Seahawks dispatch Saints in impressive fashion

Posted Dec 2, 2013

The Seahawks became the first NFL team to clinch a playoff berth, and ran their record to a best-in-the-league 11-1, with an impressive 34-7 romp over the Saints on Monday night at CenturyLink Field.

The first to 11, and the first team into the postseason.

That was the end result after the Seahawks slapped a 34-7 loss on the New Orleans Saints on “Monday Night Football” before a CenturyLink Field-record crowd of 68,387.

At 11-1, the Seahawks clinched a playoff spot – on Dec. 2 and with four regular-season games remaining. The Saints, meanwhile, slipped to 9-3.

In addition to clinching a playoff spot for the Seahawks – their third in four seasons under coach Pete Carroll – Monday night’s victory also:

Gave the Seahawks a two-game lead over the Saints (9-3) for the NFC’s top seed in the postseason;

Maintained the Seahawks’ lead in the NFC West at three games over the San Francisco 49ers (8-4) heading into their matchup at Candlestick Park on Sunday afternoon;

Ran the winning streaks of the Seahawks and Russell Wilson, their second-year QB, at CenturyLink Field to 14 in a row;

And stretched their winning streak this season to seven in a row.

Their 11th victory also tied the Seahawks’ total from last season, when they posted the third-best record in franchise history (11-5). The only teams to win more games were the 2005 team (13-3) that advanced to the Super Bowl and the 1984 team (12-4).

The Seahawks’ domination of this much-hyped game began in the first half, as Russell Wilson was 14-of-19 for 226 yards and two touchdowns and the defense also scored and forced a trio of three-and-outs.

The defense held the Saints to a three-and-out on the game’s opening position, and the Seahawks then drove 61 yards in 11 plays to a 26-yard field goal by Steven Hauschka with 7:47 left. Wilson hit his first two passes for 33 yards.

On the Saints’ next third down, Cliff Avril got to Drew Brees for a fumble-forcing sack and Michael Bennett caught the ball and returned it 22 yards for a touchdown to make it 10-0 with 6:27 left.

The Seahawks made it 17-0 when Wilson passed 2 yards to tight end Zach Miller for a TD on third-and-goal. The big play in the six-play, 73-yard drive was a 60-yard pass from Wilson to Miller.

With his TD pass to Miller, Wilson became the fourth QB in NFL history to have 20 TD passes in each of his first two seasons. He also was 6 of 8 for 111 yards in the first quarter.

The Saints got on the board on Brees’ 2-yard TD pass to tight end Jimmy Graham, whose 12th scoring catch of the season capped a 13-play, 80-yard drive that began late in the first quarter and consumed more than eight minutes. Brees was 8-of-8 for 52 yards.

Russell Wilson then directed a 10-play, 82-yard drive to a 20-yard field goal by Steven Hauschka that made it 20-7 with 3:41 left in the half. Wilson kept the drive alive with a 52-yard pass to Doug Baldwin on third-and-3 and a 17-yarder to Golden Tate on third-and-12. Wilson was 3-of-4 for 82 yards.

But the Seahawks weren’t done. Another three-and-out by the defense was followed by a 12-play, 88-yard drive to Wilson’s 4-yard TD pass to Baldwin to make it 27-7 with 13 seconds left in the half.

Brees and Wilson were a combined 11-of-12 for 134 yards on the first two scoring drives that dominated the quarter.

The Seahawks got the ball first in the second half, but did little with it in a three-and-out possession and had to punt for the first time in the game. The defense then forced its fourth three-and-out of the game, and the offense then drove 79 yards in eight plays to one very-strange TD that made it 34-7 with 7:07 left. On the TD, Russell Wilson’s pass went off the hands of No. 3 tight end Kellen Davis and was caught by backup fullback Derrick Coleman for his first NFL TD. Wilson was 4 of 5 for 53 yards.

The Seahawks stopped the Saints on fourth downs twice to open the quarter, but then went three-and-out after the first and had a 13-play drive to burn 7½ minutes. Robert Turbin, the second-year back, took over for Marshawn Lynch on that 12-play possession and carried eight times for 21 yards. Not overly impressive, but effective when the idea was burn as much time as possible.