Seattle Seahawks Hold Off New Orleans Saints to Win NFC Division Playoff Game 23–15

January 11, 2014 Updated: January 11, 2014

The Seattle Seahawks No. 1-rated defense came through to help Seattle survive a second-half onslaught by the New Orleans Saints. The Seahawks won their NFC division playoff game against the Saints 23–15

The Seahawks defense held Drew Brees to 309 yards passing, and with Brees not a threat, the hawks could focus on stopping the run. After gaining only 34 yards passing in the first half, Brees came alive in the second, but a combination of Seahawks pressure and excellent pass coverage held him to 24 completions in 43 attempts.

The Seahawks held New Orleans tight end Jimmy graham to a single catch all day. Graham, who scored 16 touchdowns in the regular season, was shut down until the final drive when the Saints had 26 seconds to go 59 yards to score. Seattle gave up some passes in the middle of the field to shut down the sidelines and keep the clock running—otherwise their numbers against the pass would look even better.

Seattle held New Orleans to 108 yards rushing, a strong performance against running backs Darren Sproles and Khiry Robinson, and mostly attributable to a strong defensive front line.

The New Orleans defense did a good job against Seattle offense, holding them to two touchdowns, and only one score in the second half. The mobility in the pocket of QB Russell Wilson and the powerful running of RB Marshawn Lynch tilted the balance in Seattle’s favor, but not by much.

The Saints sacked Wilson three times and held him to 9 of 18 pass completions for 103 yards, and only 174 total yards rushing—140 of which were racked up by Marshawn Lynch, who scored both Seahawks touchdowns.

The weather—cold and rainy with swirling winds—also played a big part. Drew Brees couldn’t figure out the wind in the first half, sending most of his pass attempts sailing high, and two New Orleans field goals—kicked into the wind—went wide.

Has Brees played the first half like he did the second, this game might have had a very different outcome.

Seattle showed that their defense can stop a quarterback as good as Drew Brees. Seattle won the battle at the line of scrimmage about two-thirds of the time, and managed to keep Brees under constant pressure with often only a three-man rush, while still covering his receivers well enough that he couldn’t find targets.

This game also revealed Seattle’s weakness: the offense, 17th in the league, needed help from the weather to stay in the game. Had Drew Brees been able to figure out the wind in the first half, and had not both of the Saints’ missed field goal attempts been into the wind, Seattle’s great defense wouldn’t have been enough. The Seahawks will need to score some points if they want to advance in the post-season.