The Seattle Seahawks have come a long way since opening with a loss to the St. Louis Rams.
With a wild-card spot secured, the Seahawks don't expect to let up while trying to win a sixth straight contest and continue their home dominance of the Rams on Sunday.
Seattle (9-5) fell 34-31 in overtime at St. Louis and dropped to 0-2 with a 10-point loss at Green Bay. The Seahawks sat 2-4 before winning seven of eight to secure a fourth consecutive playoff trip.
''I think you have to stay with what you know and stay the course and make it work out for you,'' coach Pete Carroll said. ''That doesn't mean you don't adapt. You're always adjusting and adapting. But the main themes that you live by, you need to stay true to it.''
That means continuing to play at a high level though Arizona has clinched the NFC West and the Seahawks are locked into a wild-card position. Seattle owns the fifth seed based on its tiebreaker over Minnesota (9-5).
“I really don't believe that you should ask players to take a break,” Carroll told the Seahawks' official website. “I think they've got to go. If we decide not to play guys for a different reason, that could happen. That's not going to be because we're going to take a step off of the gas pedal right now.”
It doesn't appear Carroll will reign in Russell Wilson or Doug Baldwin.
Wilson is the first quarterback in league history to throw at least three touchdown passes – 19 total – and no interceptions in five straight games. Baldwin has 10 TD receptions over a four-game span, joining Jerry Rice as the only players to accomplish that feat.
''It's really been great to watch and everybody has enjoyed the heck out of it, and everybody's play has been elevated by it,” Carroll said. “It takes everybody to do things like that.”
With Marshawn Lynch set to miss a sixth consecutive game because of an abdominal injury and Thomas Rawls done with a broken ankle, Christine Michael ran 16 times for 84 yards in last Sunday's 30-13 win over Cleveland.
''He cherishes this opportunity more than he ever has,” Carroll said of Michael, whom Seattle traded to Dallas in September and re-signed after he was released by Washington last week.
Paced by a run game that's averaged 166.6 yards during the five-game winning streak, Seattle has put up 33.8 points per game over the last six. The Rams (6-8) have allowed an average of 23.0 points to go 1-5 on the road compared to 19.5 while going 5-3 at home.
The Seahawks have held two of their last three home opponents to 13 points.
St. Louis, which scored a season high against the Seahawks, recorded 24 or more points four times at home. The Rams totaled 52 while beating Detroit and Tampa Bay over the last two weeks in what could be their final games in St. Louis if a relocation plan to Los Angeles is approved by the league owners.
However, they've averaged 13.7 points on the road and 10.4 during a 10-game skid at Seattle that dates to a 33-27 overtime win Oct. 10, 2004.
“We know who they are. They know who we are,” Rams offensive coordinator Rob Boras said. “It just comes down to us doing what we do better than they do what they do. They haven't changed a whole lot (since Week 1).”
Seattle didn't face Todd Gurley in that contest and now gets a look at the talented back who became the first Rams rookie since Jerome Bettis in 1993 to rush for 1,000 yards (1,023) despite being held to 48 on 21 carries in last Thursday's 31-23 win over the Buccaneers. The Seahawks have held their last five opponents to an average of 54.0 rushing yards.
St. Louis' Case Keenum enjoyed the most efficient of his three starts this season while going 14 of 17 for 234 yards with two TDs and no interceptions against Tampa Bay.
One of those touchdowns went to Tavon Austin, who has five receiving TDs, four rushing and one on a return. The latter came on a 75-yard return of a punt against Seattle in September, when he also scored on the ground.
“Divisional opponents you play twice, so it helps sometimes to mix it up,” Keenum said. “You still have to line up and play. You still have to line up and beat them.”