Sports Out West

Seattle Seahawks dominate New Orleans Saints, clinch playoff berth

Seattle Seahawks' Richard Sherman encourages fans to cheer in the second half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints, Monday, Dec. 2, 2013, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Sometimes it’s hard to avoid being pessimistic as a Seattle sports fan.

Amidst countless losing seasons, Seattle only has one major professional championship, coming in 1979 when the defunct Seattle SuperSonics beat the Washington Bullets. But after the Seattle Seahawks destroyed the New Orleans Saints 34-7 on Monday night, a couple things are clear: this Seahawks team is the best in the NFL, and in the best position to win a championship of any Seattle team in a long time.

The number that jumps out immediately is in that score is seven. Pundits wondered all week how the Seahawks’ defense would stack up against an elite quarterback. Richard Sherman and company made a major statement, holding Drew Brees below 200 passing yards for the first time in 43 games.

The last time the Saints scored seven or fewer points was all the way back in 2002, well before Brees or Sean Payton arrived in New Orleans. The Saints’ previous season low point total was 16 in Week 2 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Seattle’s defense, particularly Earl Thomas, swarmed to the ball, tackling Saints’ ball carriers quickly before they could reach the open field. New Orleans was only able to rush 17 times for 44 yards, causing the Saints to become complete one-dimensional and allowing the Seahawks’ defense to focus on Brees and the  New Orleans’ high-octane passing attack. Running back Darren Sproles led the Saints with seven catches, as the Seahawks’ secondary had its best game of the season.

Despite a touchdown catch, the Seahawks did a great job containing Jimmy Graham. Graham was held to three catches for 42 yards and a touchdown. Rather than try to cover Graham with size, the Seahawks put big hits on him right as he caught the ball, and effectively had K.J. Wright trailing him. Byron Maxwell stepped into a more prominent role effectively, forcing a big third down incompletion with a hard hit on Graham late in the third quarter.

Graham is unstoppable in the red zone, as the Seahawks found out in the second quarter on a 2-yard touchdown catch. So Seattle just kept the Saints out of the red zone, as that was their only trip inside the red zone all night.

Meanwhile, the Seahawks’ offense kept thriving on big plays. Seattle doesn’t have impressive numbers in terms of passing yards per game, but is the best in the NFL at yards per passing attempt. Against the Saints, Zach Miller had a catch of 60 yards and Doug Baldwin had one of 52 yards.

Russell Wilson was nearly perfect, going 22 out of 30 for 310 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Not only has he been accurate and made some big plays with his legs, Wilson hasn’t been making mistakes, and now has a healthy offensive line that put up a great performance Monday against one of the best pass rushing teams in the league. Based on the way he and Marshawn Lynch are the past three games, this Seahawks team will not only put points on the board, but will be very hard for opponents to turn over.

Seattle will have a tough road game against a rowdy crowd next Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers. But based on the way the Seahawks have performed the past three weeks, nobody in the NFL can touch them. 

Photo Credit: Elaine Thompson / Associated Press 

 

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Nathaniel Reeves

Nathaniel Reeves is a journalism student at the University of Washington, currently covering sports for The UW Daily in addition to Sports Out West. He has been closely following Seattle sports his entire life.