GAME: #6 New Orleans Saints (11-5, 2nd, NFC South) at #1 Seattle Seahawks (13-3, 1st, NFC West). TYPE. NFC Divisional Playoff. WHEN: Saturday, 1:35 p.m., CenturyLink Field. MEETING: 15th (Seahawks lead 7-6 regular season, 1-0 playoffs). STREAKS: Saints W 2; Seahawks W 1. HEAD COACHES: Sean Payton, New Orleans; Pete Carroll, Seattle. LINE: Seahawks by 8. TV: FOX. RADIO: ESPN 710 AM, KIRO 97.3 FM.
Since 1975, only nine Super Bowls have featured the top seeds — Seattle (NFC) and Denver (AFC) this year — from each conference. In the past 20, the matchup has occurred twice, Cowboys vs. Bills in Super Bowl XXVIII and Saints vs. Colts in Super Bowl XLIV. Since the Super Bowl is still three weeks down the road, a more timely stat is this one: Since 2005, No. 1 seeds have a 7-9 record in the divisional round.
Worse, as far as the Seahawks are concerned, No. 6 seeds, the slot assigned the New Orleans Saints, have gone 5-2 against No. 1s following a wild card victory. But history won’t have any bearing Saturday when Seattle and New Orleans meet at CenturyLink Field.
For the Seahawks, the main thing, as far as head coach Pete Carroll was concerned, was to adopt the attitude that the last meeting with the Saints, a 34-7 Seattle victory, never happened.
“The first thing I addressed in our team meeting (after the bye week) was, ‘What has happened in the past doesn’t tell the story of what’s going to happen in the future, one way or the other,’” said Carroll. “We have to be focused on what’s up right now.”
The two major differences with the Seahawks since their Dec. 2 win over the Saints is that they will be without the services of linebacker K.J. Wright and will have WR-KR Percy Harvin available for the first time since Nov. 17 when he had a spectacular cameo against Minnesota.
Wright, on the mend after surgery, took TE Jimmy Graham out of the game, holding him to three catches for 42 yards. In part because of that, quarterback Drew Brees didn’t complete a pass beyond 15 yards and the Saints finished with 188 yards, lowest of the Sean Payton era. Carroll refused to say this week who will be assigned to shadow Graham (86 catches, 1,215 yards, 16 touchdowns).
“We just need to be us,” safety Earl Thomas said when asked what the Seahawks need to do to put the clamps on Graham again. “We just need to go out there and play relentless football, everybody to the ball, have fun, celebrate, and when we’re playing good ball like that, we’re going to do what we want to do. We just need to hold up to our end of the bargain. That’s all we can do.”
Carroll also didn’t specify how the Seahawks would use Harvin, other than to say, “We’ll utilize him as it fits. We’re just going to mix him in. He’s a very dynamic football player. He’s been able to create stuff that’s unique and that has given him a reputation that is legit. Returns particularly, he’s as good as you can get.”
The main difference with the Saints since Dec. 2 is that they developed an effective running game. In the first meeting, Seattle held New Orleans to 44 rushing yards, 22 by Mark Ingram. Against Philadelphia the past weekend, in place of the injured Pierre Thomas, he had 97 yards and a touchdown.
According to defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, the key for Seattle is to again eliminate the Saints’ explosive plays.
“They are certainly one of the top two or three in terms of explosive passes, that’s the challenge for us,” said Quinn.
SERIES: Dates to Nov. 21, 1976, when the Saints won 51-27 in the Kingdome. QB Bobby Douglass threw two touchdown passes and ran for two scores to lead the Saints. Sherman Smith ran for two scores for the Seahawks. Last met Dec. 2 at CenturyLink, Seattle winning 34-7. Russell Wilson threw for 310 yards and three TDs and the Seahawks held Drew Brees and the Saints to 188 total yards.
Seahawks: Scored 417 points (26.1 per game), ranking 8th; allowed 231 points (14.4 per game),1st; differential of +186 points ranks 2nd. Saints: Scored 414 points (25.9), ranked 10th; allowed 304 (19.0), 4th; differential of +110 points ranks 7th.
SEAHAWKS HEAD COACH: Pete Carroll (71-57 career, 38-26 Seattle) is in his fourth season. In 2010, he directed Seattle to the NFC West title, the Seahawks becoming the first team in NFL history to win a division with a losing (7-9) record. Prior to joining the Seahawks, Carroll served as head coach at Southern California, where his Trojans won seven Pac-10 titles.
SEAHAWKS QUARTERBACKS: During the regular season, Russell Wilson completed 257 of 407 passes for 3,357 yards, 26 TDs and 9 interceptions for a passer rating of 101.2. His game-by-game lines:
- At Carolina, 25 of 33, 320 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 115.7 rating.
- Vs. San Francisco, 8 of 19, 142 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 63.9 rating.
- Vs. Jacksonville, 14 of 21, 202 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT, 117.5 rating.
