For starters, there is no reason to expect the weather to be as bad as it was on Saturday. I think it’s funny when people get all excited before a Seahawks game when rain is expected. The rationale being: the Seahawks are used to playing in this! While the Saints (or whoever the other team is) NEVER play in the rain!
Granted, the Saints play a minimum of 9 games a year in a dome (8 home games, plus 1 road Falcons game), but it’s not like the Seahawks are out here playing 8 home games in the mud or something! The season starts in September – one of the nicest months of the year in Seattle. In fact, in looking back through our schedule, all I see are games played under clear skies – except for that home 49ers game with the freak thunderstorm, and I guess the home Saints game on Monday Night, where there was a little drizzle.
We are no more used to “playing in the elements” than any other team, is what I’m trying to get at. Yes, you can say that rain and wind helps a defense, but that goes both ways. I’d rather have a nice, dry game where our offense at least has the CHANCE to be great. Under those circumstances on Saturday, there was no chance.
That’s why one of the biggest positives to take out of that game was Marshawn Lynch. He ran for 140 yards on a season-high 28 carries (well, tied for a season high). You can tell that the week off helped Beastmode more than any other player on this team. From what I could tell, Turbin just had the four touches (he finished with 3 carries for 9 yards, with his big run called back thanks to a needless holding penalty on Giacomini). If the Seahawks were going to lose this game, they were going to lose doing what they loved (running the ball) and they were going to lose with the guy that brought them here (Marshawn Lynch). The fact that the Seahawks DIDN’T lose is a testament to Beastmode still having it.
Who didn’t have it? Russell Wilson. Lots of poorly thrown balls, which I’m going to attribute to the wind. Yes, Drew Brees also played in that same wind, and he ended up with some pretty solid numbers. But, that’s the difference between being up two scores and being down two scores. The Seahawks didn’t need Russell Wilson to throw his way out of it. They just needed to keep the clock moving and SOMEHOW find a way to score.
I thought Percy Harvin was a positive take-away. His impact could be felt all over that first half, even though his numbers weren’t all that striking (3 catches for 21 yards, 1 rush for 9 yards, no returns on special teams). The Saints certainly rolled coverages his direction, and had an aim to make him pay the price.
Golden Tate was a bit of a non-factor, with only one catch for 13 yards and one punt return for 6 yards (not to mention the ball bouncing off his chest on that onside kick). Then again, with the weather, it’s not like any of the receivers had many opportunities. Doug Baldwin had the catch of the day to convert a third down and set up that final Lynch touchdown run. Without that, I think we’re looking at a tie game and maybe even overtime.
Michael Bennett was my choice for player of the game on defense (Lynch is the obvious choice on offense). He was playing in his first-ever playoff game and it showed. He was all over the place, getting half a sack, forcing & recovering a fumble by Mark Ingram, netting a tackle for loss, and getting consistent pressure on Drew Brees. One in particular, on fourth down, forced Brees to pump the football and ultimately change his intended target, which resulted in Bobby Wagner batting the ball down. That doesn’t happen without Bennett’s pressure.
Speaking of Bobby Wagner, he was all over the place in this game. I think he was one truly big play away (like an interception return for a touchdown) from REALLY making a name for himself on the national stage. As it stands, he’s still our little pride & joy here in Seattle.
Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas had 14 and 11 tackles respectively. They were very influential in stopping the Saints passing attack. And they both dropped sure interceptions which would have sealed the deal. So, if anyone tries to tell you how close the Saints were to tying or winning this game, you remind them that it was also very close to a Seahawks blowout if a couple balls get caught by our defense.
Also, they made Jimmy Graham their bitch. We can never forget that.
In the end, you could make the argument that it was the kicking game that decided the day. Steven Hauschka made all three field goals he attempted (including a long of 49 yards), while Shayne Graham missed both of his attempts. You could easily tell who had the bigger leg. In a game like that, with the wind, you have to drive the ball rather than loft it high and hope for the best. Hauschka’s kicks weren’t the prettiest. In fact, they were kind of low and line-drivey. But, they got the job done. That’s points on the board AND it’s field position. A big reason why the Seahawks had a 16-0 halftime lead and why the Saints had to go for it on 4th down so much.
My concern for the upcoming NFC Championship Game will be discussed later in the week. Any concern stemming from this Divisional Round game, however, comes with a big ol’ asterisk in the form of 30-mph winds. I don’t expect the weather to be as bad on Sunday. I do expect the Seahawks’ offense to play better. That goes hand-in-hand.