The Seahawks are back on the road this week looking to continue their successful ways in early games. Dating back to the 2018 season, the Seahawks have won 14 of their last 15 games that kick off at 10 a.m. Pacific Time after winning another early game last weekend in Detroit. Keeping that success going won't be easy, however, against a Saints team that is playing better than its 1-3 record would indicate—particularly on defense.
Here are five things to watch when the Seahawks and Saints face off at the Caesars Superdome on Sunday:
1. Can Geno Smith and the offense get off to another fast start?
In their best offensive performance yet this season, the Seahawks scored touchdowns on both of their first two possessions, and scored 24 points on their four first-half possessions. It was the third time in four games the Seahawks have scored a touchdown on their opening drive, and they have scored at least three times in the first half in those three games as well, winning two of them.
As Seahawks coach Pete Carroll always says, you can't win a game in the first quarter, but you sure can make things easier on yourself, and in particular getting off to a good start would be a nice way to take some pressure off of a defense that is still trying to work out some issues.
Another fast start won't be easy for Seattle's offense, however, not against a Saints defense loaded with talent at all three levels, and that last season held the Seahawks to just 10 points, seven of which came early in the game on a single big play, an 84-yard touchdown pass from Geno Smith to DK Metcalf.
"This is always a good defense," offensive coordinator Shane Waldron said . "They do a great job of stopping the run. I know they had a really long streak, 55 games or so, of not giving up a 100-yard rusher. I know some things have happened this year that haven't gone perfectly in the run game, but they are still stopping the run at a high level. It is starting on the edge with those guys setting it with (Marcus) Davenport and (Cam) Jordan. Then the inside guys are always moving, and they are always doing something different technique wise. Then (Demario) Davis in the middle is playing downhill and is as hard hitting as they get. They do a great job of stopping the run so then they do a good job of forcing teams into passing situations. They have a great secondary and a great scheme where they mix and match a lot of different things. It's just another week of going against a defense that has multiple looks, multiple things, and great players that can go out and execute."
2. Can Seattle's defense keep Alvin Kamara in check?
If you only looked at the rushing stats of Saints running back Alvin Kamara, you'd think the Seahawks have handled the Pro-Bowler well in their two recent meetings. After all, Kamara has been held to just 120 yards on 36 carries in two games. Unfortunately for the Seahawks, however, Kamara is a dual-threat back, and he has been a huge factor as a pass-catcher when these two teams face off. In the 2019 meeting in Seattle, Kamara caught nine passes for 92 yards and a score, helping the Saints to a high-scoring win, and last season when both teams were struggling to find offense in a 13-10 New Orleans victory, Kamara did a lot of damage, catching 10 passes for 128 yards and a score.
"He's elite," nickel corner Coby Bryant said. "Obviously, that's what makes him a good back. You know one of the best backs in the league, but ultimately, we just play our defense and be who we are and not do anything out of the ordinary and we'll be fine."
3. How do Seattle's rookie tackles handle another tough test?
Through four games, a big bright spot for the Seahawks has been the play of rookie tackles Abraham Lucas and Charles Cross. Those two have more than held their own in their first month of facing NFL defenses, and are a big reason why Geno Smith has taken only six sacks, and why the offense as a whole is functioning so well.
This week, however, will represent one of the biggest tests yet for those rookies, not just because of the talent on New Orleans' D-line, led by edge rushers Cameron Jordon and Marcus Davenport, but also because the Superdome can be one of the loudest venues in the NFL. Seattle's offense functioned well last week in a loud environment at Ford Field, but given the quality of New Orleans' defense, this might be the biggest test yet for the rookie tackles.
"I think they're maxing out what we've expected of them at this point playing all four games and doing their stuff, run and pass," Carroll said of Lucas and Cross' play. "There were a lot of question marks about the running game; they're really growing fast. They're just marvelously handling it. They're just really chill and poised about it. And it's not too big for them. They're having fun, but they've been really respectful about the whole challenge of it. This will be an enormous test this weekend with the two guys that they have on their edge."
4. DK Metcalf vs. Marshon Lattimore, Round 3
DK Metcalf has a pair of huge plays in his two meetings against the Saints, an 84-yard score last year, and a 54-yard catch in 2019, but outside of those two plays, he had only two catches for 25 yards in those games. One reason why it has been tough for the Seahawks to get the ball to Metcalf against the Saints is the presence of cornerback Marson Lattimore, a four-time Pro-Bowler.
Metcalf won't back down from a challenge from any opponent, and the two have had a few post-whistle extracurriculars in the previous meetings, but Lattimore also has Metcalf's respect.
"I think it's going to be an exciting matchup," Metcalf said. "He's a good corner. They got a good defense. Their defensive structure is pretty much the same as we've seen last week so looking to see some similar coverages, but it's going to be an exciting game; closer to home for me, so going to have a lot of family at the game. It's going to be a very exciting time to be back in the South."
If the Saints defend the Seahawks similar to how Detroit did last week, that could be good news for Metcalf, who had a season-high 149 yards on seven catches.
5. Will Seattle's defense clean up the big plays and costly penalties?
Seattle's defense, looking to improve upon a rough outing in a Week 3 loss, got off to a good start last week, forcing a three-and-out. Detroit still scored quickly thanks to a fumbled punt return, but then after another Seahawks score, the defense got another three and out, though again, Detroit got its offense back on the field, this time thanks to a fake punt. So while Detroit scored twice early, the defense felt it was actually playing better in the first half of that game, but the second half saw the Lions stay in the game thanks to far too many big plays, including a 51-yard touchdown run and a 81-yard catch and run that set up another touchdown. Add to that the continuing trend of penalties on defensive backs that lead to big gains and first downs, and Seattle's defense is allowing opponents to move the ball down the field far too quickly and easily.
The Seahawks know that to begin turning things around on defense, they don't suddenly need to be perfect, they just need to get some of the big mistakes out of their play.
"We need to cut back on the explosives and the penalties that we are having," defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt said. "Some of those situations almost become explosives with the penalties that you get, particularly in the backend. For two and half quarters, I thought there were a lot things going in the right direction, big improvements, but then, again, we gave up an explosive in the run game. I think it was a second-down-and-7 situation and it felt like an avalanche of things which is frustrating. But for young guys, there are things to be able to learn that if a bad play happens, you have to be able to put it past you and move on to the next play so that it doesn't turn into an avalanche of issues and things of that nature. So, to finish the game better is obviously a big point that we have to continue to get across along with a lot of other things."
Some mistakes were inevitable with the Seahawks unveiling a new defensive scheme while also playing a number of young players, including rookie corners Tariq Woolen and Coby Bryant, but some mistakes can't be an excuse for an opponent scoring 45 points.
"There will be growing pains with young players and the introduction of a new scheme coming into it, so you are going through those things," Hurtt said. "You can grow through growing pains and not give up 45 points at the end of the day. That is never acceptable, I don't care who is out there, who is coaching, or whatever the case may be. We have to finish the game in a better fashion."
The Seahawks face the Saints for Week 5 of the 2022 season at the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans. Take a look back at photos from the past games between the two teams.