The Seattle Seahawks faced a familiar playoff foe in the New Orleans Saints on Jan. 11. The last time the Seahawks played the Saints in the postseason, they were 7-9 while New Orleans was the defending Super Bowl champion. Unlike in 2011, the Seahawks were expected to win over the Saints in January, which they finally did by 23-15 -- although this time, it shouldn't have been that hard.
Drew Brees and the Saints offense couldn't score until the fourth quarter, yet the game was still in range by then. Seattle was on virtual cruise control for three quarters, as the defense and Marshawn Lynch carried it more than Russell Wilson did. While the Seahawks were up by 16-0, the deficit could have easily been worse, and might have been if Wilson completed more than two passes in the second half.
Thanks to the Saints hanging around, they closed the gap to 16-8 and had a chance to drive for the tying scores. However, the raucous "12'th Man" that is the Seahawks' decibel-shattering crowd broke their momentum, forcing the Saints to take a timeout and a five-yard penalty that stalled the drive. When New Orleans then missed its second field goal of the day and Lynch shortly got a back-breaking 31-yard touchdown run, all seemed nice and orderly for Seattle.
Even when the Saints scored a touchdown with under 30 seconds left, the Seahawks only needed an onside kick to finish them. But when the kick went off of Golden Tate's chest and was recovered by the Saints, there was reason to worry. Once Brees completed a pass to Marques Colston in Seahawks' territory with seconds left, all Colston had to do was step on the sidelines to give the Saints a manageable Hail Mary.
Instead, Colston committed one of the blunders of the year, by poorly throwing a backwards pass instead of getting out of bounds. The pass was forward by a wide margin, resulting in a penalty and a 10-second runoff that left no time for New Orleans.
Seattle escaped with the win despite virtually no offense in the second half, at least from anyone other than Lynch. While Lynch tends to have his way with the Saints in the playoffs, next week will be his first chance to march into the Super Bowl -- so his teammates will need to play for 60 full minutes then.