Saturday, January 8, 2011
Seattle slews Saints
The Seahawks, who were the first team in NFL history to make the playoffs with a losing record in a non-strike season, stunned the defending Super Bowl champions with 41-36 come-from-behind win in the opening game of the wild-card round.
Seattle entered the game as a double-digit underdog, with only seven wins compared to 11 for New Orleans, and having been outscored during the season by 97 points. Even with the odds stacked against it, its win is not as improbable as one might guess.
Seattle was the fifth team since 1978 to enter the playoffs with a point differential of minus-50 or worse, and all five have now won their opening-round playoff game. This game was also the 11th playoff matchup in league history where a team beat an opponent that had four or more wins than it did in the regular season – and it has happened in each of the last four postseasons.
Both teams lit up the scoreboard early and often. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this was just the second playoff game in NFL history where both teams scored at least 20 points in the first half. The 77 points combined by both teams is tied for the seventh-most in a postseason game and the 15th time both teams totaled at least 70 points.
Drew Brees did his best to rally the Saints, completing 39-of-60 pass attempts for 404 yards and two scores. His 60 attempts are the fourth most in any postseason game, and he is the second player with at least 400 passing yards and no interceptions in a playoff game since the merger.
Brees was a perfect 6-for-6 on his first six play-action attempts, throwing for 56 yards, a touchdown and five first downs. On his next eight attempts, however, Brees was just 5-for-8, picking up only 20 yards and one first down.
Brees excelled in Week 11 against the Seahawks when looking downfield, but in Saturday’s wild-card game, the Seahawks were able to limit the damage on those throws.
Matt Hasselbeck found success on Saturday where Brees faltered. Hasselbeck had a passer rating of 55.9 on play-action passes during the regular season, the third-worst mark in the NFL. Against the Saints, Hasselbeck completed all six of his play-action pass attempts for 48 yards, two touchdowns and a 139.6 passer rating.
Hasselbeck had a passer rating of 58.5 on throws of 11 or more yards downfield during the regular season, the worst rating among NFL quarterbacks. In Saturday’s win, his rating was 149.3 with two touchdowns on similar passes.