Seahawks coach Pete Carroll wants players focused on game, not rivalry
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Pete Carroll is interested in winning the NFC championship, not a rivalry. So he'll be spending a lot of time this week focusing his Seahawks players on the game against the 49ers instead of the story lines they share with the 49ers.
"The last thing I'm looking for is something else to get fired up about," he said with at least an acknowledgment of the deep similarities and hostilities between the two division foes. "We don't need that here."
He may not have to do much preaching in that regard. Defensive end Cliff Avril said he tried to watch Sunday's divisional playoff game between the 49ers and the Panthers -- the game that would decide which team would head for Seattle to play the Seahawks! -- but couldn't make it through.
"I fell asleep at halftime," he said, hardly frothing at the mouth over the upcoming opponent. "But I watched a little bit of it [Monday] as well."
Like just about every head coach in the NFL, Carroll has preached a one-game-at-a-time philosophy to his team. Now, with the one game deciding a trip to the Super Bowl, he's relying on the same structure to pull the Seahawks through.
"This is an NFC championship, but in that regard, it's not different from the preparations we've called for in other games," he said. "We hopefully will find our best as we go through this. The whole design of the mentality and the language and all the things we talk about is to get us ready for this opportunity, this moment."
The fact that the two teams play in the same division does change things a bit. The last time two division rivals met for an NFC title was in 2011, when the Packers beat the Bears in Chicago. Before that, you have to go back to when the 49ers beat the Rams -- the Los Angeles Rams -- after the 1989 season.
Such familiarity has, at times, led to contempt between the 49ers and Seahawks, two teams that have been ascending franchises during the last three seasons. Their hard feelings go back even further than that, though, to when Carroll was at Southern Cal and 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh was at Stanford.
Actually, Carroll said Monday, it goes back even past that. When Harbaugh was coaching at the University of San Diego, he tried to recruit Carroll's son Nate to play for him. Nate wound up attending Southern Cal and now is a Seattle offensive assistant. Pete Carroll didn't host that home visit from Harbaugh. "Glena took that one," he said, referring to his wife.
Carroll will be taking this one, the next visit from Harbaugh to his living room at CenturyLink Field. The 49ers and Seahawks split their games this season, but the Seahawks have won their last two meetings at home by a combined score of 71-16.
"The ultimate challenge I have is to keep our focus on what's going on right now," Carroll said. "The fact that [the Super Bowl] is out there a couple of weeks, yeah, we know it. This is championship time. The preparation leads all to this point right here, and then we'll start over in a couple of weeks. If we're lucky enough."