Saturday, January 8, 2011
Rapid Reaction: Seahawks 41, Saints 36
By Mike Sando
SEATTLE -- Thoughts on the Seahawks' 41-36 win against the Saints in the wild-card round:
What it means: Seattle pulled off one of the most shocking upsets in playoff history, knocking off the defending Super Bowl champs despite entering the game as the first division winner with a losing record. Seattle advances to the divisional round but cannot yet know where it will play next. If third-seeded Philadelphia defeats sixth-seeded Green Bay, the Seahawks visit No. 1 seed Atlanta. If the Packers beat the Eagles, Seattle visits No. 2 seed Chicago. The Seahawks already won at Soldier Field this season.
What I liked: Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck played his finest game in years and his finest in a big game ever. The Seahawks protected him better than expected and Hasselbeck delivered by taking advantage of the Saints' overly aggressive defense. This was vintage Hasselbeck, only better. And with the Saints threatening late, running back Marshawn Lynch broke off one a 67-yard touchdown run that will rank among the all-time great runs in playoff history. At least five Saints players had a shot at Lynch during the run. His stiff-arm decked Tracy Porter toward the end of the run, clearing the way for Lynch to score.
What I didn't like: The Seahawks started poorly and easily could have been out of it by the end of the first quarter. And once they rebounded, they committed self-inflicted errors to give the Saints chances. They committed a delay penalty to blow a field-goal chance. They dropped passes and got a little tentative. The Saints finished with 474 yards.
Hindsight: Coach Pete Carroll's decision to start Hasselbeck over Charlie Whitehurst, despite injury concerns, worked out perfectly. Hasselbeck was rested after sitting out Week 17. He threw the ball decisively and with accuracy.
Big Revelation: The Saints' offense lacked balance given injuries at running back. New Orleans became one-dimensional and that allowed Seattle's pass rush to become more effective. That also allowed the crowd to become more involved.
Tomorrow's talker: Does this performance justify bringing back Hasselbeck as the starter in 2011 at age 36? Hasselbeck completed 22 of 35 passes for 272 yards with four touchdowns, one interception and a 113 rating. This was his second strong game against the Saints this season. Hasselbeck was particularly effective throwing deep downfield.
Breakthrough game: Seattle hadn't had a 100-yard rusher all season. Lynch rushed for 131 yards. He ran effectively throughout the game, not just on the long run. The balance put Hasselbeck in better situations.
Injuriy of note: Seattle lost middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu to injury late in the game. His status was not yet known.
What's next: Seattle heads to Atlanta or Chicago in the divisional round.