SEATTLE – ESPN Stats & Information just sent along a big package of information on the 41-36 victory by the Seahawks against the Saints. Warning to New Orleans fans, this isn’t going to be pretty.
Marshawn Lynch’s 67-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter no doubt will be available on television highlights for several days. But we’ll save you the trouble of counting. The Stats & Information people reviewed the play on video multiple times and concluded that eight different New Orleans defenders at least got a hand on Lynch.
In 16 regular-season games, the Saints allowed only two passes that were thrown 21 yards or more downfield to go for touchdowns. On Saturday, they allowed Matt Hasselbeck to throw two such passes that went for touchdowns.
New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is known for being aggressive, but that tactic didn’t really help against Hasselbeck. The Saints sent six or more pass rushers on eight of Hasselbeck’s dropbacks. He completed four of those passes for a touchdown and a 118.2 passer rating. That’s not unprecedented. In the regular-season meeting between the Saints and Seahawks, Hasselbeck completed all six of his pass attempts when New Orleans sent six or more pass rushers.
With running backs Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory out with injuries, the Saints tried to keep some balance in the offense early. They got Julius Jones and Reggie Bush some early carries as they led 10-0 and 17-7. That allowed the Saints to have some early success with play-action passing. Drew Brees was 6-for-6 on his first six-play action passes. That added up to 56 yards, a touchdown and five first downs. But the Saints got away from the run and that took away the play-action success. On his next eight attempts, Brees was 5-of-8 for 20 yards and one first down. For comparison, Hasselbeck was 6-for-6 for 48 yards two touchdowns and a 139.6 passer rating on play action.
Although recent opponents had some success when throwing a lot of blitzes at Brees, the Seahawks didn’t take that approach. They sent five or more rushers on only five of Brees’ 62 dropbacks (8.1 percent). Throughout the entire regular season no team used the blitz less frequently than the Seahawks did Saturday. The Cardinals used a similar strategy in a Week 5 meeting with the Saints, using the blitz on just 9.8 percent of Brees’ dropbacks. There’s a theme here. The Cardinals also beat the Saints.