Road to Super Bowl XLIX: Different look, same results for Seahawks

( - The Seattle Seahawks didn't waiver in putting a quest for a return trip to the Super Bowl in the hands of their returning core.

Winning the Super Bowl -- which Seattle did last year with a rout of the Denver Broncos -- is no easy task in the NFL and returning to the title game the next season is even more difficult.

Needless to say, claiming victory in consecutive Super Bowls in near impossible -- though it has been done, with the 2003-04 New England Patriots the most recent club to do so 10 years ago with wins in Super Bowl XXXVIII and XXXIX.

Fitting, then, that the Patriots stand in the way of the Seahawks claiming a second straight championship.

"Well, there's 31 other teams - that's why it's hard," said quarterback Russell Wilson. "You have some great teams out there, obviously, and great players. We've found ways to just feed off one another and make plays when we needed to and be clutch, but also be consistent in our approach and the way we practice and the way we play games."

Seattle returns to glory without having made a notable addition to its roster in the offseason while allowing more than a few useful cogs to take their talents elsewhere.

The Seahawks' now-iconic defense saw the departure of cornerback Brandon Browner -- to the Patriots nonetheless -- and 15-game defensive end starter Red Bryant as well as another end in Chris Clemons and reserve corner Walter Thurmond.

And for a team not known for lighting it up through the air, the Seahawks allowed wide receiver Golden Tate to join the Detroit Lions via free agency and weren't done tinkering in-season either, trading the talented by often distraction-causing Percy Harvin to the New York Jets.

Seattle head coach Pete Carroll noted the use of long vision when addressing the roster, though that doesn't make it any easier.

"You have to go through that process and make the choices," he said. "We lost some really good players from last year's team and we knew that we were losing some heart and soul guys. But, they were the decisions that we had to make to make the choices to move ahead and also to continue to reward the guys."

Carroll also admitted that trading Harvin wasn't the most popular move among the club and locker room, but it was one the Seahawks had to make.

"We just thought it was better for our team to move on where we had come from in a sense," said Carroll. "We went back to more of the format that had gotten us here and it just seemed like the right idea and the right thought. ... There was a big impact of that, but we had to endure that and since we've come out of it we've found what we were looking for really in that decision."

Seattle was 3-2 in five games with Harvin in the lineup and lost 28-26 to the St. Louis Rams in its first game following the trade.

But Carroll showed he knew what he was doing despite the loss, with Wilson passing for 313 yards and wide receiver Doug Baldwin stepping up with seven receptions for 123 yards.

And when all was said and done, the Seahawks found themselves right where they were last season: owners of the league's top defense, rush attack and once again champions of the NFC West.

Seattle may have caused a bit of a scare with its 3-3 start in what figured to be a tight division race, but finished strong with a victory in nine of its final 10. That included an impressive six-game win streak to end the regular season that featured two victories each over rival San Francisco and Arizona to lock up the NFC West crown.

Retaking the identity they were in danger of losing, the Seahawks saw their defense step up over their final six regular-season games. Over that span, the club allowed just 6.5 points and 202 yards per game while collecting 24 sacks.

Oh, and the 'Hawks outscored their opponent 134-39 over the win streak.

"I think early on we got to the point where we were trying to be too perfect," offered linebacker Bobby Wagner. "We had to go back to realizing that it's not about perfection, it's about having fun and enjoying that time you have with your brothers. Once we got back to that, we really got going."

Seattle is the 12th team to return to the Super Bowl after winning the title the previous season, but, in further proof it is no easy task, had to pull off an epic comeback in the NFC Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers.

Trailing 16-0 midway through the third quarter and then down 19-7 with only 2:13 remaining, Seattle scored 15 points in 44 seconds to go ahead, though the Packers would force overtime with a 48-yard field goal with 14 seconds to go.

That is when Wilson finally shook off his four-interception performance by coming up big when it mattered, hitting wideout Jermaine Kearse for a 35-yard touchdown with 11:41 remaining in OT and perhaps creating some momentum that will favor the Seahawks.

"If you remember a year ago, we had a fairly rousing game against the San Francisco 49ers to finish off last year and everything worked out just fine," said Carroll. "We have a way of dealing with the ups and downs and a way that we approach it that I'm hopeful we've put it into place already where it should be."

That punched Seattle's ticket to Arizona, where it has already won once this season.

And though some have dismissed having an advantage due to regular playing time at University of Phoenix Stadium versus the rival Cardinals, others noted it can't hurt either.

"It does feel familiar to us and our players have commented about that as well -- that we feel comfortable coming here," said Carroll.

Ultimately, location matters little as it comes down to planning and execution.

Oh, and a little chip doesn't hurt either.

"I think guys are motivated," declared Kearse. "The last time a team won back to back Super Bowls was with the Patriots. I think a lot of guys have a lot of motivation for that. We're just going to come out here and try to compete. That's the ultimate goal right there is just compete and make plays when your opportunity shows."