SEATTLE -- The arguments are over. The debates have ended.
The Seahawks made a statement Monday night. The message was loud and proud. They are the best of the best.
Nothing seems to get this team down, including the distractions all week over suspension news for cornerbacks Walter Thurmond and Brandon Browner. Backups had to step up in the secondary against a great quarterback in Drew Brees.
And Seattle was without Percy Harvin once again on offense.
Who cares? Instead of taking a step back, the Seahawks just keep getting better.
“I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t big,’’ Seattle safety Earl Thomas said after the game. “You guys didn’t think this could happen, but this is what we envisioned would happen.”
Saints fans couldn’t have envisioned this coming. No rational person could have.
New Orleans came to CenturyLink Field with a 9-2 record and confident they could win against a Seahawks team without Thurmond and Browner.
“Yeah, I kind of took it personally,” Lane said. “I guess people just completely forgot about when I did this [starting three games] last year.”
Seattle, 11-1, is officially in the playoffs now, not that it was much in doubt. Seattle has a two-game advantage in the race to have home-field advantage with four games to play.
But in reality, it’s more than two games because the Seahawks have defeated both Carolina and New Orleans, which gives Seattle to tiebreaker advantage over both 9-3 teams. And the Saints and Panthers still have to play each other twice.
As for the AFC powers like Denver or New England or Kansas City, be afraid. Be very afraid.
Even NFC West rival San Francisco should be afraid at home next week. The Seahawks may be favored at Candlestick Park, a mind-boggling thought for 49ers fans.
Every team talks that "next man up" stuff, but it's just a cliché for most teams. Not for this one. The next man up for Seattle is better than the first man down for many teams.
“It wasn’t that we had to play them,’’ defensive end Michael Bennett said of the Saints' potent offense. “They had to play us. We’re the best defense in the NFL, and we want to be the best ever.”
Bennett had the play of the night for Seattle, scoring on a 22-yard fumble recovery after defensive end Cliff Avril knocked the ball out of Brees' hand in the first quarter.
The earth didn’t shake, but the other NFL teams should be shaking their heads over how good the Seahawks can be.
With two minutes to go in the third quarter, the Saints had only seven first downs, and six of them came on their only scoring drive. Brees threw for just 147 yards, ending his 43-game streak of throwing for at least 200 yards.
And then there’s Russell Wilson, who finally got to play against his long-time idol in Brees. Maybe it’s Brees who should idolize Wilson now. Wilson moved ahead of Brees in the MVP watch list, and look out Peyton Manning. Young Wilson is coming for you, too.
Wilson, who turned 25 Friday, was the star of the show, passing, running and making the New Orleans defense look hopelessly inept.
Wilson’s first-half stats were the second best of his career -- 14-of-19 passing for 226 yards and two touchdowns. That included a 60-yard completion to tight end Zach Miller and a 52-yard throw to Doug Baldwin when Wilson burned the Saints in an all-out blitz.
“We wanted to be great against the blitz,’’ Wilson said. “We prepared for it. We like the pressure because we know there’s a lot of green grass behind it. But for us to win that game the way we did was pretty awesome. The crowd was awesome and broke the [decibel] record again.”
The stake-in-the-heart drive by Wilson and the Seahawks came on an 88-yard romp in the final two minutes of the first half that ended in a 4-yard TD pass to Baldwin that gave Seattle 27-7 lead.
Wilson finished with 310 yards passing and three touchdowns while completing 22 of 30 throws. The last TD, a fluke-like deflection to fullback Derrick Coleman off the hands of tight end Kellen Davis for an 8-yard score, made it appear the Seahawks can do no wrong.
Maybe they can’t. They have won a franchise record 14 in a row at home. Seattle has won 17 of its past 19 games overall, dating to last year and including the playoffs, and the two losses were on the road by a total of eight points.
Monday night was the Seahawks' best performance of the year. For now, the road to the Super Bowl goes through Seattle. That should make every potential playoff opponent cringe.
But as far as making a statement, Sherman disagrees.
“We didn’t make a statement,’’ Sherman said. “We just did what we’ve been doing. We don’t have big-time games. What we have are big-time players.”