The Seattle Seahawks overcame a slow start to dominate the first half of their divisional playoff game against the New Orleans Saints, 16–0.
The Seattle defense made the difference, keeping New Orleans out of the endzone. The New Orleans defense was almost as good, limiting the Seahawks to one TD and three field goals, but Seattle held Saints QB Drew Brees to 34 yards passing. That was the whole difference.
The score at the half was 16–0 Seahawks, but the Saints aren’t beaten. The Saints’ offense was unproductive but their defense held strong at the end of the half, forcing Seattle to take a field goal instead of a touchdown.
Seattle weather was a factor—cold, with rain and swirling 30-mph winds. Seattle remains one of the toughest places to play football, but the Seahawks prepare for wet, windy conditions, even using special gloves to increase their grip on particularly bad days.
The weather hindered the Saints, especially because Saints QB Drew Brees seemed unable to complete a pass through the cold, swirling rain.
Through the first quarter the Saints were winning on the field but losing on the scoreboard, as the wind helped the Seahawks score two field goals while pushing a New Orleans effort wide.
The Seahawks scored three on their first drive only because of a shanked punt and a penalty and three more on their second only because the wind favored their kicker. The Saints’ line penetrated and stifled the Seahawks offense.
The Saints attacked the Seahawks’ excellent run defense immediately and successfully. Halfway through the first drive the Seahawks stiffened and held the Saints to field goal missed because of the wind, but New Orleans was winning at the line of scrimmage and swarming to the ball, shutting down the Seahawks attack.
The second period went the other way immediately. Saints’ running back Mark Ingram fumbled on the first play of the quarter, giving Seattle the ball fifteen yards from the endzone, and the Seahawks ran it in on the next play to go up 13–0.
Seattle leads the league in takeaways, with 40—the Saints can’t afford to feed that beast, wet, slippery ball or no.
Drew Brees seemed unable to control the wet ball in the wind, sending a few passes sailing high, and after a 55-yard punt and a penalty the Seahawks started over from their own 7. Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin broke a few big runs, showing that New Orleans could be beat on the ground, but New Orleans tightened up and forced another punt.
Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka couldn’t handle the wind any better than the Saints’ Shayne Graham, and the Saints started the next drive on their own 48. Brees, apparently unsure of his passing ability, kept it on the ground. Tyree Robinson broke one for 17 yards; then the Hawks stiffened and forced Brees to try a pass on fourth down, but the ball was batted down.
The Seattle defense seemed to be adapting to the Saints’ offense quickly every series; they would give up a couple plays, then stifle the Saints. Brees’ unwillingness to throw the ball crippled the Saints’ offense.
Also in the second quarter the Seattle front line started beating New Orleans, letting running back Marshawn Lynch through for some good gains, while QB Russell Wilson was willing to was willing to throw into the wind to keep the drive alive.
Wilson also used his mobility to good advantage; when his pocket collapsed. He faked a run and threw for 25 yards to keep a drive alive, then ran for seven yards on the next play. Wide receiver Percy Harvin, back for his first game after an injury, caught a few key passes but also took two really hard hits, sending him to the locker room twice in the half.
New Orleans followed with a good goal line stand, and then, after a penalty extended the drive, with another. Hawks kicker Hauschka added another field goal, but even down 16–0, the Saints could go to the locker room feeling good, having held off the Seahawks twice in the final two minutes of the half.