- At Houston, 12 of 23, 123 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT, 48.7 rating.
- At Indianapolis, 15 of 31, 210 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 78.7 rating.
- Vs. Tennessee, 23 of 31, 257 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs, 98.5 rating.
- At Arizona, 18 of 28, 235 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs, 122.1 rating.
- At St. Louis, 10 of 18, 139 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 117.6 rating;
- Vs. Tampa Bay, 19 of 26, 217 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs, 91.3 rating.
- At Atlanta, 19 of 26 for 287 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 134.6 rating
- Vs. Minnesota, 13 of 18, 230 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 151.4 rating.
- Vs. New Orleans, 22 of 30 for 310 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs, 139.6 rating.
- At San Francisco, 15 of 25, 199 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 81.9 rating.
- At NY Giants, 18 of 27 for 206 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 83.6 rating.
- Vs. Arizona, 11 of 27, 108 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 49.6 rating.
- Vs. St. Louis, 15 of 23, 172 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs, 102.1 rating.
Tarvaris Jackson vs. Jacksonville, 7 of 8, 129 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 158.3 rating; at Indianapolis, no statistics; vs. Minnesota, 1 of 3, 6 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs, 42.4 rating; at NY Giants, 2 of 2, 16 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 100.0 rating.
SEAHAWKS STATS / NOTES
- REGULAR SEASON SUMMARY: Record: 13-3-0. Home: 7-1. Road: 6-2. Vs. NFC: 10-2. Vs. AFC: 3-1. Vs. NFC East: 1-0. Vs. NFC North: 1-0. Vs. NFC South: 4-0. Vs. NFC West: 3-3. Points For: 417 (26.1). Points Against: 231 (14.4).
- NFL RANKS: Scoring Offense — 26.1 (T8); Total Offense — 339.0 (17th); Rushing Offense — 136.8 (4th); Passing Offense — 202.3 (26th); Scoring Defense — 14.4 (1st); Total Defense — 273.6 (1st); Rushing Defense — 101.6 (T7); Passing Defense — 172.0 (1st); Turnover Differential — +20 (1st).
- Eighth time in 11 seasons that Seattle has qualified for the postseason. Seahawks are 9-12 all-time in the playoffs.
- Won 20 of the past 24.
- Point differential of +186 ranks second in the NFL, first in NFC.
- 29-11 since the final half of the 2011 season. In those 11 losses, the average margin of victory for opponents has been 4.5 points.
- 66-30 at home since 2002. Only Green Bay (65-29-1) has a comparable home record during that span.
- 77 pass plays of 16 or more yards this season and 49 running plays of 12 or more. With 126 explosive plays, the Seahawks rank No. 6 in the NFL behind Philadelphia’s 165, Detroit’s 146, Denver’s 134, Green Bay’s 129 and New Orleans’ 128.
- Seahawks led the NFL is fewest explosive plays allowed, 82.
- +20 in turnover differential (37 takeaways, 19 giveaways) ranks first in the NFL.
- Russell Wilson has the second-highest passer rating (107.1) in the NFL since Week 9 of the 2012 season.
- Wilson had 14 consecutive wins at home before the loss to Arizona. The NFL record for most home wins to start a career is 16 by Danny White of Dallas in 1980-81. Kurt Warner (1999-01) had 15. Also on the list: Marc Bulger (14, 2002-04), Doug Flutie (10, 1988-98), Philip Rivers (9, 2006-07).
- Over his past 24 starts, Wilson is 20-4. He has exceeded a 100 passer rating 15 times.
- Wilson has nine fourth-quarter comebacks, the most recent against Tampa Bay Nov. 3.
- Wilson has 24 wins in his first two seasons, the top mark in NFL history by a player over that span.
- Wilson’s record as a starting quarterback is 24-8, a winning percentage of .750. Among quarterbacks with a minimum of 15 starts, only Tom Brady has a better mark, .772 (146-43).
- Only three second-year quarterbacks since 1970 have a passer rating above 100.0: Kurt Warner (1999), 109.2; Dan Marino (1984), 108.9; and Wilson (101.2).
- Wilson has tossed 52 touchdowns in his first two seasons, tied with Peyton Manning for second most in NFL history. Dan Marino had 68.
- Marshawn Lynch leads the NFL with 19 100-yard game games since 2011 and has rushed for 100 or more in 19 of his last 41. The 19 100-yard games rank first in the NFL over that span; Adrian Peterson 18.
- Since Week 9 of 2012, Lynch has rushed for 3,788 yards and 32 touchdowns, both totals leading the NFL (Adrian Peterson 3,538 yards, 25 TDs).
- Lynch scored 14 TDs in 2013, 12 rush, two receive.
- Seattle has limited opposing quarterbacks to a 63.4 passer rating, lowest in the NFL.
- Richard Sherman shas picked off 20 passes since 2011, most in the NFL. His eight picks this year led the NFL. Sherman has also defensed 60 passes since 2011, most in the NFL.
