Marshawn Lynch broke loose on Saturday for 140 yards on 28 carries and 2 “Beast Mode” touchdowns to lift the Hawks over the Saints 23-15 to put Seattle back in the NFC championship next Sunday at the Clink. The Seahawks entire season had lead up to this point, a home game in the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs. The Seahawks X factor for the past two years has been the Hawks offense. Would the running game be able to get going and if not, would Wilson and the passing game be able to carry the load? The big plus for the Hawks was that Percy Harvin was going to be playing in his second game of the year. The highly paid receivers’ return has been much anticipated and looked bleak at times, but he had been practicing all week and was ready to show us his stuff. Unfortunately for Harvin he took a couple of big hits in the 1st half and left for the remainder of the game with a concussion. In front of a record crowd of 68,388 the Hawks and the 12th man were ready to bring it.
Offensively, the Hawks started out the game as they have for the past month, very conservative and unproductive. Hawks put up 2 Steven Haushka field goals in the first to give the Hawks a 6-0 lead. The Saints offensive production in the first half was similar to that of the Hawks. The first play of the 2nd quarter saw the Hawks tackle Michael Bennett pop the ball loose from Saints running back Mark Ingram and the Hawks were in business at the Saints 24 yard line. That was followed by a reverse by Percy Harvin for 9 yards, and a 15 yard run by Marshawn Lynch for a Seahawks touchdown. This was a” beast mode” run, Lynch bounced off a number of Saints defenders and pinballed his way to the end zone. The Hawks defense was all over the Saints as usual, Thurmond and Wagner both making big ball deflections on third down, and the Hawks defensive front keeping pressure on Drew Brees. “There is no goal. Everything is limitless; we don’t put any kinds of ceilings on us. The way we practice is going to always make us.” Safety Earl Thomas said. The Hawks were able to tack on another field goal before half and went into the locker room up 16-0.
Pete Carroll all season has had the team play conservative in big games with a lead, because the defense is able to hold their own and as long as the offense doesn’t make costly mistakes in their own territory, the Hawks usually prevail. With the rain down poor and 40 mph gusts of wind the Hawks offense played conservative in the 3rd quarter, a few first downs, but no mistakes and the defense was able to hold. Late in the 3rd Brees started to get going. Brees connect with Jaime Hill for 23 yards, then found Marques Colston for another 25 yards down to the Seahawk 11. The drive was finished off by a 1 yard Mark Ingram touchdown run, followed another run by Ingram to tack on the 2-point conversion, and all of a sudden it was a 1 score game at 16-8. Fans were on the edge of their seats, and the 12th man buckled down. Brees put together a good drive with the 4th quarter running down.
The Hawks stopped the Saints on the 30 yard line after 3 straight incomplete passes by Brees. The Saints elected to kick the 48 yard field goal, and was missed by Shane Graham wide left. This was Graham’s second missed field goal of the game. He was signed 3 weeks ago after the Saints cut Garret Hartley. Graham was the hero last weekend when he kicked the game winning 32 yard field goal as time expired to beat the Eagles, but not today with the gusting winds. Russell Wilson had a career worst game with only 103 yards on 9 of 18 passing, and only 2 for 9 in the second half. One of those passes was to Doug Baldwin on 3rd and 3 in the final 5 minutes for 24 yards to the Saint 31 yard line and Baldwin did a great job of hanging on to the ball. The play was challenged but not overturned which cost the Saints their final timeout. “He had and unbelievable route and made a great catch on the sideline.” Wilson said regarding the catch. The following play, Lynch rumbled in the end zone from 31 yards out to give the fans some breathing room with only 2:40 remaining.
Great quarterbacks always have a comeback in them, and Drew Brees wasn’t finished yet. Brees put together a 9 play, 80 yard drive that ended in a Brees to Colston 9 yard touchdown pass on 4th and 6 to pull the Saints within 7 at 23-15 with 26 second left. On the following onside kick, Golden Tate missed judged the bounce and in true northwest fashion, the Saints were 59 yards from pay dirt, but time wasn’t on their side. On the final play of the game, Brees completed a 15 yard pass to Colston, he then tried to create a hook and ladder play, but threw it forward and ended the game.
The Hawks were able to escape and will advance to play in the NFC Championship next Sunday. One of the biggest keys to the game was the Hawks holding Jimmy Graham to only 3 catches for 44 yards and no touchdowns. Graham is one of the best tight ends in the league and a big game changer. Head Coach Pete Carroll said, “We wanted to make sure we had a lot of guys in his area. We played a lot of zone.” When Wilson has a bad game it is usually because the running game is productive and they stick with it and mix in a few passes. The wind was also a big factor, Wilson talked about how they played more conservative so that he didn’t force a pass that the wind could take and turn into a turnover.
The season comes down to next Sunday, we will see if one of the favorites to go to the Super Bowl is going to get it done.