Marshawn Lynch rushed 28 times for 140 yards and two touchdowns, Seattle’s No. 1- ranked pass defense tormented Drew Brees and a CenturyLink-record crowd of 68,388 helped the Seahawks top the Saints, 23-15, Saturday in the NFC divisional round. The win moves the Seahawks to next week’s NFC Championship, when they host the winner of Sunday’s Carolina-San Francisco game.
Saturday belonged to the Seahawks, though it grew dramatic after Lynch ran in a 31-yard touchdown with 2:48 left. The Seahawks were up 23-8, but the Saints responded with a nine-play, 80-yard drive for a touchdown with 32 seconds left.
Golden Tate fumbled the ensuing onside kick, and New Orleans recovered. On the Saints’ final play, Brees found Marques Colston near the Seattle 35, but Colston tried a cross-field lateral that traveled forward.
The penalty came with a 10-second runoff, which ended the game. That the circumstances required Seattle to make a last-second stop took an edge off the triumph, as did the halftime departure of WR Percy Harvin, who twice was evaluated for concussions.
The Seahawks defense harassed Brees into his second straight poor start at Clink. Brees throughout was bothered by gusting wind, pounding rain and Seattle’s relentless secondary. Brees’ final numbers — 24 of 43 for 309 yards and a touchdown — picked up in the last two drives but got nothing going early.
In the first quarter with the wind at their back, the Seahawks moved the ball well but settled for a pair Steven Hauschka field goals, one from 38 and another from 49 yards, to grab a 6-0 lead.
Seattle’s first touchdown was set up when DT Michael Bennett stripped and recovered a fumble from Saints RB Mark Ingram. Two plays later, Lynch rumbled 15 yards up the middle and into the end zone to give the Seahawks a 13-0 lead.
With a shade under two minutes left in the first half, Seattle moved it inside the Saints 10 before stalling. On second down, Russell Wilson threw a near-perfect lob to the corner of the end zone that Harvin touched but couldn’t haul in, his head hitting the ground hard. That required a concussion evaluation for the second time in his first game in almost two months.
Team personnel escorted Harvin to the locker room, where he was diagnosed with a concussion, ending his afternoon after making three catches for 21 yards and one rush for nine yards.
On the Seahawks’ third offensive play, Harvin received an illegal blow to the head from Saints safety Rafael Bush. Bush received a 15-yard penalty for targeting a defenseless receiver, and Harvin was guided to the sideline for a concussion protocol before being taken to the locker room. He returned in 10 minutes.