Games like this one remind everyone why they love football. On any given day, any team can beat any other team for a number of different reasons, and the possibilities of how it all goes down are endless.
This was supposed to be the boring game of Wild Card weekend, but the Seahawks had a number of players step up and take advantage of a banged-up Saints team. Seattle outplayed New Orleans all over the field, and only the heady play of Drew Brees (+4.2) kept the Saints in the game.
Seattle’s famous 12th man was alive and well after a slow start, and the Seahawks clearly fed off the emotion for the upset.
Seahawks: Three performances of note
The game was won largely by the play of quarterback Matt Hasselbeck (+7.1) who had been slumping but had his best game of the year. With the help of an offensive line that kept him protected, Hasselbeck was consistently able to get the ball down the field with picking up first downs and touchdowns. He had a few nice deep passes, and was almost always throwing catchable balls with five of his incompletions being drops. This game added to his legacy in Seattle and probably helped him stay in football in the future as well.
On defense, the Seahawks found success with their usual sources — their defensive ends. Raheem Brock (+6.7) and Chris Clemons (+1.5) had a combined 21 pressures on 65 pass plays. The majority of the time, the Seahawks only brought a three or four man rush, which forced Drew Brees to throw the ball quickly and not make as many deep throws as he typically does. They were able to slow the defense down enough that the Seahawks offense could keep up. Clemons’ grade was brought down with struggles in the run and two penalties, but he had 12 total QB disruptions.
You can’t talk about this game without mentioning the play of halfback Marshawn Lynch (+2.9). While trying to run out the clock, Lynch broke a 61-yard run for a touchdown and forced seven missed tackles — more than he forced in any single game this year. He had another five missed tackles on his other runs, which also helped the Seahawks keep the ball going down the field.
Saints: Three performances of note
The Saints came into the game hurting with injuries, with Malcolm Jenkins’ absence probably looming largest. Slumping strong safety Roman Harper (-6.4) needed to step up, but the Seahawks took advantage of him. He was covering tight end John Carlson on both of his touchdowns. He also allowed big catches to Brandon Stokley for 45 yards and Cameron Morrah for 39 yards. It was big plays like this that got the Seahawks the lead and let them stay in control.
The Seahawks’ big pass rush came at the expense of left tackle Jermon Bushrod (-2.3) and right tackle Jon Stinchcomb (-7.8). Bushrod’s rating was helped by a good performance in run blocking, but the two allowed 21 of the 24 combined pressures the Seahawks had. Brees had struggled under pressure all year, and this game was no different — he only had 5.0 yards per attempt under pressure, and 7.5 yards per attempt without pressure. It didn’t help that the Saints very rarely left anyone else in to help block.
Someone who didn’t live up to his reputation was defensive end Will Smith (-2.0). He has been one of the best players on the Saints’ defense this year, and by far their best pass rusher. In this game, his only pressure was a single hit. He’s been inconsistent against the run, and he didn’t fare too well against it in this game. In the playoffs, big players need to make big plays, and Smith didn’t step up.
On offense LT Russell Okung (+3.5) had the best game of his career. He didn’t allow any pressure for just the second time as a starter, and also helped out in run blocking where he has struggled at times. S Earl Thomas (+0.2) started and only allowed 12 receiving yards. CB Walter Thurmond (-1.5) and FS Kam Chancellor (+0.2) both saw more playing time than usual, as they both came in for the Seahawks’ 3-1-7 defense.
With Chris Ivory and Jimmy Graham injured, the only Saints rookie to see any time on offense or defense was CB Patrick Robinson (-0.2), who played right cornerback in nickel situations. He played fairly well, only allowing one of the four balls thrown his way to be caught for 10 yards. He had the only penalty for the Saints on defense which hurt his rating.
The Seahawks not only won with their offense and defense, but also had a +4.7 special teams rating to the Saints -4.6 rating. … The Seahawks also only had five penalties to the Saints ten. … Alex Brown was the only Saint defender with a grade of +1.1 or higher.