The Seattle Seahawks advance to the NFC Championship Game with a hearty 23-15 win over the New Orleans Saints in the Emerald City. They made it a bit tougher on themselves than it needed to be as the Saints were able to recover an onside kick and threaten to send the game to overtime, but all and all the ‘Hawks dominated this contest from the opening whistle, at least on defense.
Russell Wilson really struggled to make big plays in this game (for the most part). He was limited to just nine completions and 103 passing yards with a few carries for 16 yards on the ground. I thought that Cameron Jordan and Junior Gallette did a brilliant job in this game, keeping contain on the mobile quarterback. There were quite a few times where the initial pressure wouldn’t hit home and Wilson would be able to escape to the side of the pocket, but the two would not allow him to get around the edge. This was key in limiting the Seahawks’ from creating explosive plays down the field. The running game for Seattle was a bit of a hit and miss throughout the game. Marshawn Lynch was solid, although not spectacular. He did run angrily throughout the duration of the game and proved to be a tough tackle (as per usual), but the Saints did do a nice job at stuffing him on various occasions. The man they call “Beast Mode”‘s numbers looked pretty by the game’s end; 28 carries for 140 yards and two touchdowns, but many of those yards came on the one 31 yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter. I thought the Saints did a good job slowing him down for the majority of this game, but they really shined in pass coverage. Percy Harvin was knocked out of the game on two separate occasions and eventually left the field in the second quarter due to a concussion. Keenan Lewis was solid in man coverage for the second straight week and he did not let the likes of Golden Tate beat him deep. Many of Wilson’s slant routes and short sticks were thrown a bit inaccurately too, which helped New Orleans’ cause, but the coverage was solid nevertheless.
Speaking of solid coverage, what plastering the Saints corners were able to do was overshadowed by what the Seahawks’ secondary was able to accomplish. Simply put, Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas were spectacular. Thomas had an outstanding game with seven tackles and a few pass breakups. Sherman filled in during the running game on a few occasions and was good in man-to-man, especially with Jimmy Graham. The big tight end was virtually a non-factor throughout the game, what with his one catch for eight yards. Marques Colston became Drew Brees’ go-to guy by the end of the game (with eleven catches for 144 yards) but that was because so much attention was being put on Graham and the backs the whole time. The other Seahawk that stood out was Bobby Wagner. Wagner was a tackling machine in this game (with nine of them). He showed great sideline-to-sideline speed and even accounted for a couple of pass breakups, including a deflection that took place on a fourth down in the second quarter. If it hadn’t been for Earl Thomas’s incredible game, I think Wagner would have been the MVP of this one. Anyways, Seattle’s defense was great in this game and is the reason why the team will be playing football again next Sunday.
The final series of the game was pretty bizarre. New Orleans recovered an onside kick with :24 left in the game. The Shayne Graham kick bounced and ricocheted off of Golden Tate’s arms and rolled right to Marques Colston. So, with those 24 ticks remaining, the Saints had to go 59 yards for a touchdown (and then they would have needed a two-point conversion just to tie the game and send it to overtime). With :11 left in the game, Drew Brees was able to hook up with the aforementioned Colston on the sidelines for a 13 yard gain. He was wide open and could have stepped out of bounds at the Seattle 38 with about :02 left (giving the Saints one last play), but instead he decided to throw the ball across the field to Travaris Cadet. The ball was thrown forward, though, making it an illegal forward pass which (coupled with the ten second runoff) ended the game for the Saints. Obviously he should have stepped out of bounds to give his team one last play and with a bunch of tall receivers, who knows, maybe they could have made something out of it.
As it turns out, it will the the Seahawks who advance to the Championship game, and they were the most deserving team out of these two anyways. They played the most complete game and their defense was phenomenal. If they can play like this again next week against the 49ers, I would like their chances at making it to the Super Bowl to take on the winner of the AFC Championship game. My predictions for both contests will come later on in the week. Be sure to check it to read my two cents with regards to Championship Sunday.