Hapless in Seattle
The New Orleans Saints dropped a 34-7 decision to the Seattle Seahawks on Monday night before 68,387 fans, a record crowd for CenturyLink Field.
The Seahawks raced to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter and didn't let up as they amassed 315 yards of offense in the first half and largely shut down the Saints' offense. Seattle (11-1) locked up a playoff spot with the victory and dropped the Saints (9-3) into a tie for first in the NFC South with the Carolina Panthers. The Saints will play host to the Panthers on Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in another nationally televised game.
Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson was spectacular passing and running the football. He had 226 yards passing in the first half and two touchdown passes and finished the game 22 for 30 for 310 yards and three TD passes. He also ran the ball seven times for 48 yards. He is now 14-0 in games played at CenturyLink Field in his two-year career and has Seattle off to the best start in franchise history. Monday's win goes a long way toward giving the Seahawks the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage in the playoffs.
The Saints were able to largely contain Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch, holding him to 45 yards on 16 carries, but they gave up several big passing plays (a 52-yarded to Doug Baldwin and a 60-yarder to Zach Miller) that led to Seattle scores.
The Seahawks were especially efficient on third down in the first half, completing six of eight attempts. They finished 7 of 14. The Saints were less effective, converting just six of 14 attempts.
The game turned in the first quarter when Seattle defensive end Cliff Avril forced a Drew Brees fumble that was returned 22 yards for a touchdown by Michael Bennett. The play gave the Seahawks a 10-0 lead, and they didn't look back. They scored another unconventional touchdown in the third quarter when Derrick Coleman caught a tipped Wilson pass for an 8-yard touchdown.
Seattle's defense, ranked No. 2 in the league, shut down the Saints' passing attack as Brees was held below 200 yards passing for the first time since the final game of the 2010 season. He finished 23 of 38 for 147 yards and one 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jimmy Graham. The touchdown grab was the 12th for Graham this season, establishing a new franchise record. He has 68 receptions for 988 yards this season.
The Saints' running game wasn't much better, but the team had to abandon it in the second half because of the big deficit. Mark Ingram led the team in rushing with 16 yards on nine carries.
Saints right tackle Zach Strief was forced out of the game in the second half. He was replaced by Bryce Harris. The loss also ended the Saints' nine-game winning streak on "Monday Night Football."