SEAHAWKS 2013 OFFENSIVE LEADERS
SEAHAWKS 2013 DEFENSIVE LEADERS
|Tackles||Wagner 119, Thomas 100, Chancellor 93|
|Sacks||Bennett 8.5, Avril 8.0, McDonald 5.5|
|Quarterback Hits||Bennett 25, Averill 14, McDonald 13|
|Interceptions||Sherman 8, Thomas 5, Maxwell 4|
|Passes Defensed||Sherman 19, Maxwell 12, Browner 10|
|Forced Fumbles||Avril 5, Thomas 2|
|Fumbles Recovered||Chancellor, Mebane, McDaniel, Wright 1|
SAINTS NOTES: The Saints defeated Atlanta (23-17, 17-13), Tampa Bay (16-14, 42-17), Arizona (31-7), Miami (38-17), Chicago (26-18), Buffalo (35-17), Dallas (49-17), San Francisco (23-20), and Carolina (31-13), and lost to New England (30-27) and the New York Jets (26-20), Seattle (34-7), St. Louis (27-16) and Carolina (17-13). New Orleans also defeated Philadelphia 26-24 in an NFC wild card game . . . Saints rank 10th in scoring offense (25.9), 4th in total offense (339.4), 25th in rushing offense (92.1), second in pass offense (307.4), 4th in scoring defense (19.0), 4th in total defense (395.7), 19th in rushing defense (111.6), second in pass defense (194.1) and T14 in turnover differential (0) . . . Pierre Thomas, questionable for Saturday, led New Orleans with 549 rushing yards and two touchdown while Mark Ingram had 368 yards and a touchdown . . . TE Jimmy Graham led the Saints with 86 catches for 1,215 yards and 16 TDs, while Thomas caught 77 balls, Marques Colston 75 and Darren Sproles 71 . . . Sean Payton is in his seventh season as head coach of the Saints after missing 2012 in the “Bountygate” scandal.
SAINTS QUARTERBACKS: Drew Brees threw for 5,162 yards and 39 touchdowns with 12 interceptions for a rating of 104.7 during the regular season. He threw for 250 yards, 1 TD and 2 INTs for a rating of 75.7 in the Saints’ victory over Philadelphia in the wild dard game.
2013-14 KEY DATES: Jan. 11-12 — Divisional playoff games; Jan. 19, 2014 — AFC and NFC championship games; Jan. 26, 2014 — AFC-NFC Pro Bowl, Honolulu; Feb. 2, 2014 — Super Bowl XLVIII, MetLife Stadium, New York; Feb. 18-25, 2012 — Scouting combine, Indianapolis; March 11, 2014 — Free agency begins; May 8-10, 2014 — NFL draft.
NFC West Standings
|Seattle||13-3-0||3-3-0||Sat, vs. New Orleans|
|S. Francisco||12-4-0||5-1-0||Sun, at Carolina|
|St. Louis||7-9-0||1-5-0||Season Complete|
2013 Seahawks Preseason Schedule
|8/8/13||at San Diego||7 p.m.||NFLN||W||31-10||1-0|
|8/17/13||vs. Denver||7 p.m.||NFLN||W||40-10||2-0|
|8/23/13||at Green Bay||5 p.m.||CBS||W||17-10||3-0|
|8/29/13||vs. Oakland||7 p.m.||Fox||W||22-6||4-0|
2013 Seahawks Regular-Season Schedule
|9/8/13||at Carolina||10 a.m.||FOX||W||12-7||1-0|
|9/15/13||vs. SF||5:30 p.m.||NBC||W||29-3||2-0|
|9/22/13||vs. JAX||1:25 p.m.||CBS||W||45-17||3-0|
|9/29/13||at Texans||10 a.m.||FOX||W||23-20||4-0|
|10/6/13||at Indy||10 a.m.||FOX||L||34-28||4-1|
|10/13/13||vs. Tenn||1:05 p.m.||CBS||W||20-13||5-1|
|10/17/13||at Arizona||5:25 p.m.||NFLN||W||34-22||6-1|
|10/28/12||at StL||5:40 p.m.||ESPN||W||14-9||7-1|
|11/3/13||vs. Tampa||1:05 p.m.||FOX||W||27-24||8-1|
|11/10/13||at Atlanta||10 a.m.||FOX||W||33-10||9-1|
|11/17/13||vs. Minn||1:25 p.m.||FOX||W||41-20||10-1|
|12/2/13||VS. NO||5:40 p.m.||ESPN||W||34-7||11-1|
|12/8/12||at SF||1:25 p.m.||FOX||L||19-17||11-2|
|12/15/13||at NYG||10 a.m.||FOX||W||23-0||12-2|
|12/22/13||vs. Ariz||1:05 p.m.||FOX||L||17-10||12-3|
|12/29/13||vs. STL||1:25 p.m.||FOX||W||27-9||13-3|