When NFL training camps opened, the Seattle Seahawks were one of the favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
Six months later, the Seahawks are in prime position.
Starting with a division game Saturday afternoon against New Orleans, the Seahawks can reach the Super Bowl for the second time in franchise history by posting wins the next two weeks at CenturyLink Field, one of the top home-field advantages in all of sports.
“A lot of things in the regular season aren't really remembered,” Seahawks offensive tackle Russell Okung told The Oklahoman in a telephone interview. “We're trying to cement our legacy. We have a big step this week against a really good New Orleans team. We're looking forward to taking that first step.”
Okung is a former Oklahoma State standout who was the No. 6 overall pick in the 2010 draft. He is part of a talented offensive line that complements one of the NFL's elite defenses.
Running back Marshawn Lynch finished sixth in the league in rushing. Second-year quarterback Russell Wilson threw 26 touchdown passes. That's less than half as many as Denver's Peyton Manning (55), but Wilson finished sixth in the league in quarterback rating.
Weather forecasts in Seattle call for a 70 percent of rain with winds gusting between 20 and 25 mph. Establishing a ground game could be essential.
“The game always comes down to the trenches. That's where it begins and that's where it's going to end,” Okung said. “We're looking forward to the challenge.”
Okung earned his first Pro Bowl berth last season when he played 15 games, but his NFL career has been hampered by injuries.
As a rookie, ankle injuries limited him to 10 games. His second season, he missed the final four games with a torn pectoral muscle.
This season, it was torn ligaments in his big toe. The All-American missed eight games, before he returned in mid-November.
“I was surprised it lasted as long as it did,” Okung said. “It's a really serious injury, but I really didn't think it was something that almost ended my season. Football is a tough game that will challenge you mentally as well as physically.
“I'm not as beat up as some of the other guys. It's a taxing game. I'm just thankful I'm ready for the playoffs.”
Five weeks ago, Seattle romped to a 34-7 win over New Orleans at CenturyLink Field. The defense held the Saints to 188 total yards. Wilson threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns. That was Okung's second game back from the toe injury.
“That was several weeks ago ... during the regular season,” Okung said. “This is the playoffs.
“We're a team focused on bringing forth our best effort. If we do that, we usually like the outcome. For us, it's just another week to play our best football. We have a good plan. Now we have to go out and execute it.”