RENTON, Wash. -- It’s never easy to beat a team twice in the same season, which is the task at hand for Seattle now.
The Seahawks (13-3) play New Orleans (12-5) Saturday in the NFC divisional round of the playoffs, six weeks after defeating the Saints 34-7 in a Monday night game at CenturyLink Field.
Don’t look for another blowout this time. The Saints got behind 17-0 in the first quarter of the Monday night game and never recovered.
Two blowout victories against the same opponent is a rarity in the NFL, and beating the same team twice is rare for the Seahawks. Since 2008, Seattle has faced the same twice in the same season 20 times. The Seahawks won both games only five times.
They failed to sweep in two of three matchups against NFC West opponents this season, beating St. Louis in both games, but splitting the two games with Arizona and San Francisco.
The Saints will come to Seattle with renewed confidence after a 26-24 win at Philadelphia Saturday night, the first road victory in a playoff game in franchise history. It also was a rare cold-weather victory for Drew Brees.
The veteran quarterback was almost perfect in the second half, completing all nine passes he threw. The fact that he threw only nine passes was the key, because the Saints were successful running the football. Mark Ingram ran for 97 yards Saturday night, the second-best rushing total in his career.
The Saints' running game was shut down by the Seahawks earlier this season in Seattle when New Orleans had 44 yards on 17 carries. But the Saints had to abandon the running game when they got behind early.
The New Orleans defense also did a nice job Saturday night against LeSean McCoy, the NFL’s leading rusher. McCoy had a respectable 77 yards on 21 carries, but he couldn’t run up the middle.
The Saints held McCoy to 2.9 yards per rush between the tackles, his second-lowest average this season and the lowest allowed by New Orleans.
The Saints also did a good job against Marshawn Lynch last month, holding the Seahawks running back to 45 yards on 16 carries.
So don’t expect another blowout on Saturday. All indications are the Saints will make this game a lot tougher to win than the first one was.