By John Boyle
Seahawks hold on, advance to NFC Championship game
Well, that got tense, didn’t it? After Marshawn Lynch seemingly put the game on ice with a 31-yard TD run, the Saints answered back with a quick touchdown, then recovered an onsides kick with 24 seconds left in the game. Having no timeouts left caught up with New Orleans, however, and time ran out before the Saints could take a shot at the end zone.
More to come after we’re back from the locker room.
Seahawks trying to hang on, force Saints punt
After Seattle’s offense couldn’t add to the lead, the defense protected it on the Saints’ next possession, forcing a punt after Earl Thomas broke up a third-down pass intended for Jimmy Graham, who, by the way, doesn’t have a catch today.
Safe to say the offense could use a good drive here to burn some clock at the least, or even better for them, add to the lead. The Seahawks will have the ball at their own 20 with 7:09 left on the clock.
Saints make it a one-score game
The Saints are suddenly right back in this game, with Khiry Robinson plowing in for a 1-yard touchdown. That was followed by a Mark Ingram run for a two-point conversion, making it 16-8.
After three, Seahawks still lead 16-0, Saints driving
Not much in the way of offense in the third quarter until late, when the Saints got things going to put themselves at the Seattle 11-yard line at the end of the third quarter.
That marks the first time since Jan 6, 2002 that the Saints have been shut out through three quarters, though the shutout is obviously in danger now.
Drew Brees completed passes of 23 and 25 yards on back-to-back plays to get the Saints deep into Seahawks territory, which were the longest two plays for the Saints against Seattle in seven quarters this season (they had a long of 20 in the previous game).
Harvin ruled out with concussion
Not a surprise seeing as he had to leave the game twice, but Percy Harvin has been ruled out with a concussion.
He ends the game with three catches for 21 yards and a nine-yard rush. The question now is whether he’ll be available for the NFC Championship game if the Seahawks are able to hang onto this lead.
Seahawks lead 16-0 at halftime
The Seahawks’ best drive of the afternoon stalled out in the red zone, leaving them to settle for a short Steven Hauschka field goal, but even so, the Seahawks are fully in control, leading 16-0 at halftime. Add to that the fact that the Seahawks open with the ball in the second half, and the Saints are fighting a serious uphill battle to get back in this game, especially when you consider how much their offense is struggling.
New Orleans has just 113 total yards, and 79 of those have come on the ground. The passing game, which the Saints will need to get back in it, simply isn’t working so far, with Drew Brees having completed just 5 of 12 attempts for 34 yard.
Russell Wilson hasn’t been spectacular, but he’s been much better than his idol, completing 7 of 9 attempts for 68 yards.
The big difference for Seattle from the previous meeting with New Orleans has been the production of the running game. When these teams played on Dec. 2, Marshawn Lynch was held to just 45 yards on 16 carries. In the first half today, he has 15 carries for 69 yards and the game’s only touchdown.
One piece of bad news for the Seahawks, Percy Harvin was taken to the locker room late in the half for the second time this game to be evaluate for a possible concussion. No sign of him yet as the team returns for the second half.
Turnover and Lynch run give Seattle 13-0 lead
It would seem Michael Bennett enjoys playing against the Saints. As you may recall, he recovered a fumble and scored a touchdown in the Dec. 2 game, and now he has a forced fumble and recovery in this one after meeting Mark Ingram in the hole and knocking the ball loose.
Two plays after the turnover, Marshawn Lynch rumbled into the end zone for a 15-yard score. And Marshawn being Marshawn, he strutted into the end zone despite the minor inconvenience of cornerback Corey White hanging on his back.
Still 6-0 after 1st
The first quarter just came to an end, and New Orleans will be looking at second-and-6 when action resumes.
Not a ton of offense from either team, with the Saints gaining 61 yards and the Seahawks 40, each on two possessions. The Saints have rushed for 42 yards, a good sign for them early on.
Hauschka’s second FG makes it 6-0
The Seahawks doubled their lead on a 49-yard Steven Hauschka field goal. That came after Russell Wilson threw behind Golden Tate on a third-and-5 throw that would have kept the drive going.
One thing evident early is that the Saints are looking to send a message with physical play. In addition to the hard hit on Harvin, the Saints also drilled Golden Tate high after a catch, though no flag came on that one.
Also of note early, Marshawn Lynch has found some running room behind new left guard Michael Bowie.
Seahawks take lead, survive injury scare
Percy Harvin’s return to action looked like it might be short-lived, but he is back in the game. After catching one pass for minus-1 yard, Harvin took a hard shot to the head one play later and was taken to the locker room to be evaluated for a possible concussion. He’s back on the field, however, which is obviously very good news for the Seahawks.
Following Seattle’s field goal and the possession, they’re about to begin, the Saints put together a nice drive behind some strong running out of Mark Ingram. That drive stalled out following a nice individual play by Bobby Wagner to blow up a screen pass. The Saints tried a 45-yard field goal into the wind, and Shayne Graham’s kick had enough leg, but missed left.
Greets from a sometimes soggy, sometimes sunny CenturyLink Field. We had a huge downpour earlier, and even some lightning, but the sun is currently out. Either way, the wind figures to be a bit of a factor.
One big surprise from today’s inactives, guard James Carpenter, who has started 10 games at left guard, and split time with Paul McQuistan there in others, is a healthy inactive. Based on pregame warmups, it looks like rookie Michael Bowie, not McQuistan, will get the start at left guard. Bowie, a seventh-round pick, started seven games earlier this year at right tackle for an injured Breno Giacomini, then one at right guard when J.R. Sweezy was out with a concussion. For today, that obviously means Carpenter isn’t playing, and now the bigger question is what it means for his future. Carpenter was, after all, a first-round pick in 2011, and after moving from right tackle to left guard, he has been unable to lock down that spot in his third season. Maybe the Seahawks see this as a way to motivate him heading into the offseason, or maybe it’s the beginning of the end for his time in Seattle.
S Chris Maragos, who was questionable with a
For the Saints, the biggest news is the absence of RB Pierre Thomas, who missed last week’s game with a chest injury and was listed as questionable. DE Akiem Hicks, who was also questionable, will play.
Seahawks inactives: WR Bryan Walter, RB Christine Michael, LB KJ Wright, T Caylin Hauptmann, G James Carpenter, DE Benson Mayowa, DT Jordan Hill.
Saints inactives: QB Ryan Griffin, RB Pierre Thomas, CB Terrence Frederick, S Jordan Pugh, LB Rufus Johnson, DE Tyrunn Walker, WR Nick Toon.
One interesting note from early on, this game could certainly get chippy. Earlier during pregame warmups, Saints TE Jimmy Graham had to be separated from Seahawks linebackers Bruce Irvin and Mike Morgan, who seemed more amused that angry about the situation. NFL Network caught a bit of it on film.
If you need a little pregame reading to get you through the wait between now and kickoff, here’s our story on the Snohomish connection between both teams in today’s game.
And David Krueger with a fun story on how Pete Carroll likes to show affection during games.
Also, CNN with a cool video feature on Russell Wilson.