By Brady Henderson
It's a challenge coaches would prefer to have, but a challenge nonetheless.
And according to Pete Carroll, keeping the favored Seahawks from becoming overconfident based on what happened the last time they faced New Orleans is a priority as they prepare for Saturday's rematch in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs.
"That's real important," he told 710 ESPN Seattle's "Brock and Danny" on Monday, "and that will be a point of emphasis that that has nothing to do with what's going on now. We're going to kick right into the mode that it's championship time, and that's what we've been preparing for all along."
One of the reasons the top-seeded Seahawks got to this point – hosting a divisional-round game after a first-round bye – was because of their Week-13 win over New Orleans. It was actually more of a dismantling. The Seahawks scored 17 points before New Orleans gained a first down and finished with a 429-188 edge in total yards. It was the Saints' worst game offensively since 2006 in terms of points (seven) and passing yards by Drew Brees (148).
|• Pick'em | 'Pete Carroll Show' | John Clayton||• O'Neil: Hawks mantra: They deal with us||• O'Neil: QBs Wilson, Brees play different roles||• O'Neil: TE Jimmy Graham is the mismatch||• O'Neil: FS Earl Thomas is the equalizer||• O'Neil: WR Percy Harvin is the wild card||• Moore: Don't expect another blowout win||• Moore: Harvin should be turned loose||• Huard: Seahawks should be able to run||• Henderson: Wilson hopes for pressure|
So thorough was the Seahawks' win that it made it all but official that the NFC playoffs would be going through CenturyLink Field.
But while the Seahawks will certainly watch the film in preparation for the rematch, they won't expect things to go as easily as they did the last time.
"It's like a first-time experience, and you don't add up what happened before and you say, 'OK, it's going to happen like that again.' I think that's a common trap to fall into, that the game is going to be a game just like we've seen," Carroll said. "Everybody wants to kind of think that, and that's not the case necessarily. So we're going to take this as a brand-new experience, first time ever. And here we go."
Carroll doesn't need to look far for a cautionary tale.
These same teams were in a similar situation three years ago, albeit with the roles reversed. The Saints were the heavy favorites in a wild-card game against the Seahawks in Seattle. They had won the Super Bowl the previous year and beaten Seattle earlier that season, and it seemed like a sure thing they'd advance to the divisional round until Matt Hasselbeck and Marshawn Lynch helped the Seahawks pull off one of the biggest upsets in playoff history.
Anything is possible in the NFL, which is why Carroll doesn't want the Seahawks to do anything other than what got them to this point.
"I'm hoping that you see the team that we've seen all along," he said. "I think that's one of the greatest challenges is that you stay in character and you stay true to who you are. We don't want to change. We love the way we are, the way we play. We know that we're good enough to win football games here and we're good enough to really make a big run, but we have to stay in character, and that's what's most important."Follow Brady Henderson on Twitter @BradyHenderson.