Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril hits the arm of Saints quarterback Drew Brees, causing a fumble that was returned for a touchdown by Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett Monday night in Seattle. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Tuesday, December 03, 2013 9:12 AM
SEATTLE (AP) — Russell Wilson was so impressed with the way Seattle prepared for its showdown against New Orleans that he made a point of texting coach Pete Carroll about it.
That's just how Wilson is wired and partly why the Seahawks were the first team in the NFL to clinch a playoff spot with their 34-7 manhandling of the Saints on Monday night.
"That preparation was big," Wilson said. "I really think it showed up tonight."
Seattle is the first team bound for the postseason. They need to go 2-2 in their final four games to wrap up home-field advantage and make the NFC playoffs go through Seattle.
Wilson finished with 310 yards passing and attempted only three passes in the fourth quarter for 13 yards. His first three quarters were so good he could have become a spectator in the fourth. He threw touchdown passes of 2 yards to Zach Miller and 4 yards to Doug Baldwin in the first half as Seattle built a 27-7 lead. Wilson added a pinball 8-yard TD pass to Derrick Coleman in the third quarter.
Wilson completed 22 of 30 passes and finished with a quarterback rating of 139.6. He is 14-0 at home and has 22 regular-season wins in his first two seasons, tied for the most ever by a second-year QB.
"They definitely played the run well tonight, we didn't run the ball as well as we'd like," Carroll said. "It allowed us to hit a bunch of other stuff."
New Orleans (9-3) again failed to earn a signature road victory to prove it can win outdoors on the road late in the season. Drew Brees finished 23 of 38 for 147 yards. Jimmy Graham had three catches for 42 yards. Darren Sproles led New Orleans with seven catches, many of them on check downs. The seven points matched the fewest scored by the Saints since Sean Payton became coach in 2006 and the 188 total yards were the fewest in his coaching tenure.
The Saints were just as flustered by their defense and the inability to slow Wilson.
"I don't even know what to tell you. I don't even know what happened out there," Saints linebacker Junior Galette said. "We better watch the films and see what we can adjust."
• BAFFLED BREES: It's rare to see Brees confused and unsure of where to go with his passes. But he was regularly double clutching his throws and being forced to move around the pocket. Seattle used unusual coverages with its linebackers to try and make Brees hesitate with his timing, and the Seahawks pass rush was able to make him uncomfortable in the pocket.
"They put it all together and they play very, very well together within their scheme," Brees said. "Obviously, they play very well at home because they can thrive on that crowd noise and typically an offense's inability to communicate as well in snap count and all those things. But listen, they deserve a lot of credit."
• NO DROP OFF: All those concerns about Seattle being without cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond appeared unfounded. Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane both played well filing in for Browner and Thurmond. Maxwell got the majority of the playing time on the outside, with Lane coming in as the nickel cornerback. Maxwell was credited with two passes defensed.
"It's impressive for those guys to step up and make those kind of plays, but we expect that from them. Maxwell and Lane, at practice, they don't let people catch balls. Hats off to Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond for keeping that Legion of Boom the way it is," Seattle defensive lineman Michael Bennett said.
• BEAT THE BLITZ: Seattle noticed on film a certain alignment of the Saints defense that tipped them a blitz was coming and there would be a chance to get a big play downfield. One time Seattle made the right checks resulted in a 52-yard pass from Wilson to Doug Baldwin. The Seahawks' offensive line also did its part handling the Saints pressure with Wilson being sacked only once and hit four times.
"We like the sense of pressure because there is a lot of green grass behind it," Wilson said.
• THREE-AND-OUT: The Saints were among the best in the NFL at avoiding three-and-out possessions. They had just 26 in 11 games coming into Monday night, but the Seahawks forced the Saints into five three-and-out drives including two of their first three possessions.
• FEEL THE NOISE: Seattle's noise factor is real. Its fans set another Guinness World Record for the loudest outdoor sports stadium on Monday night, a noise level of 137.6 decibels recorded in the second quarter. But the kind of impact the noise can have was evident on the first play of the game when the Saints were unable to communicate a blocking change and Pierre Thomas was dropped for a 4-yard loss.
"They said it was so loud that they had trouble getting off on the cadence," Carroll said. "Without question, it was a factor tonight."