EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Seahawks’ road to Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium takes a stop Sunday at, well, MetLife Stadium.
And it’s on the field of their ultimate destination the Seahawks hope to regain their traction after being thrown a little off course last week in San Francisco.
Seattle will kick off against the New York Giants at 10 a.m. hoping to show that all is well despite a 19-17 loss at San Francisco that snapped a seven-game winning streak and dropped the Seahawks to 11-2.
The loss also delayed Seattle’s clinching of the NFC West title and capturing of home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.
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As Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman was quick to remind anyone and everyone, though, “everything is the same, everything is right in front of us.”
Indeed, Seattle can accomplish all of its regular-season goals in one fell swoop Sunday. If Seattle wins and the 49ers, who are playing at Tampa Bay at 10 a.m. tie or lose, then the Seahawks will win the NFC West title for the first time since 2010.
And if Seattle wins, the 49ers lose or tie, and the New Orleans Saints (playing at St. Louis at 1:25 p.m.) lose, the Seahawks will capture home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, making the final two games irrelevant.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said the stakes of the game should assure that there won’t be any lingering hangover from the loss at Candlestick Park.
“I think our guys, they’re prepared to respond really well,” he said. “So I’ll be surprised if they don’t. It’s such a big opportunity that we should be right on it.”
What the Seahawks say won’t be on their minds is that this could be the first of two trips this season to MetLife Stadium.
“Nah, not at all,” Sherman said. “We’ll go there and fight hard with them and try to get a win out of it, but that’s all you’re thinking about right now. You can’t think that far down the line.”
Not with a few problems that need addressing first, as the game in San Francisco illustrated.
The Seahawks were undone in part by nine penalties for 85 yards against the 49ers, and rank second in the NFL in penalties enforced for the season at 104.
Most notably, the Seahawks have been called 11 times for defensive pass interference, tied with the Eagles for most in the NFL, and seven times for defensive holding, which is tied for third. The Seahawks were flagged three times for defensive holding last week, and safety Earl Thomas said the team’s reputation might be catching up to it a bit.
“Sometimes coaches are complaining to the refs and letting them know before the game that we are very aggressive and going to be holding, so-called, and the refs are kind of looking at any ticky-tack stuff,” Thomas said. “So we’ve definitely got to be aware of that. But I always want to stay aggressive. I don’t think the aggressive nature is going to change. But we are going to be more conscious of stopping holding or doing whatever it is because that’s just like a turnover when we stop a team on third down and offset that with a holding penalty or a pass interference.”
Figure them to get a test against a Giants team that, while 5-8 and already out of the playoff hunt, still has a potential Hall of Fame QB in Eli Manning and dangerous receivers in Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks.
And Seattle hasn’t put up running numbers the past three weeks as it had been, averaging 102 yards against the Vikings, Saints and 49ers compared to a season average of 141.5.
Snow is possible Sunday, which could put more of an onus on the running game.
Carroll said he wasn’t worried about the running numbers, saying the circumstances of each game helped dictate the stats.
“I have no problem with what’s going on,” he said. “I think we still have a lot of confidence that we can run the football and that we will continue to.”
That was the theme of the week.
“It’s a very humbling experience and I’m glad it happened,” Thomas said of the loss to the 49ers. “We still have a chance to be where we want to be.”
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Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @bcondotta