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Seahawks-Saints: What we learned

The SportsXchange

SEATTLE -- No team wants to visit CenturyLink Field in the postseason.

The Seattle Seahawks proved that point again Monday while taking a huge step toward making their venue a big part of the playoffs.

After dismantling the New Orleans Saints 34-7 in a battle of NFC heavyweights Monday night, the Seahawks appear well on their way to earning home-field advantage throughout the NFC postseason.

With the win, Seattle (11-1) clinched a playoff berth.

"We beat them, so now we've got to be the best (team in the NFC)," Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner said after Seattle held the Saints to 188 yards of total offense.

Quarterback Russell Wilson led the Seahawks to their 14th consecutive home win by throwing for 310 yards and three touchdowns -- one of which came on a third-quarter deflection. The pass bounced off tight end Kellen Davis' hands to fullback Derrick Coleman, who caught the ball at the 2-yard line and dived into the end zone for the last score of the night.

"For us to come out and win the game the way we did was pretty awesome," said Wilson, who completed 22 of 30 passes, including all eight of his attempts on third down. He did not throw an interception.

The Seahawks could officially wrap up the NFC West and move within one victory of clinching the NFC's top seed with a win over the 49ers at San Francisco on Sunday.

"We haven't proven anything yet," Seattle defensive lineman Brandon Mebane said. "We've still got a lot of stuff to do."

New Orleans (9-3) fell into a 17-point hole in the first quarter and never recovered. The Saints fell into a tie for first place in the NFC South, and they will play the division co-leaders, the Carolina Panthers, on Sunday night in New Orleans.

"You have to forget about (Monday's loss) as soon as you can," Saints defensive lineman Akiem Hicks said after New Orleans gave up 429 yards of total offense, 315 of which came before halftime. "We have to do what we can to prepare for another tough opponent."

Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis shrugged off the significance of Monday's loss.

"It's cool," Lewis said. "They got a good win. They should be celebrating. It's like people always say: the last four Super Bowls, the wild-card team made it straight out. So it's not over for us."

Seattle improved its league-best record on "Monday Night Football" to 20-8 after winning for the eighth consecutive time on a Monday. The Seahawks are 9-1 in prime-time games played under coach Pete Carroll.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees completed 23 of 38 passes for 147 yards and one touchdown. It was his lowest passing-yardage total since the 2006 season finale, despite playing against a Seattle secondary that was missing two of its top three cornerbacks, Brandon Browner (groin) and Walter Thurmond (suspension).

Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane filled in admirably for the Seahawks.

"The only reason those guys aren't starting is because they have great players in front of them," Seattle safety Earl Thomas said. "(Monday's performance) shows the kind of depth we have."

Seattle's offense wasn't shabby, either. In addition to their passing success, the Seahawks gained 127 yards on the ground. Wilson amassed a game-high 47 rushing yards on eight carries.

What the Seahawks said

"Just a really good night. I'm really proud that we came off the bye so well. You're concerned -- you don't know how that's going to turn out -- but we got great rest and we came back strong. And you could tell all night long that we had our legs, and guys were flying." -- Coach Pete Carroll.

"We knew that they were going to stuff the box to try and stop Marshawn (Lynch, the Seahawks' running back) because we're such a run-first offense. We knew we were going to have opportunities in the pass game to make explosive plays. Obviously, that was part of the game play, and it kind of just worked perfectly for us." -- Wide receiver Doug Baldwin.

"(Drew) Brees is an elite quarterback. To minimize him that way, it means a lot." -- Defensive tackle Brandon Mebane.

"That'd be huge. I don't think anybody would want to come here to play us, especially after (Monday's performance)." -- Linebacker Bobby Wagner, on the possibility of Seattle having home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

"We love when teams bring pressure. There's a lot of green grass behind it." -- Quarterback Russell Wilson.

"It was fun getting ... my first touchdown, so I feel real good to get out there and do my dance and stuff." -- Defensive end Michael Bennett.

What the Saints said

"We didn't do a lot of things well in that game. We'll have to come back on a short week now and get ready to play another real good football team (the Carolina Panthers) at home on Sunday. We have to do a better job as coaches, starting with me. There are too many things that we didn't do or do well enough to give ourselves the opportunity to win." -- Coach Sean Payton.

"They kind of had us on our heels. We were playing to their mercy. When it was time to step up, we couldn't get off the field." -- Linebacker David Hawthorne.

"I think they knew our game plan. We had to beat a good football team, and when they've got a quarterback who can scramble and get open, that's hard to stop. It was like Pop Warner out there, the way he was running around." -- Cornerback Keenan Lewis, on Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

"We usually bounce back pretty well, offensively and defensively. We've rallied (before), but nothing was working for us tonight. It seemed like we were three-and-out, three-and-out -- or we'd get something going, and we'd get a penalty. The plays we normally make, we weren't making tonight." -- Tight end Jimmy Graham.

What we learned about the Seahawks

1. Seattle should be just fine without cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond. In the first game playing without both in the lineup -- Thurmond is serving a four-game suspension, while Browner is currently injured and has a one-year suspension pending -- the Seahawks held Saints quarterback Drew Brees to 147 passing yards, his lowest total since the 2006 regular-season finale. Saints wide receivers accounted for just 49 receiving yards. Cornerback Byron Maxwell, who was filling in as starter, had two of the Seahawks' seven pass breakups Monday night, while nickel back Jeremy Lane was so solid that he virtually went unnoticed -- a good sign for a guy who was essentially fifth on the depth chart at midseason.

2. Even without wide receiver Percy Harvin, the Seahawks can be a dangerous passing team. Quarterback Russell Wilson spread the ball around to the tune of 310 yards and three touchdown passes in a game that everyone thought would be more about the Seahawks' ground game. Seattle coach Pete Carroll instead tried to test the Saints' young secondary and was wildly successful. Three of Wilson's passes went for gains of more than 30 yards, and he was 8-for-8 for 168 yards and a touchdown on third down. If or when Harvin gets back from his ongoing hip problems, the Seahawks could be loaded on offense. Just don't expect Seattle to stray from running back Marshawn Lynch too often.

What we learned about the Saints

1. New Orleans could really, really use a couple of postseason home games -- but it is unlikely to happen. In a game that could have pushed the Saints into a dead heat in the race for the NFC's top seed, New Orleans turned into road kill again. Not only will the Saints likely have to return to Seattle at some point if they want to make a run to the Super Bowl, but they also are looking at the very real possibility of opening the postseason on the road -- as a wild-card team. New Orleans is virtually unbeatable at home (6-0 this season) but is a .500 team on the road (3-3), and that doesn't bode well for a squad that almost certainly will have to win at least one road game in the playoffs.

2. The hobbled secondary is susceptible to big plays. Cornerbacks Corey White and Keenan Lewis, both of whom are filling in for injured starters, struggled to contain the Seahawks' passing game Monday. There were several blown assignments that resulted in wide-open receivers -- most notably on a touchdown reception by Seattle's Doug Baldwin near the end of the first half -- and the New Orleans defensive backs weren't winning many one-on-one matchups. With the Carolina Panthers and their dangerous receiving tandem of Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell on tap for two of the next three games, Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has his work cut out for him.
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