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Originally published September 22, 2013 at 8:14 PM | Page modified September 23, 2013 at 3:37 PM

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In rout of Jaguars, Pete Carroll and Seahawks impress mostly with mindset

When Carroll gathered the Seahawks for a team meeting last Monday – a rare occurrence so early in the work week – there was a bit of trepidation. It turned out it was just the first salvo of Carroll’s pre-emptive strike against the dreaded letdown.

Seattle Times columnist

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When Pete Carroll gathered the Seahawks for a team meeting last Monday — a rare occurrence so early in the work week — there was a bit of trepidation.

“We thought maybe something big had happened,” said Brandon Browner.

Nah, turned out it was just the first salvo of Carroll’s pre-emptive strike against the dreaded “L-word.”

The coach was fretting, of course, about a letdown against an impending opponent that didn’t carry nearly the same reputation as the 49ers (though if San Francisco doesn’t clean things up quickly, Carroll might find himself needing to give the same speech in December before the Seahawks head down to Candlestick Park).

“He let us know, man, we’ve got to treat this game just like we approached the 49er game,” Browner said. “Every ‘W’ is critical here in this league.”

Seattle fans can savor the Seahawks’ 45-17 romp over the Jacksonville Jaguars for that very reason. They can revel in the fact they are inching ever closer to full strength after welcoming Browner and Chris Clemons back to the lineup.

There was comfort to be taken in the improvement of the passing game, relief in the decline in penalty yards, and satisfaction in the extended opportunity to showcase the second string.

But all that must be taken with not just a grain, but a bushel, of salt, because the Jaguars, despite the best efforts of former Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, are currently the dregs of the NFL.

The talent gap at CenturyLink Field leapt out to the naked eye, just as it had a day earlier at Husky Stadium when UW dismantled Idaho State. It was apparent early that if the Seahawks approached this one with the proper gravity and focus, just about the only thing that could have saved the Jaguars was a lightning delay — or a bee infestation.

So my biggest take-away, in a league which thrives on its “on any given Sunday” mantra, was the Seahawks doing exactly what Carroll preached. His message that every game is a championship opportunity might seem trite, but for the Seahawks to embrace it so impressively bodes well in a season that appears to be teeming with potential mismatches.

“I was fired up for us that we played just the way we should,’’ beamed Carroll.

The result was a succession of highlight-reel plays. Doug Baldwin’s diving grab of a Tarvaris Jackson bomb that Carroll called “the catch of the year for us so far.” Russell Wilson’s pirouette before firing a TD pass to Zach Miller — “just the epitome of what Russell Wilson is,” Baldwin said. Sidney Rice’s leaping grab in the end zone when “I didn’t know who Russell was throwing to,” Baldwin said, “and Sidney just popped out of nowhere to make the catch.” Bobby Wagner’s incredibly athletic tip-and-dive interception.

But what resonated most meaningfully was their dissatisfaction with failing to dominate even more completely. On a day when the noise was not at world-record level and the atmosphere was not a frenetic nonstop party, the quest for perfection was the motivation. And its absence rankled.

“It should have been zero points,” Wagner said firmly. “It was a decent performance, but we felt we should have held them to no points. We wanted to do that.”

Kam Chancellor downplayed his own interception and bemoaned the 17 points and 214 passing yards accumulated by the Jaguars, even though most of them came against the reserves.

“Right now, I still don’t feel happy,” Chancellor said. “Interception, yeah, hooray. But I still think it’s too many yards. We hold ourselves to a high standard. You can ask anybody that, and they’ll say the same thing: That’s too many yards.”

To Earl Thomas, the mindset was the biggest challenge of the day. That was what Carroll was relentless in manipulating from the moment the 49ers game ended. Or, more accurately, from the moment he took the Seahawks job and dropped the phrase “Always compete” for the first time.

That’s not a problem against teams like the 49ers, in games where the whole world seems to be watching. But many teams have fallen into what Browner called “a trap” against the likes of Jacksonville. The Seahawks didn’t, and that bodes more favorably than any of the individual highlights.

“Man, we carry ourselves like champions, and champions get up for every game,” Thomas said. “We don’t pick and choose. We’re just excited to play football, and for the opportunity. Any time we step on the football field, we’re going to try to dominate.”

Browner threw out an addendum that indicated no meeting will be necessary on Monday as they prepare for the Houston Texans: “We have a road game next week. We have to step up and prepare the same way: A championship game every week.”

Attention to detail
Maybe it was just playing Jacksonville, but Seattle showed marked improvement in a few areas compared to the first two games of the season, particularly on offense.
CategoryFirst two gamesAgainst Jacksonville
Total net yards660479
Penalties-yards19-1834-24
Passing first downs1816
Passing touchdowns25
Points4145

Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or lstone@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @StoneLarry


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