In a battle of the top two teams in the NFC, Seattle scored on its first four offensive possessions, mixed in a defensive touchdown during a punt-less first half, and held the Saints offense to 188 yards to claim a 34-7, nationally televised victory.
“Obviously, it was a difficult loss,” Saints Coach Sean Payton said. “We didn’t do a lot of things well in that game. There were too many things we didn’t do, or didn’t do well enough, to give ourselves the opportunity to win.
“We’ll make sure the corrections are made. There’s a lot to look at.”
And the reminder won’t make for pleasant viewing.
Seattle’s victory snapped New Orleans’ nine-game winning streak on "Monday Night Football" and halted the Saints’ current three-game winning streak. It also extended Seattle’s home winning streak to 14 games and gave the Seahawks (11-1) a two-game lead over the Saints (9-3) in the race for the best record in the NFC.
Too, the loss dropped New Orleans into a tie with the Carolina Panthers for first place in the NFC South Division. The Saints and Panthers will play Sunday night in New Orleans, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
But the Panthers and Sunday night weren’t at all concerns Monday night, as the Saints suffered their most lopsided defeat in almost a year – a 52-27 loss to the Giants on Dec. 9, 2012.
“We got our butts smacked around,” running back
And the numbers weren’t deceiving. Mostly, all of the vital ones heavily tilted in Seattle’s favor. The Seahawks almost doubled up the Saints in first downs (23-12), converted six of eight third-down attempts in the first half, owned the time of possession (33:38-26:22), rolled up 429 yards and averaged 6.2 yards per play on 69 plays, and held the Saints to 3.4 yards per play on 56 plays.
New Orleans’ lone touchdown drive – a 13-play, 80-yard march that lasted 8:10 – accounted for 23 percent of the team’s offensive plays, 43 percent of its yards, 67 percent of its third-down conversions (four of the six) and more than 25 percent of its possession time.
Otherwise, the Saints converted two of their remaining 11 third-down attempts and accumulated more yards in penalties (seven for 52 yards) than they did rushing (17 carries for 44 yards).
“We had opportunities,” Payton said. “We just didn’t do enough offensively. Defensively, we had trouble stopping them. In the kicking game, I thought we were below average as well.
Seattle won the toss, deferred and promptly forced a three-and-out on defense. Then, on offense, the Seahawks took possession on their 31-yard line and drove 61 yards in 11 plays to take a 3-0 lead on Steven Hauschka’s 26-yard field goal with 7:47 left in the first quarter.
On New Orleans’ second drive, the Saints moved from their 20-yard line to the 25 on two plays before the Seahawks forced their lone turnover. On third-and-5, Seattle defensive end Cliff Avril sacked Saints quarterback
Defensive end Michael Bennett plucked the ball from the air and lumbered 22 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown and a 10-0 Seahawks lead with 6:27 left in the first quarter.
That would prove to be enough points, but Seattle continued to pour it on.
The Seahawks forced another Saints punt, then drove 73 yards on six plays, with quarterback Russell Wilson connecting with tight end Zach Miller for a 2-yard touchdown on third-and-goal to give Seattle a 17-0 lead.
Wilson was a thorn to the Saints all night. He completed 22 of 30 passes for 310 yards and three touchdowns and also was the game’s leading rusher, with 47 yards on eight carries.
“He did what we’d seen him do on film, extend plays and throw the ball downfield,” Saints defensive end
Wilson, in fact, finished the night with completions of 60, 52, 33 and 21 yards on his ledger.
“He’s a tough sack,” Payton said. “He played well.”
The Saints picked themselves up and responded to the 17-0 deficit with their impressive scoring drive, highlighted by four third-down conversions. The drive began with 1:55 remaining in the first quarter, ended with 8:45 left in the second and featured a couple of completions to tight end
With the score, Graham (three catches for 42 yards) became the franchise single-season record holder for touchdown receptions, with 12.
But the score wasn’t a momentum-changer.
The Seahawks responded with a field goal on their next drive and a touchdown on the one after that, while forcing the Saints’ third punt of the half on their drive.
Wilson threw his final touchdown in the third quarter, and it was the game’s final points. And as the clock expired the Saints began to turn their attention to Sunday’s showdown with Carolina, a game that will be played on a short week for them.
And preparation time was condensed even more after the game, when problems with the team charter prevented the Saints from returning to New Orleans immediately after the game. The traveling party was forced to spend an extra night in Seattle.
But while the game was gone, it wasn’t totally forgotten, Payton said.
“We’ve got to make the corrections,” he said. “We can’t just say it didn’t happen.”