By Danny O’Neil
Three things we learned:
1. Seattle’s offense remains a gas-guzzling clunker.
Percy Harvin may be Seattle’s Ferrari, but his return for the first half of Sunday’s game didn’t exactly kick start a Seahawks offense that hasn’t topped 30 points for six games and counting now. Two things of note: Seattle settled for three first-half field goals, leaving the Saints a window to get back into the game. Even more troubling, Seattle’s first five possessions of the second half produced three three-and-outs, five punts and a total of 52 yards of offense. The Seahawks could have eliminated a whole lot of suspense had they even been average on offense. Instead, the quarterback was adequate at best, the receivers struggled at times and the Seahawks left themselves vulnerable.
2. Seattle’s offense remains a gas-guzzling clunker with a stone-cold deadeye behind the wheel.
It wasn’t Russell Wilson’s best game. In fact, it was his worst in terms of volume. Wilson threw for 103 yards, his lowest single-game total in the NFL in either the playoffs or regular season. But with the game potentially hanging in the balance, Wilson made one incredibly gutsy call and an even better throw. Seattle faced third-and-3 at its own 45 midway through the first quarter, one play from punting the ball back to the Saints, who would have been able to tie the game with a touchdown and a two-point conversion. Wilson audibled at the line of scrimmage, switching to a sideline fade that he perfectly placed for a 24-yard completion to Doug Baldwin and a first down. The throw was impressive enough, but the guts to audible to that pass given the fact Wilson had completed one of the eight second-half passes he had attempted at that point? It was simply incredible.
3. Seattle’s defense is good enough for seconds.
The last time the Saints came to town, Seattle held New Orleans to 188 yards of total offense, the team’s lowest total in 10 years. This time, the Seahawks shut out the Saints through the first three quarters, something that hadn’t happened to New Orleans since 2002. The Seahawks are at six games and counting since an opponent scored so much as 20 points in a game against them, and they’re playing a San Francisco team they’ve held to fewer than 20 points in each of the last five meetings, two of which were in San Francisco.
Three things we’re trying to figure out:
1. Is Marshawn Lynch the best running back in franchise history?
He rushed for 140 yards, breaking the franchise playoff record he previously shared with Shaun Alexander. Lynch now owns three of the four best playoff rushing totals in franchise history, gaining 441 yards in his postseason career. Alexander owns Seattle’s career playoff rushing record with 564 yards, but he set that in nine career playoff games whereas Lynch has played five. In terms of career yardage, Lynch has about half the total Alexander amassed, but the per-game average is telling. Alexander averaged 79.2 yards in his 119 regular-season appearances for Seattle compared to 78.4 in Lynch’s 59 games as a Seahawk.
2. How worrisome is Seattle’s run defense?
More coverage of Seattle’s divisional-round win over New Orleans at CenturyLink Field.
|• Recap | Stats | Photos | Postgame interviews||• O’Neil: Another nail-biting finish for Seahawks||• Henderson: Harvin roughed up | Carroll’s take||• Henderson: Marshawn Lynch sets playoff record||• Huard: Breaking down Lynch’s first touchdown||• Stecker: Saints’ offense meets its match again||• O’Neil: Irvin, Graham square off during warmups|
New Orleans ran for 79 yards on 15 carries in the first half behind a double-play combination of Khiry Robinson – an undrafted rookie – and Mark Ingram – who hasn’t every played up to his first-round billing. The good news? Seattle stiffened in the second half, holding New Orleans to 29 yards on 11 carries. The bad news? This was the Saints, who ranked No. 25 in rushing yards in the regular season. The rush defense went from a chief concern for Seattle at the midpoint of this season to a strength over the final month of the regular season, but New Orleans’ first-half success plants a seed of doubt for Seattle entering the NFC Championship Game.
3. Does Seattle have sufficient long-range artillery in its offensive arsenal?
The Seahawks didn’t have a single player with more than 30 yards receiving against New Orleans. Golden Tate was held to one catch after his rousing regular-season finale while Baldwin caught two balls against New Orleans after being held without a reception against St. Louis in Week 17. Lynch has the horsepower to carry the Seahawks through a slog, but Seattle could benefit from some of the big-play production that was its calling card early in the season. Wilson has completed four passes for 20 or more yards in the past three games, including Saturday’s playoff victory.