At the end of the first half of Saturday’s opening playoff match-up, no one expected to see the New Orleans Saints struggling to get in the end zone. When they finally had to settle for three and headed into the locker room, I’m sure the Saints couldn’t bring themselves to look up at the score board. The Seahawks, however, probably strained their necks to keep their eyes on the numbers all the way into the tunnel.
In the game that wasn’t supposed to be a game, the first half was a 30-minute showcase of quarterback prowess with each offense pushing 200+ yards and 20+ points. Matt Hasselbeck had a particularly spectacular up-and-down toss that looked like a complete accident until the third or fourth replay when it was clear the pass was perfectly planned and executed. Naturally, spectators likely expected the half-time break to cause a change – it wouldn’t have been surprising to see New Orleans come out rejuvenated and driven and Seattle to come out seeming over-matched.
However, the crowd (and maybe the players) stood shocked when Seattle came out and ran seven plays to score another touchdown on yet another perfect floater from Hasselbeck that fell right into place. At 31 to 20, the post-season was turned firmly on its ear. Shortly after, the Saints were punting away what seemed to be their playoff hopes.
Third quarter: 4th and inches. At their own 38 yard line, in a sign of desperation, the Saints went for it… and were soundly stopped by an invigorated Seahawks defense. The immediate question: would Seattle be able to capitalize? Answer: no. But with a 14 point lead, did the ‘Hawks really need to?
New Orleans wouldn’t see Seattle territory again until the last play of the 3rd quarter when Drew Brees fired a 20-yard laser to get to the Seahawks’ 36. A spark of life seemed to return to Saints offense. An out-of-bounds shove gave New Orleans half-the-distance to the goal and the Saints ate up those ten yards in three plays to pull within 7 of Seattle. Remember the 4th down stop the Seahawks didn’t capitalize on? Seattle does.
With 9:13 left in the game, New Orleans kicked for three, and Seattle held onto a 4 point lead. By that point, Seattle was beginning to look more like their regular season selves. Somehow, Seattle managed to hold on defensively on the next New Orleans possession, assisted by significant crowd noise and a huge swat by Free Safety Jordan Babineaux. The Saints fell silent after Seattle came back with a huge Lynch 67-yard rushing touchdown to bring the score to 41-30, Seattle, with only three minutes left in the game.
New Orleans came back with a solid drive and set the final score at 41-36 after a failed two point conversion, but didn’t have enough to beat the worst team in the playoffs. The Seattle Seahawks came into this game as eleven-point underdogs, but that was a deficit they put in their rearview mirror after the Saints had them at 17-7 in the first quarter. In the end, the Seattle Seahawks proved that nothing is sacred and this post-season will be nothing like we expected.