Gus Kattengell’s Saints Report — Seahawks Game
December 2, 2013. It was not a good night for the New Orleans Saints as a much hyped game against the Seahawks in Seattle turned out to be a nightmare. 34-7 was the final when it was all said and done and along with the win the top seed in the NFC was pretty much wrapped up.
Thanks to that performance, one in which the Seahawks led 27-7 at halftime in, not many are giving the Saints a shot in Saturday’s NFC Divisional Round Playoff game. Players and coaches on both sides have tried their best publically to make the game about the upcoming matchup more than the one previously played.
The fact however is that the Seahawks handed Saints head coach Sean Payton his worst loss since taking over in 2006 as the offense accumulated only 188 total yards. Seattle undoubtedly feels that they are the superior team and the Saints must be eager at a chance at redemption.
KEYS TO GAME
Century Link Field and their vaunted crowd has been talked about as much as the Saints offense inability to get anything done in the first meeting this season. It’s loud we get it. The stadium design that makes noise funnel towards the field and oh yeah the four massive speakers placed on the field work okay. That said as Drew Brees put it earlier this week there is one sure fire way to make sure the Seattle fans keep quite. “Score points,” Brees said while laughing as he addressed reporters this week. He’s right in more ways than one. The longer the Saints offense can control the ball and if they can put points up while doing so then the crowd will be a non factor.
The battle of the trenches will be bigger than ever during this game. The Saints did a good job of keeping Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch in check in the first meeting as he only picked up 45 yards on 16 carries. Lynch in fact hasn’t had a 100-yard game since he went for 131 yards against Atlanta back on November 10. Also the Saints defense has to be feeling confident as they limited the NFL’s leading rusher in LeSean McCoy to just 77 yards on 21 carries.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson passed for 310 yards and three touchdowns back in the December meeting. Wilson hurt the Saints with his arm and his legs by getting out of the pocket and extending plays. Saints linebacker Junior Galette was hurt several times taking the bait of the inside back on the read option as Wilson broke containment and created big plays. The opened up the play-action game and Seattle was able to hit on a handful of big plays in the passing game.
Pressure by the Saints defensive line will be key but just as important the Saints must contain Wilson in the pocket, and try to limit Lynch’s big plays.
The battle up front will also be just as important on the offensive end. The Saints have actually had a run game as of late and put up 185 yards against Philadelphia last week in the Wild Card Playoff game. Running back Mark Ingram had 97 of those yards. Seattle is tied for seventh in the NFL with 101.6 yards rushing allowed per game and have given up just 25 or less in two of their last three games.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees was held to 147 yards, sacked and fumbled which led to a score on the play and was picked off once in the first meeting. Brees was picked off twice last week at Philadelphia. Brees must play more like the Brees we’ve come to know than one that has been making poor decisions and keep from turning the ball over.
Seattle has won five straight home playoff games. The Seahawks physically dominated the Saints in the first matchup, have the NFC’s best record, the NFL’s top total defense, that vaunted crowd all reasons as to why pretty much everything is pointing to the Saints essentially being doomed in this game.
The Saints are a talented football team and odds tell me that this game will be different than that of the first meeting. Everything that could have gone well did and for the Saints pretty much everything that could have gone wrong did. Payton would have learned from the first meeting to adjust his game plan and give his team a fighting chance. Brees is one of those players that thrives on challenges especially those that seem to doubt he can play at the top of his game.
Ingram and the running game have found life and the Saints defense has risen to challenges in the last few weeks against top running backs and their run games. Turnovers are the obvious key. The Saints must survive the first quarter and avoid giving the game away.
A 100% chance of rain and high gusting winds will affect both passing games and the longer the Saints can stay in the game the more challenged the Seahawks will be. Everyone is basically looking forward to the NFC Championship game between the 49ers and Seahawks. The Saints thrive when overlooked and frankly when all signs point to why not, well then why not? Why can’t the Saints pull off their second straight road playoff win.