Confidence. Intensity. Preparation. Focus.
These are facets of football—really all sports—that make up the “mental aspect” of the game. These intangible features often get overlooked when picking winners and losers, because talent and physical ability are much easier to see.
During the course of a season, when a team is limited in terms of acquiring talent or developing physical ability, these are areas that can be impacted most by good coaching.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll detailed part of his philosophy surrounding these aspects of the game during his press conference on Wednesday.
With the trade deadline less than a week away, fans have been looking around the league at a number of players who might be available and setting their sights high. Although the primary concern seems to be surrounding the team’s receiving corps, Carroll doesn’t see a team that needs a lot of upgrades. He says the issues they have aren’t about the current personnel.
“I think we’re fine,” Carroll acknowledged. “I don’t think that has anything to do with what’s going on. It’s just the process that we’ve gone through in developing the quarterback and the offense and all of that. It’s taken away from the numbers. I think our guys can make the plays.
Carroll acknowledged there have been dropped passes, particularly in the losses to the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers, but he believes this is an offense that can play well. Until the recent loss to San Francisco, this is a unit that had been improving statistically. It’s also an offense that has been consistently scoring on the first drive of the game. The only time the Seahawks have punted on the opening drive was against the Packers, yet only one opening drive has resulted in a touchdown.
So, while Seahawks fans can’t be expected to see any new faces to show up midseason, there are still many others areas this Seattle team can continue to improve with its current roster.
Considering six of seven games this year have been decided by a touchdown or less, continuing to play in tight games and not allowing the distractions and pressure that come along with that are a key to winning those close games.
“It’s the ability to hold onto the focus that it’s taken to get there, first off,” said Carroll.
He says it takes practice to get to that point.
“The idea is that you prepare and you practice at your highest clip as much as you possibly can, and then you hold onto that and you just continue to do the things that are asked of you—the things you’re capable of doing—all the way until it’s over.”
Carroll emphasized that players don’t actually need to play better in those situations. They simply need to play to their own abilities.
“You just need to do what you’re capable of doing,” said Carroll. “Most of the time, because of what’s going on—the elements that are adding up—teams make mistakes.”
Carroll believes that having confidence in oneself, coaching players to believe in their abilities, and getting experience with executing in those situations are what helps players improve in situations late in the game when the score is close.
“The ability to do that comes from confidence,” said Carroll. “You’re confident enough that you believe in yourself; you don’t start to try and change things because of the situation, you go and believe that what has gotten you there is okay.”
He continued by saying, “It’s why you see experienced guys are more comfortable in those situations, because they’ve been there before and they’ve proven to themselves they’re okay.”
Getting players to that level is part of what Carroll enjoys most about his job.
“It’s one of my favorite parts, the coaching part, of this business. Teaching guys how to feel confident enough to believe in what they’ve been prepared to do and believing what they can do and they go out there and do it.”
Building that level of confidence and being prepared for those situations is what gives a team its best chance to win, according to Carroll.
“It doesn’t mean you’re going to win, but it does give you your best shot.”
Carroll says he still needs to see the team demonstrate every week that it has the level of intensity that it takes to win consistently and believes they’re almost there. He thinks the team has been able to demonstrate that intensity at home, and the Seahawks home numbers back that up.
With the matchup against the Detroit Lions on Sunday, it would be a perfect week for the team to bounce back from a loss, especially to show that it can bring that intensity on the road. It’s not just about getting a win but keeping pace with San Francisco, too. Despite three road losses to division rivals, the NFC West remains up for grabs, and Seattle is still in a good position.
“We could be in first place after this game,” said Carroll. “So it’s another championship opportunity and we have to be able to match the opportunity with our intensity and focus.”