DANNY ONEIL

Seahawks must capitalize on their opportunity to start fast

Sep 9, 2016, 12:03 AM | Updated: 12:07 am
After starting the past two seasons at 3-3 and 2-4, Seattle is in position to hit the ground runnin...
After starting the past two seasons at 3-3 and 2-4, Seattle is in position to hit the ground running this year. (AP)
(AP)

The Seahawks’ road back to the Super Bowl starts at home.

At least that will be the hope the city carries into Seattle’s season opener against Miami on Sunday at CenturyLink Field. And after opening last year with back-to-back road games, it sure will be nice to have a home crowd cheering on the Seahawks, right Richard Sherman?

“Honestly, I don’t even think about things like that,” the cornerback said.

Wait. What?

“Just go out there and you play football,” he continued. “I don’t think about whether we’re home or away, starting here or starting there.”

OK. How about the coach then. Pete Carroll has only deepened the connection these fans feel toward this franchise, and after a year in which Seattle stumbled to a 2-4 start, he’s got to be smiling at the thought of beginning this season in these confines that are notably not-so-friendly for opponents.

“It’s nice to be home, sure,” Carroll said. “We love to be able to open up against someone here at home and have the 12s ready to go … but in another year when we’re on the road and you ask me the same question, I’ll say it’s no big deal.”

OK. Fine. Then I’ll say it: It’s a huge benefit that Seattle starts this season at home after being dealt dirty by the NFL’s schedule makers a year ago. It’s even more important the Seahawks capitalize on that Sunday against the Dolphins given Seattle’s middling starts to the past two seasons.

Carroll may emphasize his team’s ability to finish, but it’s how the Seahawks’ fare the first five games that will determine the trajectory of this season. None of those five opponents reached the postseason a year ago. Three of those games will be played in Seattle.

After two seasons in which the Seahawks stumbled through the first two months of the schedule only to find their stride in the back stretch, they need to hit the ground running this year.

Of course, Carroll wouldn’t put it that way. Sherman wouldn’t either. To imply that the beginning of this season is more important would imply that the first halves of the last two seasons were somehow less important.

But this isn’t about focus or effort or anything like that. It’s about the reality that the three times the Seahawks have reached the Super Bowl in franchise history, they have been the No. 1 seed in the NFL playoffs.

See: The road back to the Super Bowl starts at home.

Carroll has conceded that going to the Super Bowl presents a unique challenge. He hasn’t used the term hangover. He certainly hasn’t described it as a burden. But Carroll has said that whether you win that final game and earn the trophy or you lose it, going to the Super Bowl has created issues that have lingered into the following season.

It was true in 2014 when the Seahawks found themselves 3-3, having traded away Percy Harvin. They needed a hellacious closing kick to win the conference. The hole was even deeper last season when Seattle was 2-4, having held a fourth-quarter lead in each of those four losses. This time Seattle couldn’t do better than a wild-card berth. It took a missed field-goal attempt for Seattle to even reach the divisional round against Carolina, where the Seahawks promptly fell into a 31-point first-half hole.

That doesn’t make it more important for Seattle to get off to a good start this season. It was just as important for the Seahawks to do that last year as well as the year before.

The difference is that the schedule is more conducive this year. So is the lead-up to this season, which included no training-camp holdouts for the first time since 2013. And with all that going for the Seahawks, the road back to the Super Bowl starts at home. It’s up to the Seahawks to take advantage of that on Sunday.

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Seahawks must capitalize on their opportunity to start fast