Hottest team in the NFL right now? How about the Seattle Seahawks, who with 108 combined points in two games now boast a high octane offense to complement their already disruptive D. If the Seahawks’ rowdy home at CenturyLink Field was a tough obstacle to overcome before, their sudden offensive explosion might just make it insurmountable. In six contests at home this year, the team is yet to lose - and it still has two more to play there.
Which might be why the team’s top receiver, Sidney Rice, was pretty upbeat when Team Talk caught up with him on Thursday. With the division leading 49ers coming to town, Sunday’s game represents a chance for Pete Caroll’s young squad to make a serious statement about its readiness to win a championship. ‘The energy (at a Seahawks game) is unreal,’ says Sidney. ‘We feed off it.’
With 734 yards and seven touchdowns on the season so far - not to mention a series of timely catches and clutch big-plays - Sidney is rookie quarterback Russell Wilson’s premier target. He’s been instrumental in the Seahawks’ late-season run and, he notes, they are only just getting started: ‘We don’t talk about it too much. We focus on the task in hand. But… we can be a team to be reckoned with for years to come.’ In this our last Team Talk feature of the fantasy season, he also told us about Wilson’s rapid ascension, recounted what it was like to play with the legendary Brett Favre, and announced he can’t wait for the Seahawks to one day travel to London.
Sidney, the Seahawks are looking as dominant as anybody in the league right now. How far can this team go?
SR: I believe the sky is the limit. We started a little slow but things have picked up and we’ve really opened up the offense for Russell. He has tremendous ability to extend plays and to hit receivers downfield, and it’s been fun. The defense and special teams have been balling every game, so now the offense is playing its part too.
There’s a theory that says the key to success in January and February is going into the playoffs hot. Your thoughts?
SR: No question. You really want that momentum. We’ve still got to play the next two but, hopefully, at the end of it, we’ll be in a good situation.
How important is Sunday’s game versus the 49ers? And what do you have to do to win?
SR: They’re very strong, mentally and physically - and that’s a strong defense we’re going to face. We’ll have to bring our ‘A’ game, make sure we get the right depth on our routes, be on time with the delivery of the ball, and take care of blocking because that’s one of the best units in the league. They have a solid defensive line, sold linebackers, a solid secondary. It’s going to be a battle.
The NFC West title is still in reach as long as you win out. How much does it help to be playing your last two games at home?
SR: Oh man, it’s huge! If you ever go to Seattle, one thing you have to do is go to a Seahawks game. The energy is unreal, we feed off it. You have to see it personally to believe it and to see how the crowd reacts. I think over the last five or six years we’re leading the league in false starts by the road team because it’s so loud. It’s a culture that’s built up around here.
We know you can’t give any injury info away, but how do you deal with a season’s worth of bumps, bruises and big hits?
SR: You just take care of your body as much as possible, and the little things that we do as players are important in that. And we have an excellent staff who look after us.
Let’s get to questions submitted by Twitter followers now. First, Stuart Court asks: ‘When was it you knew that Russell Wilson was 'the guy' and what has it been like working with him as the season has gone on?’
SR: I saw he had the ability to lead the team immediately - he was in the facility every day, learning the playbook, watching film. It’s really paid off, and he’s still here all day and every off day working. He helps us receivers too, because he sees the film before we do and he tells us how he thinks we can match up. It’s been amazing to watch him progress - they’ve put the ball in Russell’s hands and he’s been getting it done.
Darren Sean Murphy wonders: ‘Is there a sense in Seattle that the team is at the start of something big?’
SR: No question. We all know that in our heads, but we don’t talk about it too much. We focus on the task in hand. But we expect to do things right, and definitely it’s the start of something big. We can be a team to be reckoned with for years to come.
From Iain Keddie: ‘Which player on the 49ers defense do you respect the most?’
SR: You can’t choose just one! It’s a very solid defense. Aldon Smith and Justin Smith are two of the best. They have one of the most solid linebacking corps in the league with Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and Ahmad Brooks. A hard-hitting, ballhawk secondary too with Carlos Rogers, Donte Whitner and Dashon Goldson.
Sam Monson asks: ‘You had your best NFL season with Brett Favre at quarterback. How good can your pairing with Russell Wilson be in comparison?’
SR: With Brett it was a little different, because where Russell is a rookie and still learning, Brett was a nineteen year veteran. He’s seen everything so it was a little easier with him, there’s no defense he hadn’t come across. Russell is definitely headed on the right path with all the hard work he puts in. So hopefully he and I can continue to work and continue to help each other get better.
Chris Pitt has written: ‘What are your thoughts about Golden Tate’s touchdown reception to beat Green Bay in Week Three?’
SR: I was pretty pleased, pretty excited. It was a great play and they gave us the touchdown - game over. Against a great team like the Green Bay Packers, you take it how you can get it.
Sambo593 and Niall Joseph Owens both write: ‘Would you like to play a game at Wembley Stadium in London one day?’
SR: Man, I’d love to. I love to travel, and I’m planning a trip to London in the off-season. So if they were to schedule a game there too? I think everybody here would love it. I know we’ve got a lot of fans over there so let’s play a game there and build on that fanbase.
Calvin McDonald says: ‘Do you think the players would react well to the idea of a London franchise?’
SR: Most definitely. There are a lot of smart guys in the league office so if they want to, they can make it happen. As players, we love the fans and it’s exciting to go different places. We were in Toronto, Canada last weekend (for a game versus Buffalo) and they were so excited, so into it.
We’re going to hit you with a little bit of fantasy football now to help out those involved in the NFLUK league (in which players can win a trip to the Super Bowl and other prizes). The big question is: do you recommend fans get Sidney Rice into their lineup this weekend?
SR: Oh, I’m going to let them make the decision! I would just say: choose wisely, and for my part I’ll give it everything I’ve got.
What would you name your own fantasy team?
SR: The Squidneys. That’s one of my nicknames - ‘Squid’ - because it rhymes, so that would be perfect.
Any other players around the league you’d be sure to have in The Squidneys’ line-up?
SR: Man, that’s a tough question. There are a lot of great ones to choose from. I’ll just say that right here in Seattle we have all these great weapons around us, players that can really make it happen.
Back to the situation at hand. Can this season be ‘Super’ for the Seahawks?
SR: No question. It’s what everybody’s goal is; it’s the goal every ball club sets itself as far back as OTAs. The thing is winning a championship. You need to know where you’re going to go, and how you’re going to get there. You need that max effort.
And when Sidney Rice hangs up his cleats, your peers will say about you…
SR: He was one of the hardest working guys there was who gave everything he’s got. I take pride in giving 100% every single play no matter the assignment. I get my job done no matter what.
Any last message for Seahawks supporters out here?
SR: Yeah. Say hi to all the fans in London and the UK, we appreciate all your support! And stay tuned...
To find out who’s up next in our Team Talk interviews, keep an eye on @NFL_UK and @MikeELawrence on Tuesday afternoons. You can submit questions for our next interviewee on Tuesdays @MikeELawrence.