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Published: Sunday, December 1, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Seahawks-Saints could be a shootout on Monday night

  • Quarterback Russell Wilson leads the Seahawks against the Saints on Monday night.

    Associated Press

    Quarterback Russell Wilson leads the Seahawks against the Saints on Monday night.

RENTON -- So many times over the past two seasons, the Seattle Seahawks have leaned on one of the NFL's best defenses when the offense hasn't been in sync.
Facing one of the NFL's most explosive offenses on Monday night, and doing so without two of their three top cornerbacks, now would be a good time for Seattle's offense to repay the favor.
First a disclaimer. Nobody in the Seahawks' locker room thinks their defense will take a step back minus a suspended Walter Thurmond and an injured Brandon Browner (reportedly facing a suspension). The Seahawks have confidence that Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane can get the job done, even against a Drew Brees-led offense that ranks second in the NFL with 317.3 passing yards per game.
"I don't think there's going to be much of a drop-off," receiver Doug Baldwin said. "Last year, we didn't have Brandon Browner or Walter Thurmond, and we still won all three of those games, so we don't expect any drop-off."
But if ever there were a game that looks like a potential shootout for the Seahawks, it's this one. Yes, Maxwell and Lane are absurdly talented options for a team to run out as its fourth and fifth corners, but you have to think Brees, one of the best quarterbacks of his generation, will find an occasional mismatch to exploit.
The good news for Seattle is that its offense -- even with Percy Harvin doubtful for Monday's game -- is more than capable of matching the Saints score for score if that is what is required. After some rough outings earlier this season, which were largely the result of playing with an injury-depleted offensive line, Seattle's offense is starting to look very similar to the unit that put up big numbers down the stretch last season.
"So I'm excited to see how (the offense) helps us finish with all of the challenges we have," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said.
Tackles Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini are back from long-term injuries, and after knocking off the rust against Minnesota, they and the rest of the line should only get better in the final month of the season. Add to that the fact that Russell Wilson appears poised for another big finish to the season -- he has completed more than 70 percent of his passes in three straight games while throwing six touchdowns against two interceptions -- and there is no reason to believe the Seahawks can't light up the scoreboard if the Saints do come up with some big plays against Seattle's backup corners.
"We've picked it up, definitely," Baldwin said. "We're more on the page all together that we need to be, but there are still some things here and there that we need to get fixed. ... so we're still in the process of growing and getting better, but we're much more on the same page than we were in the past."
And really, it's not like the Seahawks need to suddenly take a huge step forward to put up points. The Seahawks are averaging 27.8 points per game, good for second in the NFL, just ahead of that explosive Saints offense, and they have the league's No. 3 rushing attack. The Seahawks don't put up huge number in the passing game because they simply don't throw that often, but they have completed 40 pass plays of 20 or more yards, the 10th most in the NFL, despite attempting the second fewest passes in the league.
Wilson, meanwhile, is averaging 8.6 yards per pass attempt, better than Brees, or Peyton Manning, or any other quarterback to start every game this season (injured Packers starter Aaron Rodgers is at 8.8, while Nick Foles, who has taken over the starting job in Philadelphia, is averaging 9.6 per attempt).
"The only thing we need to do is execute our plays," receiver Golden Tate said. "Us just doing the right thing is going to win games. We're not circling any games on our schedule. We're just showing up every week trying to get better and go 1-0 every week."
The Seahawks don't think they'll suddenly have to lean on their offense to win Monday night. But if they do, even without Harvin, the Seahawks' offense should be up to the task.
Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com.

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