4:35 PM ET, January 11, 2014
Lumen Field, Seattle, WA
The New Orleans Saints shook off the notion that they can't win on the road in their playoff opener, though pulling off a victory at raucous CenturyLink Field in Saturday's NFC divisional matchup with the Seattle Seahawks will be a more daunting task.
The Seahawks will try to win a sixth straight home playoff contest and secure their 16th victory in 17 games on their own field when they take on a New Orleans team looking to avenge last month's blowout loss in Seattle.
Though all the attention leading up to their wild-card contest centered around their inability to win away from home, the Saints (12-5) snapped a three-game road losing streak with a 26-24 victory over Philadelphia last Saturday.
Shayne Graham hit a 32-yard field goal as time expired to give New Orleans its first postseason road win in six tries, as well as a shot at redemption in Seattle.
The NFC-best Seahawks (13-3), which led the NFL in total defense (273.6 yards per game), held Drew Brees to 147 yards -- his fewest since 2006 -- in a 34-7 home win Dec. 2. The Saints matched their lowest scoring output since coach Sean Payton took over in 2006, and their 188 total yards were the fewest under him.
After the one-sided loss, Brees said that if the Saints wanted to reach the Super Bowl, they'd probably have to win in Seattle in the playoffs.
"If we want to accomplish what we set out to accomplish this year then we better find a way to go there and win, and just hoping that we'd have another opportunity," he said. "And here we are, having that opportunity."
The Seahawks have won five straight home playoff games dating to a 27-20 loss to St. Louis on Jan. 8, 2005. They also had a 14-game run at CenturyLink Field before falling 17-10 to Arizona in Week 16. Seattle bounced back with a 27-9 victory over the Rams in the season finale.
With the winner advancing to the NFC championship against Carolina or San Francisco, Payton is certainly doing everything he can to get the Saints ready for the rematch. He's even had Seahawks logos painted on their outdoor and indoor practice fields this week.
"I feel like coach Payton is putting us in the moment, you know, visualize this is where we're going, this is what we're going to do and this is how it's going to look," linebacker Curtis Lofton said.
Brees threw for 404 yards and two scores but 11-5 New Orleans was upset 41-36 by 7-9 Seattle in a wild-card round matchup Jan. 8, 2011.
The eight-time Pro Bowler has an 84.0 passer rating on the road this season compared to 126.3 at home. He'll try to take advantage of his second chance against the Seahawks, who finished the regular season with the league's best pass defense at 172.0 yards per game.
Seattle had 28 interceptions and an opponent passer rating of 63.4, one of just 15 teams since 2000 to hold opposing passers to 65.0 or less.
Cornerback Richard Sherman led the NFL with eight interceptions, including four over the final three games. Earl Thomas also was a first-team All-Pro pick, while fellow safety Kam Chancellor was a second-team choice.
MVP candidate Russell Wilson put together one of his best efforts of the season in the first meeting, completing 22 of 30 passes for 310 yards with three touchdowns while adding 47 rushing yards.
Although he struggled in the loss to the Cardinals, Wilson threw for seven touchdowns with only one interception over his last four home games.
"I think it's common knowledge and human nature that you would like to think it's going to be the same, but we know better than that," coach Pete Carroll said. "We need to respect this opportunity for what it is. It's a great championship matchup for us, and they're going to come loaded up and give us a great football game."
Marshawn Lynch figures to play a prominent role despite being held to 45 yards on 16 carries in last month's win. The workhorse back hasn't posted a 100-yard game since Nov. 10 at Atlanta, but he had 131 yards -- including a memorable 67-yard touchdown run -- in the last playoff meeting.
The Saints are coming off a solid effort against the run, holding NFL rushing leader LeSean McCoy to 77 yards on 21 carries.
New Orleans' defense could face a tougher test Saturday with the Seahawks getting back wide receiver Percy Harvin, who played in one game this season after undergoing surgery to repair the labrum in his hip in early August.
Tight end Luke Willson has also returned to practice after being taken off the field in the season finale with a high-ankle sprain.
The Saints, who ran for 185 yards last weekend, are hoping to get Pierre Thomas back from a chest injury. If he can't go, Mark Ingram will likely get another start after gaining 97 yards and scoring against the Eagles.
The Seahawks tied for seventh with 101.6 rushing yards allowed per game, giving up 25 or less in two of their last three.
Seattle has won four of five home meetings, including the postseason victory three years ago.
