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For the Seattle Seahawks, biggest obstacle to Super Bowl repeat might be mental

The Seattle Seahawks thrived with an underdog mentality this year, but they won't sneak up on anyone in the 2014 season
The Seattle Seahawks thrived with an underdog mentality this year, but they won't sneak up on anyone in the 2014 seasonPhoto by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Now that the NFL season is in the books, the biggest obstacle facing the Seattle Seahawks in 2014 they look to repeat as Super Bowl champs just might be mental.

In a column posted Feb. 7 to The MMQB, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman made some very revealing comments about the mindset that helped him and his teammates achieve their success this season.

“We work in a day-to-day business,” Sherman writes. “To look beyond the next week sometimes means a loss of focus. When you win a Super Bowl, you can finally take the blinders off and think about all the things that got you there.”

“The No. 1 motivation throughout these playoffs and in the Super Bowl was doubt.”

Players on every team that wins a championship, even those who are heavy favorites, inevitibly throw out some type of cliche about how “nobody believed in us” and that only those in the locker room truly believed that they could “shock the world.” However in the case of the 2013 Seattle Seahawks, statements like Sherman’s read less like tired platitudes and more like genuine insight into the motivations that fueled their championship success. In Super Bowl XLVIII, Seattle very much looked and played like a team with a chip on its shoulder.

The slights were not merely perceived. According to Businessweek, Nevada sports books handled a record $119.4 million in Super Bowl bets, the majority of which went toward the Denver Broncos. As a result, “the 183 bookmakers in the state collected $19.6 million,” also a record. The betting public's skepticism about the Seahawks was as good for the casinos as it was for the Seahawks players themselves.

That won’t be the case next year. Seattle’s absolute thrashing of Denver may have been the culmination of a season built on the underdog mentality, but the Seahawks' 35-point margin of victory also ensures that no one will underestimate them next season. Their us-against-the-world mindset just won’t play.

So how will the extremely well-coached team handle the different type of pressure that comes with success? Based on the comments of head coach Pete Carroll and quarterback Russell Wilson at their victory parade, it sounds like they’ll embrace it.

“To win multiple Super Bowls, you’ve got to win the first one first. ... our plan is to hopefully win another one for you next year,” Wilson said.

Therein lies the challenge, and perhaps the hook that could define the team’s mental attitude. Just eight NFL teams have ever won back-to-back Super Bowls and that type of accomplishment puts you on the level where “greatest team ever” arguments are held. Following their win on Sunday, some Seahawks players made allusions to their defense as one of the best of all time. For whatever reason -- perceived arrogance, their players relative anonymity compared to legends like Ray Lewis and Mike Singletary, or the general public’s sympathy for Peyton Manning -- NFL fans aren’t ready to anoint them there yet.

While those types of highest-echelon slights will undoubtedly provide some gristle for the fire, the fact is that Seattle’s 2014 regular season may hinge on their ability to reconcile success into their mental preparations. As impressive as the Seahawks Super Bowl win was, you only get once chance to sneak up on someone and surprise them.