They know what it’s like to play at Soldier Field, but the Seattle Seahawks are expecting a much different team than the one they defeated, 23-20, during the regular season nearly three months ago.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said his team will stick to the same schedule used in October, traveling to Chicago on Friday afternoon and holding a final walk-through practice at a local high school Saturday.
But Carroll does not expect the familiar surroundings to dampen his team’s enthusiasm as it moves forward in the postseason.
“We had a good experience, we know that,” Carroll said. “But that’s not a battle cry – I told these guys that doesn’t mean anything. We just know where we’re going and we know what it feels like. We know where we’re going to practice the day before the game, and we’ll know the sights and sounds of that stadium.”
Added Seattle tight end John Carlson: “It’s good for us that we’ve been there, we’ve been through it, and we’ve done the travel thing. We’ve proven to ourselves that we can go into that stadium and beat this team. With that being said though, (it is a) completely, completely new game. It’s playoff time. They’re not going to underestimate us so it’ll be a battle.”
Carroll said he expects linebacker Lofa Tatupu and receiver Ben Obomanu to practice this week. Tatupu suffered a concussion in the fourth quarter of Seattle’s 41-36 win over New Orleans, and Obomanu suffered a dislocated shoulder in the first half but returned to play.
“Lofa got hit in the head, but he responded very well today,” Carroll said. “I was very encouraged by his turnaround from yesterday. … And Ben Obomanu really was on the field with a dislocated shoulder, and by the next series was back in there and catching passes.
“So that was a phenomenal recovery, and we’re hoping he’s going to make a good recovery in practice this week. We think both those guys will practice before the end of the week.”
One thing that will be different when the Seahawks face Chicago this time is that linebacker Lance Briggs will play for the Bears. The six-time Pro Bowl selection was a late scratch in October because of a left ankle injury.
“He’s huge,” Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. “I think he’s arguably one of the best defensive players in the game. I think he’s a great player. Going into the game we fully expected him to play. He didn’t play, and that was a big deal.
“So for us to sit back and say, ‘Hey, we beat them at their place, we can do it again.’ That would be a dangerous way to feel because Lance Briggs did not play in that game. He is (a) big, big-time difference maker and a great football player. So as hard as this game is going to be, the fact that he’s back up takes it to another level.”
Carroll said his team is confident, and will not resort to using the underdog role and the national outcry about a sub-.500 team making the playoffs as motivation.
“The story lines that you guys come up with all the time are kind of the ones we don’t use,” joked Carroll. “We kind of have our own story lines we go with. … We pursue the avenues of the standards we set for ourselves and the way we prepare, and the expectations that we have that are consistent, the ones that never change.”