Thursday, September 12, 2013
SEATTLE — It was asking too much, of course, to expect that Pete Carroll or Jim Harbaugh would add more heat to the white-hot hype already surrounding Sunday’s Seahawks-49ers game at CenturyLink Field.
Wednesday, in meetings with reporters, the coaches predictably took turns out one-game-at-a-time-ing each other, stressing that it’s no more important than any other they will play this season.
“Not to make light of anything,’’ Carroll said. “That’s just the way we look at it. I don’t expect everybody to understand or comply with that. That’s just the way we do it.”
Countered Harbaugh: “The next game on the schedule is the biggest game of the year, that’s how we look at our opponents each week. The most important game to win is the next one that you’re playing.”
Players on each side, though, couldn’t help but veer just a bit from the script.
In Seattle, a few Seahawks admitted that while during the week they have to approach the game the same as any other, Sunday night figures to have a little different vibe than usual.
“It won’t feel the same (as any other game) because the atmosphere will be completely different,’’ said Seattle linebacker K.J. Wright. “It will be louder and faster than a regular game.’’
And while the coaches stayed as far away from rivalry talk as possible, players acknowledged it’s impossible to ignore what is building between the teams, each expected to battle for supremacy in the NFC West and a trip to the Super Bowl.
“It’s all about trying to win this division and own the NFC, and obviously they have been doing it the last couple of years,’’ said Seattle safety Earl Thomas. “So we definitely want to come out on top this time.’’
Seattle almost got there last year, finishing 11-5 to San Francisco’s 11-4-1.
The Seahawks could have made a case as the best in the division when the season ended thanks to a 42-13 win over the 49ers in the second-to-last game of the year.
It was San Francisco, though, that was able to do what Seattle couldn’t in the playoffs, winning in Atlanta to get to the Super Bowl.
The loss in Seattle last season was the worst for the 49ers under Harbaugh, entering his third season as San Francisco’s coach.
Coming against Carroll, with whom he had a notable rivalry during three seasons while Harbaugh was at Stanford and Carroll at USC, undoubtedly gnawed at Harbaugh.
Harbaugh, though, didn’t want to talk about last year’s game much during a teleconference with Seattle reporters Wednesday. Asked if there were a few things he could take way from that game, he responded, “Um, no.’’
San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick was similarly tight-lipped during a conference call with Seattle reporters in which he mostly offered one-sentence cliché-filled answers.
Asked what he remembered of the defeat in Seattle last year, he said simply that “we played bad.’’
Kaepernick, though, opened up slightly more to reporters in the Bay Area when asked about the loss last year, quoted by The San Jose Mercury News saying “we’re going up there to prove that’s not who we are.’’
And running back Frank Gore, in the same article, said this about Richard Sherman: “I heard him talk all offseason. I guess he’s a good player. Everyone talks good about him. Everyone talks good and bad about him.’’
While the talk might have been muted Wednesday, few expect it will be Sunday night, a game NBC coveted enough that it bypassed a matchup of Peyton Manning and Eli Manning.
“There’s a mutual respect,’’ Thomas said. “But at the same time, some of those guys talk smack, and some of our guys talk smack. I think it’s just two competitive teams that really try to get after each other.’’
It’s a game unlikely to feel like just one of 16 on the schedule, even if the players and coaches try to convince themselves during the week that it is.
“It’s definitely a rivalry,’’ said Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin. “You’ve got Jim Harbaugh, you’ve got Pete Carroll, some history there. And at the same time it’s a conference game, and some would say the two best teams in this conference are the 49ers and the Seahawks.
“So all that may play a factor to the media, to the outside world. To us, we are just going to approach it the same way.’’