Seahawks won’t take Saints lightly

RENTON — The Seattle Seahawks’ Monday night victory over the New Orleans Saints may have been their signature victory of the regular season. Last month’s 34-7 prime-time win was a game in which the Seahawks dominated on both sides of the ball, getting big plays from their offense and another stifling performance from the defense.

That victory is also a game the Seahawks know they need to put in the rearview mirror.

Yes, that win, as well as Seattle’s 12 others during the regular season, helped the Seahawks earn the No. 1 seed and this weekend’s home playoff game against the Saints, but what the Seahawks know they can’t do is assume a repeat performance is in order.

“We start all over again,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Monday. “It has nothing to do with what happened before. We’ve learned and we’ve gained information, as they did, but we start all over again, we start from scratch. We take a look at what’s happened since we played them, and we compare the buildup of what they had done coming into are game, what did they do, then what’s happened since then. But I think it would be a mistake to try to call it because of what’s happened in the past and all that, we don’t care about that.”

Carroll, a coach who preaches the value of treating every week the same, would love it if his players all could put last month’s win over the Saints behind them without him mentioning it, but he also understands that human nature dictates that he’ll need to give a few reminders this week.

“There’s no automatics here, they’re going to hear about it,” he said. “It’s just common knowledge in human nature that you’d like to think it’s going to be the same, but we know better than that, so we need to respect this opportunity for what it is. It’s a great championship matchup for us, and they’re going to come loaded up and give us a great football game.”

The Saints will come to Seattle confident despite last month’s victory, fresh off their first road playoff win in franchise history. Following the loss to the Seahawks last month, Saints quarterback Drew Brees predicted his team would be back in Seattle, noting that game all but assured that the road to the Super Bowl would go through Seattle in the NFC. Now he’s confident he will be better than the season-low 147-yard performance he put up that day, and that his team can push the Seahawks.

“We’re going to need our best effort to beat these guys, but if there’s a team that can do it, I believe it’s us,” Brees said in his postgame press conference following Saturday’s win over the Eagles.

“I felt like we went out there and laid an egg, and it was very disappointing. Just the fact that it was supposed to be like a heavyweight fight, and we got knocked out in the first round,” Saints linebacker Curtis Lofton told reporters in Philadelphia Saturday. “So we’ve gotta go back out and throw some punches now. And I’m excited, and I’m looking forward to it. This entire team is. Just to go against the best.

“We’re a competitive bunch, and right now everyone’s saying (the Seahawks) are the best. So we look forward to playing ‘em.”

In addition to facing Brees and the Saints’ explosive passing game, Carroll noted that his team will also see a more committed running team this time around. The Saints rushed for 185 yards against the Eagles, a total they eclipsed only once in the regular season, and also ran the ball effectively in their previous road game, gaining 126 yards against a tough Carolina Panthers defense.

“They run the ball a little bit more, on the road they have and their numbers are up in that regard, that’s a little bit of a change,” Carroll said. “It looks like on the road they’ve wanted to run the ball a little bit more … but other than that they’re just functioning like a really good group. They’re really physical up front on defense, and a very tough-minded group on that side of the ball. It poses a big challenge for us.”

And while no Seahawks players or coaches would ever admit to having a preference on who they host this week, Carroll did admit there was an advantage to knowing his team’s next opponent a day earlier. Had New Orleans lost Saturday night, then Seattle would have hosted the Green Bay vs. San Francisco winner, meaning the Seahawks wouldn’t have known they’d be playing the 49ers until late Sunday afternoon. Instead they had a 20-hour head start on building a game plan.

“Yeah, it was hours of difference,” Carroll said. “We would have known at 4, 5 o’clock yesterday otherwise, so in that regard it helps us that they won and we got to jump into the plan.”

Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com.

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