SEATTLE – Seahawks safety Earl Thomas leaned in and looked up, because he had to share a secret he had been holding onto.
That shocking 34-7 beat down of the Saints? That wasn't a surprise at all, at least to anyone in the Seahawks locker room.
"I'm telling you, and I'm not just saying this because it happened," Thomas said, "but this is what we envisioned happening."
The matter-of-fact tone the Seahawks had after Monday's win was startling. This was supposed to be a showdown, the battle of the two best teams in the NFC. Seattle respected New Orleans, but they didn't consider it the big game everyone else did. It was obvious that there was never much doubt from their side about what was going to happen.
"We just did what we've been doing," cornerback Richard Sherman said. "We don't think we made any statement. We won a game we were supposed to win."
Hopefully the AFC playoffs will be interesting. Because the NFC side is a formality. Nobody is beating the Seahawks here in January, and after Monday's win the Seahawks are 11-1 and a No. 1 seed is all but locked up.
Who is stopping the Seahawks from the Super Bowl? The 49ers? They've lost their last two games here by a combined score of 71-16. The Saints? I guess you didn't watch Monday night's game. The Panthers? Seattle beat them in Carolina already. The Lions? Dallas or Philadelphia? Please.
The Seahawks are the best team in the NFL. They out-gained the Saints, who were 9-2 coming in, 429-188. Quarterback Russell Wilson had 310 yards and three touchdowns. Seattle's defense held the great Drew Brees to 147 yards on 38 attempts. That's astonishing. Any time a Saints receiver caught a ball, he turned around and had a Seahawk defender immediately on him. Seattle gave up 188 yards, the fewest the Saints have gained since the final game of the 2001 season, 188 games ago.
Now combine that with the best home-field advantage in football. The crowd noise at CenturyLink Field is like the huge scoreboard at the Cowboys' stadium: You hear about it, you can read about it or watch it on TV, but nothing prepares you for it in person. The Seahawks set the Guinness World Record for crowd noise at an outdoor sporting event at 137.6 decibels on Monday night. The level at which pain begins is 125 decibels.
Brees does plenty of adjusting at the line of scrimmage before the snap. In Seattle, he and the Saints had to just line up and play. The Seahawks noticed that there weren't many audibles at the line.
"They've got to stay basic because the crowd is so loud," Thomas said.
Saints coach Sean Payton said the first play of the game was a run, and Brees called an audible for it to go to the other side. Not everyone heard the change, there were missed assignments and the play was dropped for a 4-yard loss.
"You can't hear anything," defensive end Cliff Avril said.
Good luck to anyone that has to deal with that in a playoff game.
Brees' ineffectiveness was the most impressive part of the Seahawks' performance. Brees, who has three of the six 5,000-yard seasons in NFL history, had three completions of more than 10 yards. Three. In 38 attempts. New Orleans, which set a NFL single-game record with 40 first downs against Dallas earlier this year, had 12 first downs against Seattle. Nobody makes the Saints offense look that bad.
And here's the scary thing: Seattle did nothing unusual or exotic in its schemes. The Seahawks lined up and played their normal defense. No tricks or wrinkles, because none were needed.
"We do what we always do," Thomas said. "Single-high safety. Challenge the quarterback. Challenge with our corners. And we made 'em look normal."
Nobody, not even the Saints or a future Hall of Famer like Brees, was going to force the Seahawks to change anything.
"We don't care who we play," defensive end Michael Bennett said. "They have to play us. We're the best defense in the NFL. We're trying to be the best defense ever."
The Seahawks, the most confident team in the NFL, stopped short of saying they were unbeatable at home. They haven't lost at home this season, didn't lose here all last season, and destroyed the probable No. 2 seed in the NFC by 27 points. But whenever asked, they said that any team can be beaten if it's not ready.
The Seahawks didn't need to say they were unbeatable at home. Anyone who saw Monday night's game knows that.
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