Keys to victory: Seahawks 23, Saints 15

January, 11, 2014
Jan 11
9:00
PM ET
Harry How/Getty ImagesMarshawn Lynch set a Seahawks postseason record with 140 rushing yards in Saturday's win.
The Seattle Seahawks entered Saturday having lost their previous four divisional playoff games, and their 2-6 record all-time in the round was tied for the second-worst mark among teams with at least three divisional playoff appearances.

But Seattle rode another “beastly” effort from Marshawn Lynch, along with a stellar performance from its defensive secondary, to pick up the 23-15 win over the New Orleans Saints and secure a spot in the conference championship for the third time in franchise history.

Seahawks offensive key: Marshawn Lynch
Lynch finished the game with a Seahawks postseason-record 140 rushing yards, breaking a mark he previously shared with Shaun Alexander. Lynch now has three of the four highest single-game rushing yardage totals in Seahawks history.

For his career, Lynch now has three 130-yard rushing games in the postseason. Under the current NFL playoff format (dating back to 1990), only Terrell Davis and Thurman Thomas have more such games.

Lynch did the majority of his work going right up the middle, with 19 of his 28 rushes to that area, for 108 yards (5.7 yards per rush). On the nine rushes outside the tackles, Lynch gained just 32 yards, for 3.6 yards per carry. Thirty-one of those yards came on his fourth-quarter touchdown run.

In true “Beast Mode” form, Lynch finished with 66 rush yards after contact. In Seattle’s Week 13 victory over the Saints, Lynch finished with just 45 total rush yards on 16 carries.

Seahawks defensive key: limiting Jimmy Graham and screen passes
During the regular season, Jimmy Graham led the Saints in receptions and receiving yards and scored a team-high 16 touchdowns (no other player scored more than five). On defense Saturday, Seattle managed to limit the Saints tight end to just one reception for eight yards on six targets.

At the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees was 0-for-4 when targeting Graham, with all four incompletions having been broken up by Seahawks defenders.

Thanks in part to Seattle limiting Graham, the Saints finished just 3-for-12 (25 percent) on third down. During the regular season, the Saints were third in the NFL and tops in the NFC, converting 43.9 percent of their third downs.

New Orleans also struggled with screen passes, usually a strength of the team. The Saints ran six screen passes Saturday, gaining positive yards on only one of those plays.

During the regular season, the Saints led the league in screen-pass completions to running backs with 59, 14 more than any other team, and were third in yardage on screen passes to running backs.

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