NFC Wild Card Game – New Orleans Saints vs Seattle Seahawks

New Orleans Saints (11-5) at Seattle Seahawks (7-9)

Scoring came fast and early in this game.  Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints started with the ball on their 40 yard line.  Brees was precise as usual in their first possession, and they moved the ball down to the Seahawks eight yard line before settling for a 26 yard field goal by Garrett Hartley and a 3-0 lead.  Seattle started their first possession on their own 37 yard line, and on 3rd and 1, Matt Hasselbeck was intercepted by Jabari Greer, and things were not looking good for Seattle, who I felt needed to win the turnover battle in order to win New Orleans Saints quarterbackthe game.  The Saints got the ball on Seattle’s 35, and after 7 plays and a pass interference call, Drew Brees completed a 1 yard pass to FB Heath Evans for the TD and a 10-0 lead.  It only took Matt Hasselbeck six plays to take the ball 57 yards down the field and finish the drive with an 11 yard TD pass to TE John Carlson, which closed the gap to 10 – 7.  New Orleans took their next possession 83 yards, with Julius Jones taking the ball off tackle for a 5 yard TD to complete the drive.  At 13:38 in the second quarter, the Saints led 17-7.  Then Hasselbeck only took 2:38 to drive the ball 70 yards down the field for another TD pass to John Carlson.  This time it was a 7 yard completion, and the score was 17-14 Saints.  Hasselbeck had completed seven passes in a row since his interception, and the big play of this scoring drive was a 39 yard completion to TE Cameron Morrah, giving them a first and goal on the New Orleans 7 yard line.  The next possession by the Saints resulted in the first punt of the game, and the following possession by the Seahawks also resulted in a punt.  New Orleans got the ball on their 19 yard line and on their very first play, Julius Jones fumbled and turned the ball over to Seattle on the New Orleans 18 yard line.  Fortunately for the Saints, the turnover only resulted in a 29 yard field goal by Olindo Mare, as the Seahawks could not generate a first down on 3 straight running plays.  The game was now tied at 17 apiece, and each team now had one turnover.  The next possession by the Saints ended with the sack of Drew Brees by DE Raheem Brock on third and five, and the second punt of the game by the Saints. Another receiver gets behind the defensive backfield of New Orleans, as Hasselbeck connects with Brandon Stokley on a 45 yard TD pass.  This was Hasselbeck’s first TD pass of 40+ yards in 10 playoff games, and Seattle took their first lead of the game 24-17.  With 1:10 left in the half, the Saints drove the ball 77 yards to the Seahawks three yard line on their next possession, but could not get the ball into the endzone.  New Orleans had no timeouts left, so had to settled for a 22 yard field goal by Garrett Hartley before time ran out, and the Saints were only down 20-24 at halftime.  The 24 points scored by Seattle were the most points allowed by the Saints in the first half all season, and many people were shocked.

Things only got worse in the second half, as the Seahawks receivers continued to find plenty of open space for Hasselbeck to connect with them.  For the third time in the game, this time it was Mike Williams’ turn to get behind the Saints secondary, and the result was a 38 yard touchdown and a 31-20 lead for Seattle.  The Saints had allowed only 13 passing TD’s all season, which was best in the league, but had now allowed for four TD’s already today.  Also ranked 4th in the NFL in passing yards allowed (193.9), the Saints had already allowed 244 passing yards with only 3:05 gone in the third quarter.  Seattle forced another New Orleans punt on their first possession of the second half, as the Seahawks defense was hitting hard and dislodging balls that could have been completed passes.  With their next possession starting on their own 46, Seattle’s Olindo Mare kicked a 39 yard field goal after a nine play drive that ate up 4:12 on the clock.  The score now was Seattle 34, New Orleans 20, and Seattle had scored 4 TD’s, 2 field goals, and had only one punt in their last seven possessions since Hasselbeck’s interception early in the game.  When the Saints got the ball again, they felt a sense of desperation and attempted to run for a first down on fourth and one on their own 37 with 3:57 left in the third.  Seattle’s Lofa Tatupu stuffed Thomas Jones for a one yard loss.  The Seahawks took over on the Saints 36, but a delay of game took them out of field goal range and they had to punt.  The Saints tried to mount a drive from their own 13 as time ran out in the third quarter.  They managed a twelve play 87 yard drive, helped by a 15 yard late hit penalty by Seattle.  Julius Jones ended the drive going off left tackle for a four yard TD, his second of the game.  The score was now Seattle 34, New Orleans 27 with 13:16 remaining in the game.  Seattle ended up punting again on their next possession, and gave the Saints field position on their own 44 yard line.  Again, Brees went 4 of 4 for 48 yards as he moved the ball down to the Seattle 4 yard line, but the drive stalled inside the 10 yard line for the third time this game.  The Saints settled for a 21 yard field goal by Garrett Hartley, and the Saints were within 4, trailing 30-34.  The next possession the Seahawks ended up punting again, but left the Saints deep in their territory on the 6 yard line.  Brees had directed a career high five fourth quarter comeback wins this season, and now had another opportunity with 5:36 left in the game.  Brees could only generate one first down and couldn’t connect on the next third and eight and the Saints had to punt.  Seattle had the ball on their own 33 yard line and just needed to run down the clock.  Then, in an Seattle Seahawks Running backamazing display of desire and effort, Marshawn Lynch ran through eight Saint players and rambled 67 yards downfield for a TD.  This gave Seattle the lead at 41- 30, and basically put the game out of reach.  When the Saints got the ball back, Brees went 6 for 9 and drove the ball 70 yards in 1:52 and scored a TD on a six yard pass to Devery Henderson.  The Saints went for a two point conversion, but failed, and the score was the Seahawks 41 and the Saints 36.  The Saints tried for an onside kick but it failed, and with 1:29 remaining in the game, the Seahawks ran two plays and downed the ball as the clock ran down to zero.

There were a lot of first in this game (some I have already mentioned above).  The Saints were the first double-digit road playoff favorites in NFL history.  The Seahawks were the first Division champion to have a losing record, and the first team with a losing record in the playoffs to win a game.  The two other teams with losing records to reach the playoffs, the Lions and Browns in the strike season of ’82, lost their playoff openers.  Hasselbeck threw for a franchise record 4 TD passes in a playoff game.  The biggest difference in this game was the big plays that Seattle capitalized on, and the fact that the Saints could not score TD’s in the red zone.  The Saints led in many of the statistical categories including most first downs (32 to 19), third down efficiency (6 for 13 to 6 for 14), net yards (474 to 415), passing yards (404 to 272), and time of possession (32:01 to 29:59).  Hasselbeck threw passes of 45 and 38 yards, and Marshawn Lynch had the 67 yard run late in the fourth quarter which led to 21 points, as the Saints defense did not show up like they had all season.  They gave up 116 more yards in this game than their average on the season.  On three different occasions, the Saints had the ball first and goal inside the ten of Seattle, and only came away with 9 points out of a possible 21.  The big plays of Seattle, and the lack of passing defense along with the red zone inefficiency of the Saints, allowed Seattle to come away with the win.

~ by Troy Erickson Realtor on January 9, 2011.

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