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After 4 years, Carroll and Seahawks reach pinnacle

AP - Sports
After 4 years, Carroll and Seahawks reach pinnacle
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Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll smiles as he takes questions during a news conference at the …

SEATTLE (AP) -- The guitar riffs ripped from the hotel ballroom where owner Paul Allen's band was performing and filled the lobby. Down on the lower level, Hall of Famer Walter Jones posed for pictures with exuberant fans.

This celebration in the wee hours of Monday morning was what Pete Carroll envisioned when he arrived in Seattle in January 2010 and was finally given the full say over an NFL franchise in the hopes of replicating at the professional level what he was able to accomplish in college.

Celebrating was standard practice when Carroll was at USC. But the party that followed Sunday's 43-8 blowout of Denver that gave Seattle its first NFL title topped all those previous celebrations.

It may just be the beginning for the Seahawks.

''This is exactly what we envisioned from day one. We were going to be right here and win this football game - and it just happened to be in New York. which makes it even more special - in the fashion that we were able,'' Carroll said. ''We deserved it and we earned it because this is exactly what we've been preparing for, and we expected it. That may sound cocky. That may sound arrogant. But it's a mentality you can't get in one week.''

Seattle's coronation was the culmination of an overhaul that Carroll and general manager John Schneider embarked upon when they took control of the Seahawks. Nearly 1,000 roster moves later, they could finally take the ultimate satisfaction in what they had created: the envy of the NFL.

The Seahawks are mean and talented on defense. They have one of the most dynamic young players in the game in quarterback Russell Wilson. And the surrounding cast complements him well.

There is very little indication this will be a one-year flash.

''One of the things that happens every so often is teams have a big fallout after they win the Super Bowl,'' Carroll said. ''We're not in that situation.''

Seattle's title will be remembered for a dominating defense that will be regarded among the best in league history. Richard Sherman's play at cornerback - and sometimes his mouth - drew the attention but that defense was far more than Sherman and his ''Legion of Boom'' teammates in the secondary. Linebacker Bobby Wagner was even better in his second season, while Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith was called upon to play different positions throughout the season.

The signings of Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett on the defensive line, and the re-signing of Clinton McDonald after Week 1, gave the Seahawks the deepest defensive line rotation in the league, all with plenty of energy to chase Colin Kaepernick in the NFC title game and harass Peyton Manning in the Super Bowl.

Offensively, the Seahawks were without their top two wide receivers for most of the season between Percy Harvin's preseason hip surgery and Sidney Rice's midseason knee injury. But Harvin showed just why the Seahawks made the investment with his 87-yard kickoff return touchdown that was essentially the final blow in the Super Bowl.

Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin believed they were disrespected all season and were intent on proving critics wrong. For the most part, they did, while Jermaine Kearse continued to play the role of another undrafted gem discovered by Schneider.

The offensive line missed both starting tackles - Breno Giacomini and Russell Okung - for more than half the regular season due to injuries but managed.

And Marshawn Lynch continued to go ''Beast Mode'' at just the right times.

Seattle should be able to keep its core together but there will be difficult decisions to make. There are key free agents, including Baldwin and Tate. There are also potential salary cap decisions to be made with players like Rice, Zach Miller, Chris Clemons, Brandon Mebane and Red Bryant.

Then there are the two looming extensions that could get done this offseason - Earl Thomas and Sherman.

Both players can be extended before the start of next season, but the likelihood is that Seattle tries to get a deal done with Thomas first and then see if an extension will work for Sherman. So far, Sherman has been the ultimate bargain for Seattle, scheduled to make less than $700,000 in base salary next season. Thomas and Sherman are entering the final year of their rookie contracts in 2014 and with both now two-time All-Pro selections, each is likely due a hefty raise.

If Seattle can get both extensions done, it would allow them to focus on Wilson during the 2014-15 offseason when his rookie deal can be redone.

''We are looking two to three years ahead so last year we knew we were going to have some things coming and how to handle certain players and to know just where we are headed,'' Schneider said recently. ''We put different models together. Matt Thomas does a phenomenal job with it. Figure out the best way to navigate it. They are really good problems to have.''

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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