From the Sidelines: Seahawks vs. Rams

With the opening round of the playoffs just days away, the Seahawks have emerged from their division title-winning 16-6 victory over the Rams on Sunday with a certain attitude hardly seen the entire season.

A lot more than a new division banner was earned on Sunday night.

The Seahawks also gained something that will serve them quite well as they embark into the playoffs this weekend against the Saints.

A heavy dose of swagger and confidence.

With the opening round of the playoffs just days away, the Seahawks have emerged from their division title-winning 16-6 victory over the Rams on Sunday with a certain attitude hardly seen the entire season. It’s a special energy that carried the Seahawks through the winner-take-all matchup and one that could have a major impact as the postseason begins on Saturday.

The swagger was seen in the locker room before the game. It was seen on the field during the game. And it was seen in the postgame celebration.

The Seahawks in Game 16 were a different team than the previous 15 contests. They knew it — and that’s the most beautiful part of it all, an aspect that could carry them further than anyone could’ve expected in recent weeks.

Perhaps there was no better illustration of this new-found confidence than when the Seahawks, instead of streaming to the locker room, gathered at midfield after the victory to celebrate.

“This is what we came here to do!” Coach Pete Carroll exclaimed in the midst of the jubilation as the team soaked in the division championship, a goal since Carroll’s first day in Seattle nearly one year ago to the day.

But why was that celebration so momentous? Because the idea for it was introduced 24 hours before the game when Carroll, in the Saturday night team meeting, told his team, “When we win, let’s gather at the 50 to celebrate together.”

The operative word was “when.” The Seahawks had a belief that they were going to win the game and win the division — even though the circumstances (i.e. seven losses in the previous nine games) didn’t lend to it. But that’s where their power came from — they were resolute and strong in the face of adversity, sticking to their philosophy, which paved the way for Sunday night’s shutdown victory.

“There isn’t any doubt how we’re going to play,” Carroll said on Saturday night. “It’s going to be awesome.”

That internal confidence was on display throughout Sunday — and never more so than from the very men who don the pads and play the game. The energy in the locker room before the game was unprecedented, the action of the field packed more punch than any other game this season and the postgame party was definitely worthy of one that was months in the making. And it wasn’t the high-energy coaches coaxing the players into anything — it was pure self-fueled excitement.

“How bad do you want it?” defensive end Kentwan Balmer yelled out in the locker room before the game.

Then after Matt Hasselbeck, pacing back and forth, gave an inspired pregame speech, center Chris Spencer called his teammates together and implored them before the team streamed onto the field.

The energy and confidence carried the Seahawks to a 7-3 halftime lead before the players went to work again on raising the energy in the locker room at the break.

“Who cares what everyone else is saying,” defensive end Chris Clemons said in the locker room at halftime. “We’ve got a division championship football game to win right now.”

In uncharacteristic fashion, Carroll didn’t give a pregame or halftime speech to the team; he let the players do the talking — and the walking — themselves.

“You have an opportunity to make a screaming statement of who you are,” Carroll told the players on Saturday night. “Every single step we go it’s a statement of who we are.”

The Seahawks’ statement sure was a screaming one on Sunday night. They played in a manner that gives them a swagger they’ve been seeking all season. They eventually found it in Week 17, just in time to capture a division crown and march into the playoffs. Better late than never, right?

“You guys are champions of the NFC West,” Carroll said after the game. “You got it done when it counted most.”

“This is what it feels like!” Spencer yelled out during the postgame celebration in the locker room.

Now that the Seahawks know what “it” feels like, can they carry it on to the playoffs that start on Saturday? Questions will become answers very soon.

“It was such a wonderful night to finish it like this,” Carroll said in his postgame speech. “It’s a testament of the strength of you guys staying together. You hung in there together. That’s what brought us here.

“Now we have a great opportunity, and we’re going to maximize it.”

The most exciting part of this confidence boost is that it signals a beginning for the Seahawks.

“You should all feel so good,” Carroll said to wrap up his postgame address. “But here’s what’s really frickin’ cool — this is just where it starts. Do you realize we get to come right back here on Saturday afternoon?”

And the best news of all is that they’re not coming back empty-handed. Their new-found swagger and confidence will be along for the ride.