Saints quarterback Drew Brees was held to 147 passing yards in a loss to Seattle earlier this season, but the Seahawks aren’t taking the star QB lightly in Saturday’s playoff game. (Reuters)
The Seattle Seahawks won’t have to do much research to prepare a game plan for their first playoff opponent, the New Orleans Saints.
It was the Saints whom the Seahawks beat, 34-7, in their only home Monday nght game of the year on Dec. 2 for what served as maybe the best all-around performance of the year for Seattle.
Still, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is predictably wary of the Saints, who won the right to make a return trip to Seattle by winning at Philadelphia Saturday night, 26-24.
“It would be a mistake to try to call it because of what’s happened in the past,” he said of people assuming Seattle has an edge because of the earlier win. “We don’t care about that.”
So much so that Carroll said the team will “start all over again” in its game planning for the Saints.
“That has nothing to do with what happened before,” he said. “We learned and gained information in the game, as they did. But you start all over again and start from scratch.”
Seattle dominated the Saints in just about every way in the Dec. 2 win, outgaining them 429-188 (the latter a season low for New Orleans) and taking leads of 17-0 at the end of the first quarter and 27-7 at halftime.
Seattle used a big-play offense in which the Seahawks averaged more than 14 yards per reception to go on four long scoring drives in the first half, while shutting down New Orleans running game to just 44 yards on 17 carries and forcing the Saints to rely solely on their passing attack. And while New Orleans averaged 307 yards passing per game this year to rank second in the NFL, even the Saints proved a bad matchup for the Legion of Boom secondary as Brees was held to just 147 passing yards, completing 23-of-38 passes.
A Brees fumble that turned into a 22-yard touchdown return by defensive end Michael Bennett set an early tone of dominance for the Seattle defense.
Carroll, though, noted that the Saints are “running it more now” than they did then, rushing for 185 yards against the Eagles, and that will be a key to this game as the Seahawks have at times been vulnerable to the run this season.
The Saints, meanwhile, also have some injuries in their secondary and the Seahawks will surely again try to exploit the New Orleans defense through the air.
Most important for Seattle may be a sizeable edge playing at home, where the Seahawks are 15-1 the last two seasons against a Saints team that went 3-5 on the road in the regular season.
Seattle also should be healthy and rested after the bye week, and could once again have the services of receiver Percy Harvin, who has played just once this season but practiced twice last week.