Don't ask safety Jordan Babineaux about the (7-9) Seattle Seahawks and their improbable Cinderella ride through the NFL playoffs, because to him there's nothing surprising about his team's position.
"To us those are just great story lines. I don't care what our record said throughout the first 16 games of the season. It doesn't matter anymore. We are playing better football (now), and we are showing that on game day," said Babineaux in a phone interview Tuesday morning.
"We have put together some really good back-to-back weeks of football. We are not worried about who or when we are playing. The thing that matters to us is how we play."
After a ground shaking run by Marshawn Lynch sealed the Seahawks' 41-36 victory over the New Orleans Saints, the only team in history to make the playoffs with a losing record moves on to face the Chicago Bears Sunday.
In week six, the Seahawks defeated the Bears 23-20, handing Chicago and its more pass-happy offense one of five losses on the season. Seattle was immensely effective in disrupting Bears quarterback Jay Cutler then, sacking him six times while limiting his completions to less than 50 percent.
"As a defense our objective is to make sure Jay Cutler is uncomfortable. We have a great pass-rush duo. (Defensive end Chris) Clemons has done a great job rushing the passer, and (defensive end) Raheem Brock has also been a great compliment to Clemons. Now people have to recognize that. They have to deal with us," said Babineaux.
While Mike Martz's offense is more balanced now, and Babineaux still credits Cutler as being a big-play threat, does Babineaux feel Cutler is improved? The Bears quarterback cut his 2009 interception total nearly in half, but also registered a career-high nine fumbles this season as well.
Let's just say the veteran safety's focus is on adapting his own game now so that Cutler's playoff success doesn't make headlines after the game.
"Is he a better quarterback than last year? Maybe we should compare the numbers and see. I don't know, I really don't look at it like that. That has no interest to me. Week-by-week I need to work on my technique to make sure that he doesn't see any flaws in me, because if they do they will attack me. But (Cutler) is a second-round second-seeded quarterback in the NFL playoffs, and right now we have to go into their field, into their house, and take what we want," said Babineaux.
As far as defending the running game..
While the Seahawks were successful in containing the Saints to 77 net yards on the ground, losing running backs Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas was costly to New Orleans and limited what they could create out of their back field.
Now, when you look ahead to their next challenge in Matt Forte, a regular season review shows Seattle held the Bears star running back to a season-low 11 yards, but Forte only had a season-low eight carries as well.
Forte has been more involved, averaging 16 carries for 76 yards since.
Babineaux seems unfazed.
"I don't care what running back, Hall of Fame career running back, rookie running back, young running back--it doesn't matter. Team defense is going to get it done. Take a look at the games (last) Sunday and how the (Baltimore) Ravens went into Kansas City and they played great defense. That is what you need in a time like this."
Having a quarterback in the midst of a mid-winter revival doesn't hurt either. Last week quarterback Matt Hasselbeck went from uncertainty in his status as a starter, to throwing a career playoff-high four playoff touchdowns again the Saints. Hasselbeck reportedly didn't get the call until last Thursday and juggled his preparation while draining fluid from his hip.
"Everyone acts like they are so surprised by his performance. I don't understand why everyone is so surprised by his performance. That is what I expect of him. Let's not forget that this is the same guy who took us to the Super Bowl, took us to a franchise winning season the year we had the Super Bowl run, and gave us a great chance in doing that. The guy has made multiple Pro Bowls, had a bunch of wins, and broken all kinds of records here. That is what I expected Hasselbeck to do last Saturday, and it is what I expect him to do against the Bears," said Babineaux.
Yet even while Hasselbeck endured health and durability questions, while the team maneuvered through first-year leadership, Babineaux affirms that head coach Pete Carroll has been in control all along, and that Carroll's confidence holds them together.
"It's not like this is (Carroll's) first rodeo. You can tell by the transactions that were made since he took over the job that Pete was trying to push things into the right direction right now. When you look back to the beginning of the season compared to now, the mindset that (Carroll) had is starting to make sense. Pete has really made his stand, and he gathered the respect of the guys from day one. He has been our compass. He really has."
Now Babineaux and the Seahawks are steadfast about taking another step towards the Super Bowl.
Just don't tell them they're doing so in glass slippers.