TORONTO – Greetings from, well, not Buffalo, but the Rogers Centre in Canada’s largest city. The Seahawks will play the Bills here this afternoon in the fifth – and final – regular-season game of the deal the Bills signed with Rogers Communications Inc. in 2008 to lease one “home” game each year as well as three preseason games to the Toronto-based company for $78 million.
How’s that worked out for the Bills? They’re 1-3 in their previous four regular-season games played here, and have not exactly found a new fan base or even enlarged the existing one.
As defensive end Mario Williams, the Bills’ big free-agent acquisition this year, told reporters this week: “Even if it is supposed to be a home game, I mean, you can’t really say it’s going to be that way. You’re going somewhere where some people they might not even care much about football. It’s not really a big deal. They don’t care who wins.”
Ah, but we digress. And the Seahawks cannot afford to do that today.
This game that means so much to the Seahawks is wedged between the impressive victories they posted the past two weeks – over the Bears in Chicago and against the Cardinals at CenturyLink Field – and the much-anticipated nationally televised rematch against the NFC West-leading 49ers next week in Seattle.
It also is against an opponent that’s 5-8, and that a much-different Seahawks team last played in 2008. And it’s in a city where hockey rules (even with the NHL lockout moving into its third month) and the CFL Argonauts just won the Grey Cup.
At 8-5, the Seahawks currently hold the No. 5 seed – or first wild-card berth – in the NFC playoff picture. With a win today, and a 49ers’ loss to the Patriots in New England tonight, the Seahawks could move atop the division by beating the 49ers next week.
The Seahawks also are down to their fourth and fifth options at cornerback, with second-year corner Byron Maxwell and rookie Jeremy Lane stepping in on the right side and at the nickel spot because Brandon Browner (suspension), Marcus Trufant (injury) and Walter Thurmond (injury) are not available.
Yes, this one has all the trappings of a trap game. Just don’t mention that to Pete Carroll. The Seahawks’ third-year coach cringed when the subject was broached after Friday’s practice.
“Oh no, not around here. No trap games, I don’t even know what that means,” he said, before adding, “On the other end of the spectrum, I guess I believe in it so much that we start talking about how you respond from games – different types of games – the first day we start talking to these guys about going into game time. Because they can be factors, and if you don’t handle it right, you can get in trouble. But we have a whole mindset and a discipline about it that I hope it keeps us going.
“The idea is that you don’t want to play to the situation. You don’t want to have to try to play up to the situation or whatever. The conversation, the language that we use, the expectations, the way we practice, everything is geared to come back to a consistent, balanced approach so that we don’t become a team that goes up and down.”
The Seahawks’ “ups” have been uplifting – especially the wins over the Packers, Patriots and Vikings at home and the overtime win against the Bears in Chicago; as well as the more decisive victories against the Cardinals, Jets and Cowboys. Just as the “downs” have been forehead-slappers – losses on the road to the Cardinals, Rams, Lions and Dolphins.
“Really this team has been very solidly consistent, all the way from preseason throughout,” Carroll said. “We don’t win all of the games, but we’re playing at a pretty good clip. And I’m proud of that. I think that’s something that these young guys have already captured.”
Point made. The Seahawks’ five losses have all come on the road, and by a combined 24 points. The Seahawks had a chance to win each in the fourth quarter, and actually had fourth-quarter leads against the Lions and Dolphins. They have compensated for those losses by going 6-0 at home, and finding ways to win in Carolina and Chicago.
Now comes today’s game – a home game for the Bills that really isn’t; a road game that means so much to the Seahawks because of what they’ve just done and what lies ahead next week.
“Now we will see how we finish,” Carroll said. “But we have continued to hold on to the right mentality regardless of who we’re playing.”
Today, it’s also a matter of where they’re playing.
Enjoy the game, with kickoff set for 1:05 p.m. PT. You can watch on Fox (KCPQ/13 in the greater Seattle area) and listen on 710 ESPN and KIRO Radio 97.3 FM.