The biggest underdog in the NFL took a puncher’s chance into Sunday’s game: the Seahawks on the road against the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints, who were coming off their bye.
And Seattle wound up taking this one squarely on the chin, with the Saints offense doing everything but running laps around the Superdome in a 34-19 victory. But while the score was predictably lopsided, the game was not. That as much as anything explains why coach Pete Carroll sounded a lot prouder than you’d expect of a team that had just lost by 15 points.
“I really liked the way we fought in this game,” he said. “All the way through the fourth quarter, they were fighting, so that’s a good thing that we’re going to take home with us.”
Consider it a lesson earned at the hands of one of the league’s most potent offenses. Because in a city known as The Big Easy, things came a little too easily for the Saints. They scored touchdowns on five consecutive drives, punted only once and converted third downs with shocking regularity.
“They do everything well,” safety Lawyer Milloy said of the Saints. “That’s why they’re the defending champions. We knew that. When you know that, you’ve got to play flawless football. We didn’t do that.”
Not even close. The Seahawks lost because their defense couldn’t make a dent in New Orleans’ offensive rhythm.
“The Saints, the offense and Drew Brees did what they are so famous for,” Carroll said. “They threw the heck out of the football.”
But so did the Seahawks. Matt Hasselbeck passed for 366 yards, the most he has had in a game in six years. And for the second consecutive week, the Seahawks offense moved the ball proficiently. It just didn’t always translate to enough points.
In fact, the Seahawks had as many scoring drives as New Orleans. It’s just that the Saints scored five touchdowns, while the Seahawks had only one to go along with four field goals.
“We’re leaving opportunities on the field against good teams, and you can’t,” Carroll said. “You can’t match these guys with field goals against their touchdowns. It’s still a problem for us. It’s not something we’ve solved yet.”
Those field goals left the Seahawks wielding a pocket knife in this gunfight, while the Saints had more than enough firepower, even with Reggie Bush and Jeremy Shockey both inactive.
Brees’ accuracy made up for the absences. The Saints quarterback threw for 382 yards and four touchdowns, two apiece to Marques Colston and Robert Meachem.
And not only did Brees complete six passes of 20 or more yards, but he distributed those long throws among four receivers. It was a performance that left Seahawks linebacker Aaron Curry wondering just how you can stop Brees.
“How do you catch him off guard?” Curry said. “He was sharp today, and the O-line did a really good job picking up pressure when we brought it.”
The Saints had all the answers on Sunday, responding to Seattle’s early lead with five straight touchdown drives. Now the question is how the Seahawks will respond after a game that showed just how far they still have to go to stand toe-to-toe with the league’s heavyweights.