Gus Kattengell’s Saints Report — Seahawks Game
New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton is fond of saying that the next game his team plays is the biggest game of the season because it’s the next one and the only one they can control. It is a way to keep focused on the task at hand and take the season on one game at a time. It works. Payton and the Saints have proven that as they are 9-2 on the season.
Monday night’s football game however is a big game, a very big game. Seattle welcomes the Black and Gold while sitting atop the NFC standings with a 10-1 record. Payton is 2-0 at Seattle in regular season games but the last time the team was in Seattle was the NFC Wild Card Playoff matchup on January 8, 2011 when the Seahawks won 41-36.
A Saints win would give them the top spot in the NFC via a tiebreaker despite having the same record as Seattle with four games left. Two of those four are against 9-3 Carolina however and the Panthers have won eight straight games. Saints host the Panthers by the way face off next Sunday night in primetime.
The weather has been a big topic heading into this game and mainly because of the Saints being an indoor team. New Orleans is 1-2 in outdoor games this year where you would say it was chilly at game time. Chicago was a win but losses came at New England and at the Jets. I would argue however that it was about game planning and simply playing well. In Chicago, the Saints came out aggressive and established some sort of a running attack and defensively took away Bears running back Matt Forte. The Patriots came out firing on all cylinders and offense showed a hurry-up style that the defense wasn’t accustomed to but did adjust to in the second half. The Saints had the game won late but clock management failure, play calling and offensive execution lost that game not the cold. The Jets game well you tell me. New York offensively is awful and running back Chris Ivory has done nothing since the Saints game but again the offense sputtered and didn’t help win the game. My point is that the weather is the last thing you think about when you think about those two loses. Granted it will be in the upper 30s and a 40 percent chance of rain at kickoff but the Seahawks have to play in the same weather. Plus if the Saints want to get to where they want to go, the same if not worse conditions will await them in the Super Bowl.
KEY TO THE GAME
This game is so juicy because it’s strength against strength. Seattle is tops in the NFL at stopping the pass giving up just 198 yards per game. The Saints have the second best passing game averaging 217.3 yards per game. The Seahawks are the second best rushing team in the NFL picking up 147.9 yards per game. New Orleans is 15th in the league at stopping the run giving up 111.9 yards per game.
Seattle’s defense is statistically the best defense in the NFL and their reputation makes them even better as they are a hard hitting, athletic bunch. New Orleans however has the SECOND ranked defense in the NFL following Sunday’s action.
The similarities don’t end there as the offenses at least statistically are on par with one another. New Orleans averages 27.7 point per game while Seattle averages 27.8 points per game. Now each team goes at it way differently. Quarterback Drew Brees and the Saints offense will try and spread the ball around and make no bones about that the passing attack is how they prefer to win. Quarterback Russell Wilson isn’t thought of as being Brees like with his arm but is sixth in the NFL in passer rating at 105.1, two spots behind Brees who is fourth with a 107.3 rating. Wilson has won his two appearances on Monday night while Brees has won nine straight games on Monday night.
The Seahawks have their second and third best cornerback suspended in Walter Thurmond (a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy) and Brandon Browner (facing a one-year ban himself but a groin injury immediately sidelines him). That said the Seattle secondary is number one in the league in interceptions with 16. They have also forced an NFL-high 26 turnovers.
The Saints are a good football team. The Seahawks are a good football team. For me it’s all about surviving the first quarter for the Saints. Century Link Field will be amped up. I’ve been there on the sidelines in 2007 for the last Saints regular season win over Seattle. It’s loud.
Sean Payton has to be smart in this game. Brees has had several delay of game penalties the last few weeks and in a game this tight, a five yard penalty could be huge. Payton needs to have plays where it’s not overly complicated or requires a ton of protection calls. Coach said it last week that a punt sometimes is not a bad play. Run what you got if the clock gets low and punt to live another day. Field position will be key as well.
I think Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles could be difference makers in this game. Sproles could be used in the passing game on the perimeter to negate the Seattle defensive pressure. Graham could help keep the Seattle linebackers at bay by stretching the field of if anything keeping the secondary occupied.
I’ve gone back and forth with the score of this game but think 27-23 Saints. I just feel in the end Brees against the Seahawks fourth, fifth and sixth best corners could be a winning advantage.