By Danny O’Neil
At least it does in Seattle. The Seahawks survived the rain – which was at times biblical during Saturday’s divisional playoff game – and wind that gusted as high as 30 mph, not to mention a New Orleans team that was so much stouter than it had been six weeks before.
The Seahawks rose to the occasion at home, beating the Saints 23-15 to advance to play for the conference championship for the third time in franchise history after a wild fourth quarter in which Seattle allowed two New Orleans touchdowns and let the Saints recover an onside kick with less than 30 seconds remaining.
The Saints got just past midfield when Drew Brees completed a pass to Marques Colston, who turned and threw the ball across the field. It was ruled an illegal forward pass, necessitating a 10-second run off. There were two seconds left, meaning the Seahawks won, advancing to the NFC Championship Game where they will play the winner of Sunday’s game between the 49ers and the Panthers.
Marshawn Lynch rushed for 140 yards and scored both of Seattle’s touchdowns. Receiver Percy Harvin caught three passes, but left the game at the end of the second quarter after suffering a head injury.
The significance: Seattle won its sixth consecutive home playoff game, a streak that began in January 2006. The Seahawks have not lost their first playoff game in any year they’ve made the playoffs since 2004, when they won the NFC West at 9-7 and lost in the wild-card round to the 8-8 Rams.
Play of the game: Seattle had the ball third-and-3 near midfield when offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell made what might have been the gutsiest call of the game. A pass. The result was a fade route to Doug Baldwin that New Orleans forced the refs to look at again. Both times, the result was the same: Baldwin came down with a 24-yard reception to extend the drive. Lynch scored on the next play to ice the game.
Turning point: Michael Bennett didn’t just stop New Orleans’ Mark Ingram on the first play of the second quarter, Bennett stripped the ball and then recovered it. That accomplished two things: First, Seattle got a short porch for its next possession, scoring two plays later on Lynch’s 15-yard touchdown run. The second thing was that Ingram – who rushed five times for 34 yards in the first quarter – didn’t carry the ball again in the first half.
Player of the game: Lynch rushed for 140 yards, most ever by a Seahawk in the postseason. He held a share of the previous record. Lynch now has three of the four highest playoff-game rushing totals in franchise history.
The good: Seattle led 16-0 at halftime, the fourth-most points it scored in a first half in playoff history. Seattle held New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham without a reception in the first half. The Saints didn’t drive the ball inside the 25-yard line in the first half. Steven Hauschka made all three field-goal attempts in the first half, including a 50-yard attempt in the second quarter. It’s the fourth kick of 50 or more yards Hauschka made this season. His 26-yard kick with 1:18 left in the second quarter marked the ninth time in 17 games the Seahawks scored in the final 2 minutes of the first half. Michael Bennett forced – and then recovered – a fumble in the first minute of the second quarter. It was the only turnover for either team in the first half. Lynch was held to 45 yards rushing in the first game against New Orleans on Dec. 2. He had 55 yards rushing in the second quarter alone, 69 in the first half and had 94 entering the fourth quarter.
The bad: Russell Wilson was sacked three times, but lost no yards on any of those sacks, meaning he was tackled at the line of scrimmage. Ingram rushed four times for 34 yards in the first quarter. Ingram carried once in the second quarter, losing a fumble that Seattle’s Michael Bennett first forced, then recovered.
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: Percy Harvin roughed up in return||• Stecker: Saints’ offense meet its match again||• O’Neil: Irvin, Graham square off during warmups|
The ugly: Harvin was evaluated for a concussion after he was hit in the head on Seattle’s third play from scrimmage. He returned to the game, but left because of a concussion suffered on a hit in the end zone in the final 2 minutes of the first half. New Orleans kicker Shayne Graham, who was signed in December, missed a first-quarter field-goal attempt to the left. It was the first field-goal attempt missed by a Seahawks opponent since Week 8 at St. Louis. Opponents had made 12 straight field-goal attempts against Seattle.
Seattle: Harvin left the game because of a concussion suffered late in the second quarter.
Seattle: WR Bryan Walters, RB Christine Michael, LB K.J. Wright, OT Caylin Hauptmann, Carpenter, DE Benson Mayowa, DT Jordan Hill.
New Orleans: QB Ryan Griffith, RB Pierre Thomas, CB Terrence Frederick, S Jordan Pugh, LB Rufus Johnson, DE Tyrunn Walker, WR Nick Toon.