has caught four of Manning’s six passing touchdowns, and will be looking for similar success this weekend.
“There may be some things that we saw on tape that we may try to do with me, but ultimately you’ve got to go out there and play your own game,” Julius Thomas said. “The Chargers were able to go out there and have some success last week, and we’re going to have to find our own success. If that’s with me being able to have a good game then I have no problem with that. But whatever it takes for us to get the W.”
In light of Seattle’s Super Bowl XLVII demolishing of the Broncos, Earl was asked if he is expecting anything different from the Denver offense.
“I don’t think it’s that much different,” ET III said. “They’re going to see what we had trouble with in past games and even in previous years. Last week San Diego hit us with some concepts from the Atlanta game we lost. We gotta start thinking like that, how teams are going to attack us and that’s how we have to prepare.”
In their pre-game press conferences, Manning and Denver coach John Fox praised the Seattle defense that nearly shut them out just over seven months ago.
“I think the whole secondary is very active,” Manning said. “They play their defense well. They communicated well. They’re on the same page. You see them communicate and talk to each other. That’s one of their strengths and so we’ll have our game plan and hopefully we’ll go out there and execute it.”
“They’re very talented,” Fox said. “I would not just single out one area of their defense. I think their whole defense plays good team defense, very well coached. They’re fast, athletic, long, all the things you look for in positions on defense. And then at home, on turf, when you’re operating with noise, it can sometimes make them even better.”
The Seahawks offense will also need to step up to the challenge. Against the Chargers on Sunday, the team was uncharacteristically ineffective, particularly on third down, where they went just 3-of-8 and failed to convert in the fourth quarter where it mattered most.
Above all, Earl said that he believes that entering Sunday’s game with a chip on the team’s shoulder bodes well for the Seahawks and their chances against the Broncos.
“We’re ready to play right now. I love when we have something to prove. We’re on top, and we have to protect what we have. We have to capture every moment.”
Kickoff from CenturyLink field is set for 1:25 p.m. PDT on CBS.