By Danny O’Neil
“We made them look normal,” said safety Earl Thomas.
Such a simple sentence. Such a monumental statement.
It was as complete a defensive performance as the Seahawks have had under coach Pete Carroll. It was as complete a victory as they have had this season. It was Seattle 34, New Orleans 7, and if we’re being truthful, the score didn’t have to be that close.
The Seahawks had 17 points before New Orleans had a first down, Seattle’s defense scored as many touchdowns as the vaunted Saints’ offense, and when time finally ran out with the Seahawks taking a knee, it was clear the NFC playoffs will end up going through Seattle.
That’s not official. At least not yet. But the Seahawks became the first team to clinch a postseason berth, they have a two-game lead on everyone in the conference with four games to play and a win at San Francisco on Sunday will wrap up the division.
But none of those postseason implications are nearly as important as what Seattle showed against New Orleans in front of the largest-ever crowd at CenturyLink Field.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees passed for 148 yards, his fewest in any game since the 2006 season, tight end Jimmy Graham – the human mismatch – caught three passes for 42 yards and New Orleans finished with 188 yards of total offense, its fewest in any game since the 2001 season.
And here’s what’s most telling about it: Seattle didn’t do anything special. There was no custom-made coverage plan to contain Graham, no one following running back Darren Sproles wherever he lined up. This wasn’t any sort of exotic concoction that had the Saints sputtering.
“We do what we always do,” Thomas said. “Single safety high. Challenge the quarterback. Challenge with our corners. And we made them look normal.”
Russell Wilson threw for three scores and no interceptions, completed passes to nine different players and topped the 300-yard mark for the second time this season. (AP)
All that hand wringing over the status of the secondary in the wake of Walter Thurmond’s four-game suspension seems kind of silly now, doesn’t it? The Seahawks didn’t have Thurmond or fellow cornerback Brandon Browner, who was inactive with a groin injury while he awaits word on a suspension, and all Seattle did was go out there and render the NFC’s top passing offense utterly toothless.
The Saints’ longest play of the game was a 20-yard pass to Graham in the second quarter. New Orleans’ second-longest gain of the game was courtesy of a 15-yard penalty against Thomas for roughing the passer when he slapped Brees’ helmet in the third quarter.
Compare that to the Seahawks, whose offense was plenty explosive even with Percy Harvin sidelined because of a sore hip.
The Saints contained Marshawn Lynch, holding him to fewer than 3 yards per carry, yet that came at a cost, which New Orleans paid for on the back end. Quarterback Russell Wilson completed two passes of more than 50 yards and threw for more than 300 yards for the second time in a regular-season game.
Any questions about this Seattle team now? Because there shouldn’t be. You can’t harp on the caliber of the Seahawks’ opponents or the quality of the quarterbacks they’ve faced.
More coverage of the Seahawks’ Week-13 win over New Orleans at CenturyLink Field.
|• Recap | Stats | Photos | ‘The Pete Carroll Show’||• O’Neil: What We Learned||• Huard: How Seahawks beat Saints’ blitz||• Henderson: Carroll says K.J. Wright stood out||• Henderson: Avril, Bennett team up for TD||• Stecker: Saints’ vaunted offense sputters|
This was the team with the second-best record in the NFC, an offense whose unique pieces created concern over mismatches, and Seattle didn’t have to do anything more than play its normally stifling defense to absolutely muzzle the Saints.
“We’re not like everybody else,” Thomas said. “You’re not about to have a highlight tape on us.”
Or in this case, any highlights as Seattle turned what was supposed to be this week’s top matchup into a complete and utter mismatch.
And for anyone who wonders whether Seattle is able to be that dominant on the road, the answer is that the Seahawks don’t have to be. If they win their two remaining home games they are assured of home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs, and Monday’s game provided proof about just how valuable that is.