If there is anyone who doubts the ability for the Seattle Seahawks to win at home, especially against the better teams in the National Football League, I would like to meet them. Under the Monday Night spotlight, the Seahawks routed the New Orleans Saints 34-7. With the win, the Seahawks go to 11-1 on the season, have clinched a playoff berth, maintain their 3 game lead on San Francisco in the NFC West, and the Seahawks now have a 2 game lead on the Saints and the Carolina Panthers for home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. There is so much to get to after this game so let me jump right into my thoughts.
Seahawks Defense Forces Brees into Worst Performance Since 2006: Thanks to the pass rush pressure of the Seahawks front 7 and outstanding coverage by the Legion of Boom, Saints quarterback Drew Brees was only able to complete 23 of his 38 attempted passes for 147 total yards, including one touchdown. Brees’s yardage total marks the lowest number of yards he has thrown for since December 24th, 2006 when the Saints played the New York Giants. Although the Seahawks only forced one sack of Brees, the pressure was present throughout the game, frequently collapsing the pocket. Brees never got comfortable behind center and the noise certainly did not help. Brees was effective throwing to tight end Jimmy Graham who had 3 catches for 42 yards and a touchdown, however Brees tried to explore all of his options throughout the game and receivers Marques Colston and Kenny Stills simply could not get separation from the Seattle secondary. Perhaps New Orleans would have been more effective by throwing in Graham’s direction more often but as each drive happened and the more points the Seahawks scored it was going to be impossible for Brees to focus on one receiver and expect the Saints to get back into the ballgame.
Next Man Up: It was an all-around incredible performance from the Seahawks defense on Monday night but the play of cornerback Byron Maxwell should calm everyone who was worried about a back-up cornerback facing an explosive offensive unit like New Orleans has. Maxwell stepped in for Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond and held his ground, making 2 tackles and recording 2 passes defensed; one of which was nearly intercepted. Without both Browner and Thurmond in the lineup, the Seahawks are 5-0 dating back to last year when backup cornerbacks start in their place. Maxwell gave me no reason to think he cannot do the job and hold down the fort until Thurmond comes back in week 17. The depth of our roster especially at cornerback is proving to be an asset that is continuing to pay off. Next week against San Francisco will be a challenge for Maxwell, especially on the road. Maxwell certainly earned the faith, trust, and respect of the 12th Man on Monday night.
Avril, Bennett Make Play of the Game: New Orleans had no chance of winning this game after what happened on a 3rd & 5 with just under 7:00 left in the first quarter. Defensive end Cliff Avril rushed around Saints right tackle Zach Strief and stripped the ball away from Drew Brees. The ball was caught by Michael Bennett and ran back 20 yards for a “fat guy” touchdown and a 10-0 Seahawks lead. Although this play only made it a two-score game, the feeling inside CenturyLink Field was that the 12th Man was in no way going to let New Orleans get back into this game. Plays such as this one give the fans something to scream about and once the stadium exploded and the Saints immediately got the ball back I knew what was coming; the kind of noise that gives an opposing offense zero chance of being effective moving forward. This was the number one game altering play of the night. The Seahawks outscored New Orleans 24-7 after that play and that 10 point deficit following the Bennett touchdown was the closest the Saints trailed the Seahawks all game.
Meet Our MVP Candidate: During the ESPN postgame show the 12th Man let out chants of “Russell Wilson, MVP” and it got me thinking, could Wilson actually be a legitimate MVP candidate after a performance like he had on Monday night (22/30, 310 yards, 3 touchdowns, 139.6 passer rating)? Wilson now ranks 3rd among eligible quarterbacks in overall quarterback rating, and his 22 touchdowns versus 6 interceptions is one of the best ratios in the league. On the field imagine how the Seahawks would do if Tarvaris Jackson was our starting quarterback instead of Wilson. When you take significant (and I cannot stress the word ‘significant’ enough) players out of the equation is sets back your entire team dramatically. Taking Wilson away from the Seahawks is becoming more and more parallel to taking Peyton Manning out of Denver and Aaron Rodgers out of Green Bay (as Packers fans are currently learning). If he keeps up his dynamic production for the rest of the season, I would consider Russell Wilson a serious candidate for the 2013 NFL MVP award.
