Seattle's O Might Be As Good As Its D
The student schooled the master.
It was billed as one of the best games of the year, Russell Wilson vs. the sensei he’s long admired and respected from afar, Drew Brees. The stakes were high, with home-field advantage for the playoffs on the line.
The game was in doubt for, oh, about 15 minutes.
The Saints went three and out, and the Seahawks marched down the field, to thunderous applause, getting a field goal.
The key play came on the Saints’ next possession when the Seahawks got to Brees, who uncharacteristically held the ball too long. Cliff Avril hit the ball, Michael Bennett picked it off, and presto, just like that it was 10-0.
Seattle’s defense was a force of nature in the first half. The Saints’ potent offense had no first downs in their first three possessions. They swarmed to the rusher, harassed Brees and most of all clung New Orleans receivers like dirty, infectious, nasty, determined bugs.
Complete domination on defense. Not too surprising. The D has been great all year.
The Seahawks, already up 10-0 and on only their second possession, then began to display their offensive talent. Marshawn Lynch had a good run, and then Wilson found a wide-open Zach Miller for a huge gain. A few plays later he found Miller again. Touchdown, 17-0 Seahawks, and the game’s still in the first quarter.
Hold on. The master must put the student in his place, right?
Brees turned into Cool Hand Drew for one drive, narrowing the lead to 17-7. Jimmy Graham ending up with the TD pass.
Maybe they’ll come back after all.
Wilson ended all doubt with Seattle’s next drive. Seattle defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who’s been masterful this year with a revamped defense, brought the house on a passing down. Wilson threw the ball, right in stride, to Doug Baldwin for a gain of 52.
During this drive, Wilson appeared to be swallowed by big bodies before emerging and making a decent gain. It was first and 20, and a toss to Golden Tate. The Seahawks got a field goal and led 20-7.
It appeared that the Saints were blitzing and stacking the box, taking away Lynch and forcing Wilson to beat them. His passing and scrambling proved to be more than enough.
The nail in the coffin was a TD drive at the end of the first half. The ‘Hawks were in a tough spot, third-and-long deep in their territory, with Brees pacing on the sidelines. No doubt he was considering all the ways he could make this game even closer.
Forget it. Wilson threw a completion from the end zone for a key first down. He had a 15-yard run, and topped it all off with a touchdown to Baldwin, who was wide open on a blown coverage by the Saints.
Utter domination. That was the half. The Seahawks gained 315 yards, the Saints 91.
Remember that the offense performed poorly against Carolina, Tennessee and St. Louis. Not in this game.
Seattle scored once in a lackluster second half, with the Saints never getting untracked and the Seahawks offense shutting it down. New Orleans ended up with just 188 yards and 12 first downs as Brees went 23 of 38 for a mere 147 yards. It was his worst day in quite a while.
This was a showcase for Wilson, though one of his favorite targets, Harvin, didn’t play. He was on target all evening, completing 22 of 30 for 310 yards and three touchdowns, with no interceptions. He didn’t resemble a second-year man reading defenses. And most of all he proved the true master, far better than Brees ever was, of scrambling. The NFL has plenty of speedy players, but the Saints couldn’t catch Wilson when he took off.
He ran eight times for 47 yards, making him the top rusher for the team. Wow.
This game had huge consequences. The Seahawks are two games ahead of Carolina and New Orleans for the top seed and own the tiebreaker because they’ve defeated both of them. Seattle will be the top seed in the NFC, and woe awaits whoever has to head up to face that team and that crowd. I wouldn’t say they’re unbeatable, but the Seahawks will have to screw up and their opponent will have to bring their A+ game to win.
New Orleans need to forget about this disaster and get back on the winning track. They play Carolina twice, and are no lock for anything.
I can’t help but wonder why Wilson isn’t mentioned more for individual honors. An NFL Channel pontificator said Peyton Manning was the runaway choice as MVP. Wilson should at least be in the conversation. He’s accounted for more than 3,000 yards, 2,672 by passing. And remember that he’s been involved in five blowout wins (by 21 points or more) when he passed little at the end of the game. His team’s 11-1.
The Seahawks have outscored their foes 108-37 the past three games. Their offense has picked up.
We knew all along that the ‘Hawks had great defense. Their offense has snuck up on us. That’s probably the way they wanted it.
For other teams, Seattle’s cavernous inferno of noise is a nightmare that turns out to be frighteningly real, a horror movie masquerading as the NFL.