By Frank Pingue
PHOENIX (Reuters) - The Seattle Seahawks showed classic symptoms of a Super Bowl hangover early in the season, but a team meeting struck a chord and now they are one win away from becoming the NFL's first repeat champion 10 years.
Seattle opened defense of their Super Bowl win with a 3-3 start to the season and moved to 6-4 before head coach Pete Carroll and about 10 of the team's key players met to discuss egos and chemistry.
"Sometimes you have to look in the mirror and face it. Sometimes you are ugly," Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett said on Wednesday when asked about the meeting.
After the session, during which the team adopted a "today I play for you" motto, a selfless Seahawks team went out and thrashed the league-leading Arizona Cardinals 19-3.
They never looked back. Seattle are undefeated since their late-November meeting, winning eight consecutive games to earn a berth in Sunday's Super Bowl, where they will play the New England Patriots.
"We had to talk about some stuff, and so I think for us, we took away any selfishness," said Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson. "Now, we're not the type of team that's very selfish at all, but we had to take away any selfishness – worrying about stats, worrying about this or that. We had to focus on being selfless for one another, to play for each other."
While the sluggish start was far from ideal, there was never any sense of panic inside the Seattle locker room. From that point on, the Seahawks have rediscovered their swagger and energy level that made them so tough to beat.
"We did the same thing the year before, the same thing where we were faced with a similar situation where we weren't playing very well," said head coach Carroll.
"We kind of lost connection with the fundamentals and the style of play that we wanted to demonstrate and we discovered them. We did the same thing this year.
"That's kind of what happens to teams in most sports. There is a moment when things have an opportunity to go one way or the other and fortunately in the last couple years, we've been able to turn it to the positive where it helped us grow and get better as a team."
(Editing by Gene Cherry)