For Seahawks, it’s not all about the Saints

Posted Jan 5, 2014

The Saints’ last-second victory over the Eagles in Saturday night’s wild-card game sends them to CenturyLink Field for a rematch with the top-seeded Seahawks in this Saturday’s divisional-round playoff game.

Now that the Seahawks know who they will host in Saturday’s divisional playoff game, their preparations won’t be limited solely to all things fleur de lei.

Yes, the New Orleans Saints and their iconic logo are heading back to Seattle for a 1:35 p.m. matchup at CenturyLink Field after Shayne Graham’s 32-yard field goal on the last play of Saturday night’s wild-card game against the Eagles in Philadelphia gave them a 26-24 victory. Yes, the winner of Seahawks-Saints game will advance to the NFC Championship game on Sunday, Jan. 19. And yes, the Saints just played in Seattle on Dec. 2, when the Seahawks collected a 34-7 victory on “Monday Night Football” behind a 310-yard, three-touchdown passing performance by Russell Wilson.

But no, the Saints aren’t the Seahawks’ only concern. That was evident even before the NFC’s top-seeded team knew who it would play in its postseason opener after getting a bye in the first weekend of the playoffs.

“From preseason to regular season to the playoff game, we’re not going to switch up in terms of who we are and what we’re about,” defensive captain and run-stuffing end Red Bryant said Friday, after the second of the Seahawks’ two bye-week practices. “Whoever we end up playing, we’ll prepare like we always do. We’ll respect our opponent and we’ll definitely make it as hard as possible on them by playing our game.”

The Seahawks’ game starts with a fast, aggressive, physical defense that ranked No. 1 in the NFL during the regular season in average points, yards and passing yards allowed, as well as interceptions and turnovers – a unit that held the Saints to a season-low seven points and only 188 yards last month.

“It’s all about yourself, it’s all about you,” All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas said. “When you’re confident, you play confident, no matter who you’re playing. Everybody is the same. I think it’s who prepares well, and I think we prepare better than anybody. So I’m just excited for it.”

The Seahawks are playing the Saints because they are the No. 6 seed in the NFC, despite their 11-5 record during the regular season. As the top seed, the Seahawks would host the lowest-seeded team to emerge from the wild-card round. If the No. 3-seed Eagles had prevailed, the Seahawks would have hosted the winner of Sunday’s game in Green Bay between the No. 5-seed San Francisco 49ers and No. 4-seed Packers. Now, that team will play the No. 2 seed Panthers in Carolina next Sunday.

Coach Pete Carroll and his staff were going to meet Sunday, regardless of what happened in the wild-card games. Now they know who they’re preparing to face, and it helps that they saw the Saints last month.

“If the Saints are fortunate enough to win, then we know what’s going on and that’ll kick us into gear right away,” Carroll said after Friday’s practice. “So it’s exciting. We’ve recognized that this is a really cool place to be. To be able to sit back and watch these games and take advantage of this week as we have and prep up for it when it kicks into high gear.”

The Saints also were the Seahawks’ opponent the last time a playoff game was held in Seattle. The Seahawks won that 2010 wild-card game 41-36 as since-departed QB Matt Hasselbeck passed for four touchdowns and Marshawn Lynch iced the outcome with an electrifying 67-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter.

So it’s not just the Seahawks who know what they’re in for Saturday.

“It’s loud, it's crazy, they've got a good thing going there,” Saints QB Drew Brees told reporters after Saturday night’s game when asked about the next challenge. “Obviously, they've only lost one game there in the last two years. But having been there less than a month ago, I think that serves us well, what to expect, how to prepare for it.

“But we're going to need our best game, that's for sure.”

So will the Seahawks, and that’s where their focus has been since even before they knew who they’d be facing.