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Game at a glance: Seahawks 23, Saints 15

Posted Jan 11, 2014

In their first home playoff game since beating the Saints in a 2010 wild-card game, the Seahawks did it again Saturday. And this time it earned them a berth in next Sunday’s NFC Championship game.

A recap of the Seahawks’ 23-15 victory over the Saints in their divisional playoff game at CenturyLink Field on Saturday:

PLAYERS OF THE GAME: MICHAEL BENNETT AND MARSHAWN LYNCH

Michael Bennett, and the entire defense for that matter, because of the way they started. Marshawn Lynch because of the way he finished.

It was Bennett, in his first NFL playoff game, who forced and recovered a fumble at the Saints’ 24-yard line on the first play of the second quarter to set up a 15-yard touchdown run by Lynch that made it 13-0. Bennett, who lined up at tackle and end in the base and nickel defenses, also combined with rush-end Cliff Avril for a fumble-forcing sack and blew up another play and made the tackle for a 5-yard loss.

“Mike Bennett, you can’t hide talent,” defensive end Red Bryant said. “I feel like he’s an All-Pro caliber player. To come into this league as a free agent, and now to be one of the premier D-linemen in the league, is a testament to him. He deserves everything he’s doing and we’re a better football team when he’s on the field and everybody can see that.”

As for Lynch, after the Saints pulled to within 16-8 early in the fourth quarter, he broke a 31-yard TD run to make it 23-8 – and give him 140 yards on 28 carries. Lynch had gone six consecutive games without getting 100 or more yards.

“Marshawn Lynch had a tremendous game rushing the football,” said quarterback Russell Wilson, who completed 9 of 18 passes for 103 yards after passing for 310 yards and three TDs in the Seahawks’ Week 13 win over the Saints. “Marshawn Lynch did a great job all day.”

UNSUNG HERO: MICHAEL BOWIE

The fact that rookie Michael Bowie started at left guard came as a surprise to some. But not to the seventh-round draft choice from Oklahoma State, who was informed last Monday that he would be in the starting lineup and then practiced there all week.

YOU DON'T SAY

"They’re some of the most-dedicated outstanding fans, and we appreciate them genuinely because they do a great job. Literally, rain, sleet, snow, storm, they don’t care. They’re going to be out there loud, supportive and we appreciate that."

- All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman

“I had the whole week to prepare, so I just switched my mind over to left guard,” said Bowie, who started seven games at right tackle when Breno Giacomini was out with a knee injury and one at right guard when J.R. Sweezy was out with a concussion.

“It felt good. I’m just glad to be a part of it. Coming into it, it’s my rookie season; I was worried about making the team, not trying to start.”

But start he did, in the Seahawks’ first playoff game.

“Mike played a good game,” Pro Bowl center Max Unger said. “Nothing crazy on the pictures I saw, and I think he played a pretty solid game.”

PLAYS OF THE GAME

Offense: Lynch had two big scoring runs, but let’s go with the longer of the two – the 31-yarder with 2 minutes, 40 seconds to play.

“His vision, his footwork, his patience right there, that’s what you have to have – especially on that particular play,” Wilson said. “To get the first down and then accelerate to the end zone, that’s what makes him one of the best, if not the best, running back in the National Football League.”

Defense: Bennett’s bang-bang play the resulted in a fumble by Saints running back Mark Ingram and the recover by Bennett to set up Lynch’s first TD run.

“He got up on me at the last second,” Ingram said. “I didn’t see him, not until the last second. He just knocked the ball out. It’s critical that we take care of the football. We can’t help them out. I fumbled it on their side of the field, and they went and scored a touchdown.”

Special teams: Any time a kicker or punter had to launch the ball into the 20-miles-per-hour wind that was blowing from the south end zone to the north end zone. That’s why Saints punter Thomas Morstead got off a 16-yarder in the first quarter and the Seahawks’ Jon Ryan followed with a 24-yarder in the second quarter. It’s also what made Steven Hauschka’s three-field goal performance so impressive.

“That’s definitely the worst I’ve seen the wind here,” Hauschka said.

INJURY REPORT: PERCY HAVIN LEAVES WITH A CONCUSSION

Percy Harvin’s return didn’t last long, as the talented receiver/returner/runner left the field in the first quarter and again in the second quarter with concussion-like symptoms. He did not return after the second incident.

“The poor kid,” coach Pete Carroll said of Harvin, who was playing for the first time since the Week 11 win over the Vikings – and only the second time this season after having hip surgery Aug. 1. “He finally gets to play and he banged his head against the turf really hard. He was OK the first time, but the second one really rocked him. They’re treating him for the concussion thing. So, unfortunately, he was just sick about the thought that he couldn’t come back out.”

But Harvin made the most of his opportunities, catching a team-high three passes for 21 yards and carrying once for 9 yards.

WORTH NOTING

The Seahawks have won a playoff game in three of their four seasons under Carroll – a wild-card win over the Saints in 2010; a win over the Redskins in Washington last season, the franchise’s first on the road since 1983; and Saturday’s divisional game against the Saints.

The Seahawks are now 8-2 in home playoff games – 2-1 at the Kingdome and 6-1 at their current stadium that opened in 2002. Next Sunday, they will try to win a second home playoff game for only the second time in franchise history – the first coming in 2005.

The Seahawks were 5 of 14 on third downs (36 percent) after going 3 of 13, 2 of 13 and 4 of 14 in the last three regular-season games.

The Saints had large edges in total yards (409-277), first downs (25-13) and offensive plays (70-56).

The crowd of 68,388 set a CenturyLink Field record by just one fan, topping the 68,387 that turned out for the Seahawks’ victory over the Saints on “Monday Night Football” in Week 13.

In two games against the Seahawks, Saints tight end Jimmy Graham caught four passes for 50 yards – one for 8 Saturday and three for 42 in Week 13. In his other 15 games, he averaged six receptions for 78 yards. Why were the Seahawks so successful against the player who led all tight ends in receptions (82) and all players in TD catches (16)? “We’re not scared of him,” All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman said. “We understand we have to deal with him, but he also has to deal with us.”

The Saints’ Marques Colston caught 11 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown. He had 10 catches for 135 yards in the second half and seven for 88 in the fourth quarter.

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