Thoughts on New Orleans: Take away the primetime factor and the home field advantage out of Monday’s game and I think the Saints would have had a better chance of staying with the Seahawks. No team would have much of a chance in an environment like what the Seahawks hosted on Monday Night. The Saints are a very good team and I could definitely see a rematch next month. Right now however the Saints need to be more and more worried about losing the NFC South to the Carolina Panthers. The Saints have the capability of getting to the NFC Championship Game and perhaps even the Super Bowl, but if they have to pay Seattle another visit in the coming weeks I expect their goal of a Super Bowl championship to evaporate.
Let Me Be Bold: The Seahawks are now 6-0 at home this season and have beaten both San Francisco and New Orleans in primetime settings. I now expect the Seahawks to earn home field advantage throughout the NFC Playoffs and if that is the case, I believe the Seattle Seahawks will represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLVIII. All worries about a possible home game letdown at some point this season have transformed into a solid, unmistakable truth: NO, and I mean NO team can come into our house against this team and win. If you thought the atmosphere at CenturyLink Field was crazy for this game, just imagine what it will be like here in the playoffs. From where I’m sitting, if you are a Seahawks fan I would definitely be comfortable making your reservations for New York City immediately.
Random Thoughts: I took my friend Dylan to the game and we started the day by having lunch at Chuck’s Hole-In-The-Wall Barbeque on James Street downtown which was a long overdue first for me. In my opinion it is the only place around town that challenges Dixie’s in Bellevue for my favorite BBQ restaurant. I highly recommend the brisket with spicy BBQ sauce… Got to the bar at 12:30 and all the tables were full by 1. That was pretty amazing. Good thing we got one of the three booths… It’s really fun to walk across the street to the stadium as the sun is setting. It really gets me excited for the primetime feel of a Seahawks game… The defense was introduced this week and although Byron Maxwell started in place of Brandon Browner, the Legion of Boom was still announced to the crowd as a group… Ed Hochuli deserves to be the referee for Super Bowl XLVIII. He did an incredible job explaining calls and very few penalties were inaccurately enforced… I should clarify, he did an incredible job explaining calls except for when he got too into detail when he said at one point while explaining a call “we didn’t let the team [run a play] because we were stretching our balls.” [Insert joke here]… Pizza is to damn expensive in sports stadiums… There were very few Saints fans in attendance this week. That was a pleasant sight to see… After the game we made our way down to the lower level for the postgame show and it was packed. It is amazing to wonder what a game would look like down that close. In the upper deck the players look like ants sometimes and on the lower level not only is the game closer, but the stadium feels incredibly big. I can only imagine what the 12th Man sounds like from the lower level… Let me say this, I appreciate the job that alcohol enforcement does on a game-by-game basis but sometimes it seems like they overstep their job description and take things way too seriously. Alcohol enforcement was turning away fans that wanted to be a part of the postgame show crowd and were calling in Seattle police officers to kick out fans who were doing absolutely nothing wrong. Please stick to what your job entails, AE; kicking out the unruly fans that are interrupting the fan experience and making fools out of themselves… I got a thumbs up directly from Ray Lewis. That was pretty cool… It feels so good to be 11-1. It only makes next week’s trip to San Francisco that much more exciting.
This week will be a busy week on the blog. It is our second hate week of the season as the Seahawks now focus on the San Francisco 49ers. Check back midweek for a special commentary piece highlighting our upcoming game against the 49ers. My game preview of Sunday’s Seahawks/49ers game will be up early Saturday morning. Go Seahawks!