Still think the Seattle Seahawks don’t belong in the postseason?
Seattle wasn’t exactly welcomed to the playoffs by many outside of the Emerald City. After all, how could a franchise that became the first team in league history to win the division with a losing record (7-9) play host to a postseason game, against the defending champion and 11-win New Orleans Saints nonetheless?
Saturday’s 41-36 victory showed that the Seahawks aren’t just happy with reaching the second season. They want to win the whole thing.
“I think what’s clear to me is that we have a bunch of guys that are really together on how we think and how we approach our opportunities, and they realize that it doesn’t have anything to do with what’s outside,” said head coach Pete Carroll. “It has to do with what we do.”
Show of hands if you thought the Seahawks would be able to outgun Drew Brees and the Saints? Though New Orleans had 474 total yards of offense to Seattle’s 415, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck turned back the clock with four touchdown passes and 272 yards through the air. That came less than seven days after he sat out last weekend’s NFC West-clinching victory over the St. Louis Rams due to a hip injury.
Hasselbeck even had to have fluid drained from his left hip, but wasn’t feeling any pain after the game.
“It feels great. It feels really, really good,” Hasselbeck said of the victory. “It wasn’t just one thing. I felt like everybody did a little something to help us get the win and there was an awesome feeling.”
Despite being a division winner and playing host at one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL, the Seahawks were still heavy underdogs before Saturday’s game. That is likely what they’ll hear again this week when they head to Chicago to battle the NFC North-champion Bears on Sunday.
That will also be their next chance to convert some more detractors to their side.
“We don’t really worry about what other people say. We believe in each other and we just want to go out there and play like we know we can play,” defensive end Raheem Brock said. “If we keep winning games, we’ll get more believers. It’s really up to us.”
Forget Hasselbeck’s four touchdowns, Brock’s big sack or tight end John Carlson’s two scoring catches. Running back Marshawn Lynch had far and away the biggest play of the game.
After New Orleans crept to within 34-30 with 9:13 to play, the Seahawks took over looking to run some time off the clock. On the second play of the resulting drive, Hasselbeck handed the ball off to Lynch on what the quarterback said was a power run to the left that was designed to get four yards at best.
What happened next was a thing of beauty.
Lynch broke through and shook off at least five tackles on the way to an amazing and hard-fought 67-yard touchdown run to essentially put the game away. Carroll said it reminded him of Steve Young’s famous game-winning 49- yard touchdown run versus the Vikings back in 1988.
“I don’t know, maybe I got it a little overrated there, but it was one of the greatest runs I ever saw. … I’m sure that everybody will remember that run forever; for people who were at that game, it was one of those moments.”
Lynch, acquired during the season in a trade with Buffalo, ended with 131 yards rushing on 19 carries, becoming the first Seahawk this year to break 100 yards on the ground in a game.
“It’s something to [build] off going into next week,” Lynch said. “I feel it was a pretty good feeling for us all. The offensive line did a great job of getting me to the secondary and I think instincts just took over from there.”
DEFENSE LEAVES ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
Many figured that if the Saints were able to put up points like they did in a 34-19 home victory over the Seahawks on Nov. 21, they would win this one with ease. That didn’t happen as Seattle grabbed a big lead after falling behind by 10 early, which was good seeing as the defense had trouble holding serve.
Seattle’s secondary was drilled for 404 passing yards by Brees, but did hold the Pro Bowl quarterback to just two touchdown passes.
The run defense also struggled as well, yielding 77 total yards on the ground and a pair of scores to former Seattle running back Julius Jones.
Still, the defense made some big plays when needed and three times limited New Orleans’ high-powered offense to field goals. That made a difference given the margin of victory was only five points.
“They’re a very good offense. They’ve got so many different formations that they run,” said defensive end Chris Clemons. “It was about matchups — getting the best matchups on the field and being able to match up with them and being able to stop them.”
Added cornerback Marcus Trufant, who ended with seven tackles, “You got to show the Saints look after look. You got to show them a whole bunch of different looks because they’re going to come out and they’re going to put up points.”
Brock had a productive day with a sack and forced fumble, but the defense also suffered the game’s biggest injury for Seattle when linebacker Lofa Tatupu sustained a concussion in the fourth quarter.
Carroll is hopeful that Tatupu can return to practice this week.
UP NEXT: CHICAGO BEARS
The bad news for the Seahawks is that the Bears finished the regular season with an 11-5 mark to earn a first-round bye. The good news is that one of those five losses came on Oct. 17 at Seattle.
The ‘Hawks picked up that 23-20 victory thanks to a combined 111 yards rushing and two scores from Lynch and Justin Forsett. The defense, meanwhile, sacked Bears quarterback Jay Cutler six times and allowed just 61 yards rushing.
Seattle is 8-4 all-time versus Chicago, winning four of the last six meetings.