Among Pete Carroll’s many favored sayings is one he shares with just about every coach of any sport at any level: control what you can control.
Carroll knows what the Seahawks can control Sunday: beating the San Francisco 49ers and getting to 12-4.
What they can’t control is whether the Carolina Panthers can upset the New Orleans Saints or the Chicago Bears can upset the Green Bay Packers.
Seattle needs both to happen to have any shot at the No. 1 seed and the lone bye into the second weekend of the playoffs that comes with it.
But Carroll knows what has to happen first is Seattle taking care of the 49ers, in a game that will be played in Glendale, Arizona, having been moved due to COVID-19 protocols in Santa Clara County.
“We’re excited about that, about the moment and the opportunity and hopefully we’ll play just like that,’’ Carroll said.
That the Seahawks need some help led to the inevitable question this week of how they would approach the game, knowing that, at worst, they will earn the No. 3 seed and will host a game in the wild-card round after winning the NFC West with last week’s 20-9 victory over the Rams.
But Carroll said that’s not a question in his mind.
“We’re going for it,’’ he said. “We’re competing. You’re either competing or you’re not. If you’re letting up, you’re letting up. We ain’t letting up. You don’t want us to (let up). Our fans don’t want us to. They don’t hope that that happens. We’re going for it.’’
On paper, the odds are slim — FootballOutsiders gave Seattle a 6.9% shot at the top seed entering this week. That is now the only seed that gets a bye, after the playoffs were expanded to seven teams in each conference.
But a few things happened around the league this week that, as unfortunate as they were to the teams and players involved, might improve Seattle’s odds some.
News broke Saturday that the Saints’ entire backfield will not play Sunday due to COVID-19 reasons, with New Orleans turning receiver Ty Montgomery back into a running back to fill in against the Panthers.
The Saints remained a 6-point favorite as of Saturday afternoon against a playing-out-the-string Panthers team that has injury issues of its own at running back (Christian McCaffrey and former Seahawk Mike David are not expected to play).
But the Saints news illustrated anew how unpredictable everything is these days.
Green Bay, meanwhile, found out this week that left tackle David Bakhtiari — considered one of the best in the NFL — will be lost for the year due to an ACL injury.
That, along with a Bears team playing at home with a playoff spot on the line, contributed to the betting line dropping from Packers by 5.5 at the beginning of the week to 4 by Saturday.
If both the 11-4 Saints and 12-3 Packers lose, then the door is open for Seattle to get the top seed. (Seattle would win a tiebreaker with Green Bay due to a better record in common games.)
And Seattle knows full well the impact of an untimely upset — if the Seahawks had beaten the Giants at home earlier this month then all they would have needed is to beat the 49ers on Sunday.
But the Seahawks crawled from the dreck of that defeat to win three in a row and get back to at least having a shot at the bye.
Seattle enters Sunday’s game a 7-point favorite against a 49ers team that is experiencing one of the worst Super Bowl hangover seasons ever.
San Francisco has gone 6-9 amid an almost unprecedented number of injuries to key players, including quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, standout defensive end Joey Bosa and former Seahawk cornerback Richard Sherman. (The 49ers have 15 players on IR and ruled out another seven for Sunday’s game who have remained on the active roster.)
But the 49ers last week beat an Arizona team that needed a win to clinch a playoff berth, 20-12, in the same Glendale stadium where they will now play the Seahawks.
And their statistical profile is on par with Seattle’s — the 49ers are gaining just 2.6 yards per game fewer than the Seahawks while allowing 67.6 fewer — with one really notable exception: turnovers.
While Seattle is plus-three in turnover margin, tied for 12th in the NFL, the 49ers are minus-10, or 31st. The 49ers have lost two or more turnovers in eight of their past nine games — the exception coming last week when they lost only one.
San Francisco has remained especially stout on defense despite all the injuries, allowing just 5.1 yards per play, sixth in the NFL, under the stewardship of coordinator Robert Saleh, a former Seahawks assistant who is expected to get his share of looks as a head coach this offseason, and whose players might love to give him one last resume-builder.
“This is a championship team,’’ Carroll said this week of the 49ers. “They have all that in their heart and their background and their experience, their coaching staff, all of that. For them to withstand all of the challenges that they’ve had and to hold it and be able to come back and keep playing football games where they play really good across the board, that’s just a statement of who they are.’’
With the West title already in hand, the Seahawks are also a championship team though.
Now to see if they can get just a little bit more.