Seattle Seahawks fans made some noise. Seahawks players made a statement.
Once again lead by brilliant play from second year quarterback Russell Wilson and a dominant, destructive defense, the Seahawks smashed the New Orleans Saints 34-7 on Monday Night to become the first NFL team to clinch a playoff berth and seize control of the NFC playoff race.
"For us to come out in that fashion and to win that game the way that we did was awesome," Wilson said.
The way they won was with total domination on both sides of the ball. The Seahawks totaled 429 yards of offense, with Wilson passing for 302 yards and three touchdowns, finishing with a passer rating of 139.6, the second highest of his career. The defense got a touchdown on a strip-sack in the first quarter and held the explosive New Orleans offense to just 188 yards, the lowest total of Sean Payton’s tenure in the Crescent City. To top it off, Seahawks fans -- collectively known as the 12th Man -- reestablished their claim as the league’s best crowd by setting a new world record for loudest stadium at 137.6 decibels, a noise level so cacophonous it registered as a minor earthquake.
“Obviously, it’s a difficult loss,” Saints head coach Sean Payton said. “There are too many things we didn’t do or do well enough to give ourselves the opportunity to win. Credit Seattle, they made the plays they needed to and were certainly the better team tonight.”
While it’s difficult to single out any one player on the defense, Russell Wilson left no doubt as to the best player on the Seahawks’ offense. In improving his home record to a perfect 14-0, Wilson made play after play with both his arms and his legs. Besides completing 22 of 30 passes (many of which were dropped in perfectly despite being thrown on the run), Wilson rushed for 47 yards on eight carries, more than the entire Saints team, who finished with 44.
“I get asked all the time and I really feel inadequate in trying to describe to you who he is and what he’s all about,” coach Pete Carroll said of Wilson. “He’s an extraordinary individual. It goes way beyond his football ability, he’s an amazing person.”
What was billed as the NFC game of the year was essentially over by halftime. The Saints went 3-and-out on the opening possession of the game, saw a strip-sack on Drew Brees returned for a touchdown on their second possession, and again went 3-and-out on their third drive. New Orleans got the ball back with 3:41 to go in the second quarter trailing 20-7, but could not earn a first down. The Seahawks subsequently put together a 12-play, 88-yard drive that was capped by a 4-yard touchdown reception to Doug Baldwin, putting Seattle up 27-7 at halftime.
In the second half, the Seahawks defense continued its dominance, with the Saints five drives all ending in a punt or a turnover on downs.
“They are very good,” Brees said of Seattle’s defense. “They don’t have any weak links. They are very good upfront. They are very good in the linebacker position. They are very good in the secondary. They put it all together and they play very well together within their scheme.”
Playing within their scheme is what separates the NFL-best 11-1 Seahawks from the rest of the league. Their offense is predicated on long, methodical scoring drives engineered by taking what the defense gives. Seattle’s defense is built on a smothering secondary that buys time for the defensive lineman to get to the quarterback. And the 12th Man gives the Seahawks a home field advantage that no other stadium can match.
Everything is clicking for the Seattle Seahawks entering the final quarter of the season and their matchup against division rival San Francisco next Sunday. Simply put, Seattle looks like the best and most well-rounded team in pro football.