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|Avg Points Allowed||23.5||15.0|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||NO|
|Rush Yds Allowed||NO|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Seattle leads 5-2|
|Dec 2, 2013||NO 7, @SEA 34|
|Jan 8, 2011||NO 36, @SEA 41|
|Nov 21, 2010||NO 34, SEA 19|
|Oct 14, 2007||NO 28, @SEA 17|
|Sep 12, 2004||NO 7, SEA 21|
|Sep 7, 2003||NO 10, @SEA 27|
When he's healthy, there are few other weapons in the NFL like Percy Harvin... Since Harvin joined the league in 2009, only Darren Sproles has averaged more all-purpose yards per game than the Seattle wideout... Though he's missed 22 games over the last 2 seasons, Harvin has been good for 5 receptions a contest -- and does a lot with the ball when he catches it.[+]
A Real Weapon When Healthy - Percy Harvin NFL Career (Since 2009)
The Saints held the Eagles to 256 total yards, their lowest offensive output this season in 11 games with Nick Foles as the starting QB. You could argue that this Saints defense is the best New Orleans has had since 2000. The Saints allowed 305.7 total YPG this season, the fewest they've allowed in a regular season since 2000 (296.4).[+]
Saints Fewest Yds Allowed PG - Single Season Since 2000
Drew Brees will be looking for some measure of redemption when the Saints visit Seattle tomorrow.... His performance in Week 13 vs the Seahawks on Monday Night Football was one of the worst of his career as a starter... His 147 Pass yards were his lowest in almost a decade, while his Total QBR of 23 was his lowest in more than 6 years.[+]
Seeking Redemption - Drew Brees Week 13 vs Seahawks
Drew Brees is 1-7 for 9 yards when targeting wide receivers or tight ends. Saints TEs/WRs have dropped twice as many passes (two) as they've caught.
Marshawn Lynch had 28 rushes for 140 yards and two touchdowns Saturday, including 66 yards after contact. Lynch had 45 rush yards total in Seattle's Week 13 meeting against the Saints. The Seahawks rushed for 118 of their 174 yards between the tackles, the most allowed by the Saints defense in a game this season. Lynch's success rushing didn't open up the play-action game for Russell Wilson. Wilson finished the game 0-for-5 on play-action attempts.
Since the start of the 2007 season, teams to shut out their opponents in the 1st half of a playoff game are just 4-3. Those teams are just 2-3 when scoring under 20 points in the 1st half.
Russell Wilson and Tom Brady were the starting quarterbacks in their team's playoff wins on Saturday, but you'd be hard-pressed to say they led their team to victory.[+]
Winning Starting QBs - Saturday's Divisional Playoff Games
Saints: 0-32 in team history when shut out through 3 quarters (including playoffs)
Marques Colston caught 1-of-4 targets for 9 yards in the first half, but caught 10-of-12 targets for 135 yards and a touchdown after halftime. Colston's 135 yards and 10 catches in the second half are both career highs.
Drew Brees' 34 passing yards at halftime is his fewest in a Saints uniform.
Russell Wilson was better able to cope with the poor weather conditions in the first half Sunday, going 6-of-8 on passes thrown beyond the line of scrimmage. Drew Brees struggled on those throws, going 2-of-8, including 1-of-7 to his wide receivers and tight ends.[+]
Passing Beyond the Line of Scrimmage - 1st Half Saturday
The Saints rushed on 8-of-12 plays in the first quarter. Including last week, the Saints have rushed on 53.8 percent of plays (43-of-80) in the playoffs. In the regular season, New Orleans' 33.8 rush percentage was the fifth lowest in the league.
The Saints ran six screen passes Saturday, gaining positive yards on only one of those plays. Drew Brees was 3-of-6 for 6 yards on those passes, including two drops and no first downs. The Saints led the league in screen pass completions to running backs during the regular season with 59, 14 more than any other team.
Russell Wilson finished 9-of-18 for a career-low 103 yards, and averaged a career-low 4.0 yards per attempt against four or fewer pass rushers. Wilson completed fewer than half of his attempts against standard pressure (6-of-13) for the fifth time in his career.
In the first quarter, New Orleans ran on 8-of-12 plays. In the second quarter (with the wind), New Orleans ran on 7-of-15 plays, which was somewhat inflated by four straight pass plays during a failed two-minute drill.
After Mark Ingram's fumble that led to Seattle's first touchdown, the Seahawks have a league-best +26 turnover differential at home since the start of 2012 including the playoffs.
Drew Brees was 1-for-6 for 8 yards targeting Jimmy Graham. As of the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter, Brees was 0-for-4 targeting Graham and all four attempts were broken up by Seahawks defenders. Seattle has figured out how to shut down Jimmy Graham- the Seahawks held Brees to 4-of-15 for 50 yards targeting Graham in the two meetings this season.[+]
Marshawn Lynch ran for a Seahawks franchise playoff record 140 yards, and accounted for both touchdowns in the win. Lynch ran over the Saints in their last playoff meeting for 131 yards, including 102 after contact.[+]
Marshawn Lynch Rushing vs Saints in Playoffs
Graham's last made FG of at least 48 yards was exactly one year ago in Houston's Divisional Playoff loss to New England last year.
Updating Elias notes: * Seahawks scored in the 1st quarter for the 1st time in its last 4 postseason games * Seahawks' streak of 5 consecutive games allowing at least 10 points in the 1st quarter snapped (was longest streak in NFL postseason history)
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