When: Saturday, 1:30 p.m., Qwest Field
What: NFC wild-card game between the conference’s No. 4 seed (Seahawks) and No. 5 seed (Saints)
Record: 11-5 and second in the NFC South
Where they rank: No. 6 on offense (28th rushing, 3rd passing); No. 4 on defense (16th rushing, 4th passing)
Series: Saints lead 6-5 after their 35-19 victory over the Seahawks in Week 11 in New Orleans
Bing Stat Comparison: Bing.com, the official decision engine of the Seahawks, provides us with a statistical comparison of the key positions in this weekend’s matchup:
- Linebackers – Jonathan Vilma vs. Lofa Tatupu
Defensive Backs – Malcolm Jenkings vs. Earl Thomas
Kickers – Olindo Mare vs. Garrett Hartley
Wide Receivers – Mike Williams vs. Marques Colston
Quarterbacks – Drew Brees vs. Matt Hasselbeck | vs. Charlie Whitehurst
To perform your own statistical comparison visit Bing.com and search for any two players of the same position.
Star power: Drew Brees. When the Saints’ Pro Bowl quarterback and MVP from last season’s Super Bowl gets it going, it’s something to see. There’s no need to remind the Seahawks. They witnessed it in November at the Superdome, when Brees was 29 of 43 for 382 yards and four touchdowns – and that was playing without versatile back Reggie Bush and tight end Jeremy Shockey. “Drew Brees had a phenomenal game against us,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “He really had his way throwing the ball down the field.” It wasn’t just a Seahawk thing. Brees passed for 4,620 yards during the regular season – third in the league behind the Chargers’ Philip Rivers (4,710) and Colts’ Peyton Manning (4,700). He also completed 68.1 percent of his passes (448 of 658) to rank No. 1 in the league; and threw 33 TD passes, which tied for second behind the Patriots’ Tom Brady (36). But Brees also threw an uncharacteristic 22 interceptions, including two against the Seahawks. His previous career high was 18 in 2007.
Unsung hero: Chris Ivory. The rookie free agent from Division II Tiffin University is the Saints’ leading rusher (716 yards) and also has run for five touchdowns. He got 99 of those yards and one of the TDs in the Week 11 win over the Seahawks, when the defense had problems tackling the 222-pounder. “A lot of teams have a difficult time tackling him, he’s a very physical runner that we weren’t ready for,” Carroll said. “He ran over us.” But Ivory injured his left foot in Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Buccaneers, so is status for Saturday’s game is questionable.
On the spot: Jerome Bushrod and Jon Stinchcomb. The Saints’ offensive tackles did not allow a sack in the Week 11 game. But this week’s game is being played at Qwest Field, where the din generated by the 12th Man crowd plays into the pass-rush ability of Seahawks’ rush-ends Chris Clemons and Raheem Brock – and should make things more difficult for the larger duo of Bushrod (6-5, 315) and Stinchcomb (also 6-5, 315). Clemons has produced a career-high 11 tackles this season, and Brock is right behind him with a career-best nine after collecting 2½ against the Rams on Sunday night. “They finished that game fire,” Carroll said of the pressure Brock and Clemons applied on Rams rookie QB Sam Bradford. The Seahawks will have to generate a pass rush against Brees, as well, to avoid a repeat passing performance. So it’s up to Clemons and Brock to be at their disruptive best.
Burning question: Can the Saints win a playoff game on the road? They won the Super Bowl, of course, and the game was played in Miami. But in earlier-round playoff games the Saints are 0-3 on the road – losing 16-6 in a wild-card game against the Bears in 1990; 34-16 to the Vikings in a divisional-round game 2000; and 39-14 to the Bears in 2006 NFC Championship game. The Saints say they’re tired of hearing about it, especially after winning the Super Bowl last season. But it will remain a topic for discussion – and annoyance – until they do something about it.
Familiar faces: RB Julius Jones led the Seahawks in rushing the past two seasons, but signed with the Saints after being released in October. FB Heath Evans (2001-04) and snapper Jason Kyle (1995-98) also played for the Seahawks. Then there’s the Seahawks South flavor to the Saints’ front office. Executive VP/general manager Mickey Loomis was with the Seahawks for 15 years (1983-98), while assistant head coach/linebackers coach Joe Vitt (1982-91), director of operations James Nagaoka (1980-2002), director of college scouting Rick Reiprish (1984-94) and area scout Mike Baugh (1992-99) also worked for the Seahawks. Area coach Terry Wooden was a second-round draft choice by the Seahawks in 1990 and started at linebacker for seven seasons.
The last word: “Once you get into the postseason, no one’s really interested in how you got there. That’s been the history of our league and (the Seahawks) played awfully well (Sunday night) in a game that was very much like a playoff game unto itself.” – Saints coach Sean Payton