SEATTLE — Hosting the New Orleans Saints with future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Drew Brees sidelined, the Seahawks had a golden opportunity for a 3-0 start. Instead, Seattle let the Saints score in all three phases of the game and suffered its first September home loss since 2009.
An afternoon of miscues and self-inflicted woes led to a 33-27 loss to New Orleans on a rainy Sunday afternoon at CenturyLink Field.
Seattle gave up a punt return touchdown less than three minutes in, and for the third straight week Seahawks running back Chris Carson fumbled — this time leading to a game-changing defensive scoop-and-score touchdown. Add in back-to-back Saints TD drives at the end of the first half and beginning of the second, and the sum was too much for Seattle to rebound from.
“This was an unusual game,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “So many things happened in this game that we just hurt ourselves. We made some mistakes, errors, the big plays, the returns. We just had a really hard time getting out of our own way. … We just didn’t get it done.”
The punt return touchdown and defensive score aside, Seattle’s defense failed to slow down Saints start running back Alvin Kamara, and Seattle’s offense never found a rhythm until it was too late.
Kamara finished with 161 total yards and two touchdowns. The shifty back continuously gained extra yards by forcing missed tackles.
Conversely, Seattle failed to establish its pounding, run-first identity. The Seahawks finished with 109 rushing yards, but take away quarterback Russell Wilson’s 51 yards and a 23-yard run by Carson, and Seattle’s running backs combined for 38 yards 18 carries.
“Coming off last year, we’re so used to just being able to run the ball well,” Seahawks center Justin Britt said. “Especially in short yardage, we’ve got to do better.”
Wilson filled up the stat sheet, playing in catch-up mode the entire second half. He finished with 406 passing yards and two touchdowns on 50 attempts. Wilson also ran for two scores. Tyler Lockett caught a game-high 11 passes for 154 yards and a TD.
Seattle’s struggles started early.
New Orleans took a quick 7-0 lead when Saints returner Deonte Harris brought a short Michael Dickson punt back 53 yards for a touchdown after a Seattle opening possession went three-and-out. Harris fielded the punt on the run near midfield before weaving his way through the Seahawks’ coverage team.
“I think we had four or five guys unblocked, and we have to make the tackle,” Carroll said. “Tackling showed up, in that play for sure, and then versus Kamara all day long.”
Lockett evened the score three drives later with an 8-yard TD catch from Russell Wilson. Seattle’s top target was key on the six-play, 64-yard touchdown drive. He hauled in a 32-yard reception on a third-and-five that worked the ball to the Saints’ 27 before getting his feet down in the back-right corner of the end zone to tie the game 7-7 with 2:24 remaining in the first.
After a special-teams score, the Saints’ defense took its turn scoring.
The touchdown came at the expense of Carson’s problematic ball security. After Carson broke off a 23-yard run with the Seahawks backed up in their own end, a Saints defender punched the ball out of Carson’s hands as he was going to the ground. The Seahawks were slow to react to the loose ball, and New Orleans safety Von Bell picked it up and returned it 33 yards, giving the Saints a 13-7 lead at 6:50 in second quarter.
“I just need to keep my elbow tucked,” Carson said when asked what he needs to do to hold on to the football. “That’s it. I just have to keep trying to get better. The defense is going to try and go after the ball, so I have to be aware of that.”
“He’s been a marvelous player on this team, and he has to fix this,” Carroll said of Carson. “I can’t fix it for him, but we’ll help him and count on him to come back and play good football for us.”
Seattle moved the ball into New Orleans territory on the following drive, but Carson was stuffed on a fourth-and-one at the Saints’ 41-yard line.
The stop set up a pivotal New Orleans scoring drive.
The Saints covered 58 yards in seven plays, scoring on 29-yard screen pass from Teddy Bridgewater to Kamara. The TD pushed the Saints’ lead to 20-7 with 33 seconds to play until halftime.
New Orleans’ offense carried its momentum into the first possession of the second half.
The Saints opened with a 7-minute, 16-second touchdown drive, and it came after another critical Seahawks error.
Seattle had held the Saints to a 52-yard field goal attempt — which they missed — but an illegal formation penalty on defensive lineman Al Woods resulted in a first down on a fourth-and-three. Seven plays later, Bridgewater threw a short pass to Michael Thomas for a 1-yard TD reception on a fourth-and-goal from Seattle’s 1-yard line. The score extended the Saints’ lead to 27-7.
“You just have to understand that you have to play your best football no matter who’s out there on the field,” Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner said. “If you don’t come out here ready to play, they’ll beat you.”
Seattle had a chance to cut into the lead late in the third quarter and got a gift when Cody Barton recovered a muffed punt by Harris, giving the Seahawks the ball at New Orleans’ 48 with 5:51 to go in the third quarter. But on a fourth-and-five, a diving attempt by Locket to corral a Wilson pass in the end zone failed, and Seattle turned the ball over on downs.
Wilson tightened Seattle’s deficit with 11:51 to play in the fourth when he capped a 10-play, 78-yard drive with a 2-yard TD run off a read-option keeper he took around the left end. The score trimmed the Saints’ lead to 27-14.
New Orleans put the game out of reach with a long scoring drive ending in a 1-yard Kamara TD run that put the Saints in front 33-14 with 4:19 to go in the fourth quarter.
Wilson made the final score look more respectable with an 8-yard TD run with 2:48 to left in the game and a 4-yard TD pass to tight end Will Dissly on the game’s final play.