SEATTLE – Maybe defense alone is good enough to get the Seattle Seahawks to the Super Bowl. It was enough to carry them to the NFC championship game, at least.
Seattle's offense did almost nothing for most of the second half, but the Seahawks still beat New Orleans in Saturday's NFC divisional playoff game. The defense dominated Drew Brees and the Saints, just like it did during a Monday night meeting in the regular season, and won 23-15 at CenturyLink Field. The Seahawks will host the winner of Sunday's Carolina-San Francisco game with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.
Seattle's offense put 16 points up in the first half, and the defense did most of the rest.
The Saints, who were fourth in the NFL in total offense during the regular season, did almost nothing positive in the first half against Seattle's rugged defense. They started the game with a three-and-out that included a dropped pass on third down, and a shanked punt on fourth down. That set up a Seahawks field goal.
Brees completed just five of 12 passes for 34 yards in the first half, and 13 of those came on a meaningless gain before the first half ran out. All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham was held without a catch until 13 seconds remained in the game. It was reminiscent of the Seahawks' 34-7 win over New Orleans on Dec. 2, when the Saints gained just 188 yards. On Saturday, the Seahawks led 16-0 at the half on a Marshawn Lynch 15-yard touchdown run and three field goals.
The Saints finally got some momentum late in the third quarter. Brees completed some passes, a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct call on Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner helped, and early in the fourth quarter the Saints capped the drive with a touchdown run by Khiry Robinson and a two-point conversion by Mark Ingram to cut Seattle's lead to 16-8.
The Seahawks' offense couldn't put the game away, and the Saints had a chance to at least tie it late in the fourth quarter. On a badly underthrown ball by Brees, Earl Thomas and Byron Maxwell went up for the interception and tipped it back to Saints receiver Robert Meachem – shades of the Auburn play that beat Georgia during the college football season – and Meachem gained 52 yards to put the Saints in Seahawks' territory with just less than five minutes to go. But the Saints stalled after that, and Shayne Graham missed his second field goal of the game.
Seattle's offense made two big plays in the second half: they came on consecutive downs and put the game away. Doug Baldwin made a great catch for 24 yards on third-and-3 with 2:48 left to put the Seahawks into New Orleans' territory. Then Lynch ran around left tackle for a 31-yard touchdown, and that gave Seattle a 23-8 lead with 2:40 left.
The Saints scored with 26 seconds left, recovered the onside kick, but the game ended when Marques Colston tried throwing across the field after a catch, and a 10-second runoff for a forward pass penalty ran out the clock.
One would assume that Seattle will have to snap out of its offensive slump to win a championship, but the Seahawks' defense keeps trying to say otherwise.
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