Week 8 Recap: Seattle Seahawks @ New Orleans Saints

Brandin Cooks
Brandin Cooks celebrates his early fourth quarter touchdown against the Seahawks.

Final: New Orleans 25, Seattle 20

It was a thriller in the Big Easy as the Saints hold off a late Seattle surge for their third win of the season.  It was a, perhaps, season-saver for New Orleans and their defense showed signs of improvement, closing out the game on the final play of the game.  Seattle was slow getting started, especially with their running game, and the Seahawks defense was gassed and gashed by the end of this game.  Here is what went down on the final Sunday in October in the Mercedes Benz Superdome.

Let’s start off by looking at the most important key in this win for the Saints: their defense.  It was not an overly dominant showing on their behalf, but they did do one thing better this week than they have all season and that is tackle.  Last week against Kansas City there were multiple missed tackles and players were out of their posisions and over-scheming.  While there were some defenders being over aggressive and out falling out of posision, which was exposed on many misdirection plays by Seattle’s offense, when there was a play in front of Dennis Allen’s unit rhe players made it.  The safety play was good and New Orleans was not beat deep in this game.  Cameron Jordan had his best game of the season by far.  He accounted for seven total QB pressures, and one pass defended.  The man was a nightmare to block.  Another Saint that stood out in this contest was Nate Stupar.  He had one interception off of a duck pass, but that is not why he is receiving praise.  He made a few run stuffs and was decent in coverage.  Playing alongside Dannelle Ellerbe helped as well.  Dannelle’s return to the lineup was huge as he brought a sideline-to-sideline tackling element to this team that they have not had.  He looked a bit rusty at times but was lurking around the ball for a majority of the game.

Action from SEA@NO
Richard Sherman and Willie Snead competing from 10/30/16

Compairatively, the Seattle defense was not very good on the whole in this game.  That is mainly because of their secondary.  Richard Sherman was victimized once long down the field on a flea-flicker when he cheated to the inside of his man Brandon Coleman before he waggled out the back door and made a 38 yard reception down the field.  Earl Thomas whiffed on some tackles in the open field which came at inappropriate times, a couple of them on third downs.  The Saints successfully converted 9/15 of their third down situations which lead to the large 36:12/23:48 slant in time of possession.  There were a couple of pick plays that the referees allowed to happen that did benefit the Saints largely, once on a third down late in the fourth quarter when Snead went out and chopped of DeShawn Shead and the other when Brandon Coleman knocked Jeremy Lane to the ground in the end zone when Brandin Cooks scored the go-ahead touchdown earlier in that period.  With that being said, the Seahawks were not good on defense.  Part of this is due to the fact that the Saints have a remarkable offense at home with so many weapons, and the other was just great game planning by Sean Payton and company.  The one thing that the Seahawks did do well was goal-line defense for the second straight week.  The Saints came into the game scoring touchdowns 80% of the time for a touchdown in the red zone.  Seattle did let up two touchdowns in these situations, but one of them came on fourth down when Brees did a quick quarterback sneak and the other was one that should not have been allowed to stand because of the pick play.  As far as individual play is concerned, the top standout here was Cliff Avril.  He penetrated into the backfield on a couple of different occasions creating stops behind the line of scrimmage on run plays and he generated some QB pressures as well.  Kelcie McCray looked fine in place of Kam Chancellor, but the team is still missing their big thumper because he was much better in helping out against the run.  Also worth mentioning, Earl Thomas did have a scoop and score in the first quarter putting his team up by seven early on.

Earl Thomas
Earl Thomas was flagged for hugging an official after his return touchdown during Sunday’s game.

On offense, the Saints really got away with anything they wanted in this game.  Tim Hightower ran the ball 26 times for 102 yards.  Nine different Saints had a reception in this game, the pace being set by Michael Thomas and Willie Snead who had six catches apiece.  Thomas, who is pretty much far and away, the best rookie wide out in the NFL continued to display great hands and terrific route running ability.  Given time, this guy could really make things tough on defensive coordinators as his career progresses.  The Saints offensive line did a great job fending off the Seattle pass rush.  The only time the Seahawks were able to get any pressure on Drew Brees was when they brought a Cat (corner) blitz or overloaded a rush to one side.  Otherwise, Drew did not have much trouble completing passes as he was sitting in the rocking chair for a majority of the game.

For the Hawks, the offense was shaky at times.  The number one reason for this was a failure to get the running game going.  Seattle as a team ran for just three yards total in the first half.  Their best looking drive of the game was probably their first drive of the second half where they actually were able to find some room to maneuver on the ground.  The Seahawks had just four first downs running the football, and Russell Wilson was hardly able to help out at all with this.  Without the threat of a read-option play to break contain, the Saints were able to play a vanilla defense against Seattle and contain them that way.  On the final drive of the game, Russell Wilson was fine, completing some big passes and moving his team down the field.  It ultimately came down to a 4th and 2 with two seconds remaining with the ball at the New Orleans 10.  Wilson attempted to connect with Jermaine Kearse in the back corner of the end zone but put too much air under the ball and slightly overthrew it, allowing for Saints’ corner B.W. Webb to make a play on the ball.  It was actually a poor throw on Wilson’s behalf.  Not being able to get the ground game going hurt Seattle and the offense simply could not stay on the field, hence why stars like Jimmy Graham did not shred a suspect defense.  Wilson, while on the field, did make some very nice throws but the Seahawks just did not have enough possession time to create some continuity on offense.

The Seahawks lost their second game of the season in heart-breaking fashion, but since their closest competition in Arizona also lost, they are in no worse shape in the NFC west than they were coming into this game.  Next week they will host Buffalo at home; a team that will be desperate for a win.  New Orleans will get a shot at going back to .500 when they hit the road to the west coast to play the 49ers.  The main sign of encouragement for the Saints was their defense, but they were helped out by the fact that their offense was able to stay on the field so long.  It would appear as that their best hope for defense is for their offense to keep them off the field.

K.J. Wright
K.J. Wright knocking the ball away before it could get to Travaris Cadet.

The Skinny:

  • For the second straight week, Seattle’s defense was on the field for a very long time.  New Orleans dominated the time of possession battle 36:12/23:48.  The Saints’ offense ran 72 plays while the Seahawks ran 54.
  • Once again, the Seahawks struggled to get a running game going.  They managed only 3 yards in the first half and 74 for the game.  Russell Wilson’s inability to scramble due to injury really handicapped the offense at times in this contest.
  • The Seattle defense did not have much success rushing the passer.  They did record two sacks, but Drew Brees was afforded a lot of time when the Seahawks did rush four and only got pressure on Cat blitzes or overloads.  The one thing they did do well was hold up by the goal line, stopping the very good Saints multiple times in that area of the field.
  • The Saints scored on six straight possessions to end the game, offensively doing whatever they pleased for the most part after early troubles in the first quarter.
  • New Orleans pshed the pocket on defense and made a lot of solid open field tackles on defense, something that they struggled to do so far this season.  They also were not on the field very much, which helped as well.
  • Tim Hightower had 102 yards rushing on the ground and nine different Saints caught a pass from Drew Brees.  Everybody was involved and New Orleans turned in their best effort of the season.

 

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