That’s the mindset of the Seahawks, who are trying to nail down home-field advantage for the NFC playoffs
No one has to tell the Seattle Seahawks how last season might have turned out if they had won just one or two more road games.
Who knows what could have been had they earned the right to play a postseason game — or two — in front of their notoriously boisterous fans in CenturyLink Field, where they were 8-0 in the regular season.
Could it have meant a berth in the NFC Championship game? Absolutely.
Or even a spot in Super Bowl XLVII? Perhaps.
They’ll never know. But the Seahawks — who lost a divisional playoff game to the Atlanta Falcons on a last-seconds field goal in the Georgia Dome after clipping the home-standing Washington Redskins in the wild-card round — know this: They don’t want to travel that long, hard road again.
Which is why they’re doing everything they can to see that this year turns out better with a methodical step-by-step approach in the regular season to ensure that their “12th Man” gets to see them in the postseason.
The next step for the Seahawks (10-1) is a crucial NFC showdown at home with the New Orleans Saints (9-2) on Monday night.
The Saints are one of only three or four teams that have a real shot at overtaking the Seahawks for the No. 1 or No. 2 seed — which makes Monday night’s game so big.
A win for the Saints would give them the tie-breaker over the Seahawks if they were to finish the season with identical records. The Seahawks can all but wrap up the No. 1 seed if they come out of it with what amounts to a three-game lead on the Saints — counting the head-to-head tie-breaker.
But while the postseason is more than a month away, the Seahawks say they’re already in championship mode.
“Every game is a championship game,” coach Pete Carroll said during a conference call Wednesday. “You never know which one is going to be the one you look back on and say, ‘Boy, if we’d have got that one, we would’ve had this or that.’
“We play every one of them like it’s the biggest game in the world. … It’s the championship game every time we go,” he added. “This happens to be against a great opponent and a well-balanced football team and a winning group and all of that.”
Carroll’s championship-game mantra is resonating with his team, which was only 3-5 away from home last season.
The Seahawks — who scored the go-ahead touchdown in the divisional playoff against the Falcons with 31 seconds left, only to have their hearts broken on a field goal with 8 seconds to play — have been focused from season’s start.
They won their first four games, then had their only hiccup in a 34-28 loss at Indianapolis Colts on Oct. 6. Since then, they’ve won six games in a row — with three of them at home to push their winning streak there to 13. Their last loss in CenturyLink Field was on Dec. 24, 2011, when the 49ers topped them 19-17.
The Seahawks, of course, are fueled by Russell Wilson, a second-year pro who burst onto the scene last year as a 5-foot-11 dual-threat quarterback.
In his rookie campaign, he threw for 3,118 yards and 26 TDs and rushed for 489 yards and five scores, and since then, Wilson’s production hasn’t dropped much, if at all. He has 2,362 passing yards and 19 touchdowns with only six interceptions this year. He has also rushed for 409 yards.
Running back Marshawn Lynch has 925 yards and nine touchdowns as the Seahawks rank third in the NFL with 147.9 yards a game despite not having starting tackles Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini for half the season.
The defense is stout as well.
They rank second in total defense, allowing 293.2 yards per game, and the pass defense, led by cornerback Richard Sherman, is second in giving up just 180.4 yards per outing.
The secondary took a hit this week, however, when cornerback Walter Thurmond was suspended for four games for violating the substance abuse policy. Brandon Browner has also been injured and may not be available for the Saints game — which Carroll knows is a tough spot going into a game against Drew Brees.
“They will pose us all of the challenges of anybody we’ve played,” Carroll said, “so we’re going to have to play at our best, which is what we try to do every week. So if you’re asking me if this is a bigger game than the others, no, it isn’t. It’s the biggest game we can possibly play this week, and we’re going to try to make the most of it.”
Wilson, who is 21-6 as a starter, agreed.
“I look at it as the next opportunity. ... It’s like one of those things where you have to respect the game, and every game truly is a championship game for us,” he said. “The players and coaches, the people in this locker room, just believe that every game does matter.
“We have to do everything we can to have that championship mentality.”