SEATTLE — Saints quarterback Drew Brees didn’t have a white flag in his hand when he took a knee to close the first half, but he might as well have been signalling surrender, anyway.
The Seahawks put together a tension-snuffing performance on Monday Night Football by dismantling the New Orleans Saints 34-7 in raucous CenturyLink Field.
The Saints came to Seattle with a 9-2 record, stalking the Seahawks for potential home-field advantage in the playoffs.
They left dominated. The Seahawks took a 17-0 first-quarter lead on their way to stamping out any doubt about the result, even with Brees at the controls for New Orleans.
The Seahawks are 11-1. They have clinched a playoff spot. They danced, howled and paraded around the field as if having a personal party with 68,387 – a CenturyLink Field record.
“We’re not like everybody else,” safety Earl Thomas said.
That appeared to be the case Monday night.
The Seahawks, to use Thomas’ term, made Brees and stud tight end Jimmy Graham look “normal.”
Brees was 23-for-38 and gained a season-low 147 yards. Graham had three catches for 42 yards. The Seahawks lived with check-down throws from Brees and batted away any over-the-top shots.
Per usual, the Seahawks defense was not working from an exotic perspective. They were often in base defense, allowing various defenders to counter Graham when he lined up in front of them.
“We wanted to play our defense, and if they go out there, stand up and beat us man-to-man? Then, they deserved to win,” cornerback Richard Sherman said.
The Saints used an alternate approach in allowing wide receiver Doug Baldwin to make a 52-yard gain and tight end Zach Miller a 60-yard gain.
The large gains for Baldwin and Miller were the anticipated counters to blitz-enthralled Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson signaled to Baldwin to change his route because he identified a pending blitz on his large gain. Wilson threw the ball to a spot as the blitz came. Baldwin was right there up the left sideline.
Miller leaked out up the right sideline and a rolling Wilson lofted a pass to him. No one was in front of Miller as he began to churn down the field. Eventually, the 255-pound tight end was caught from behind, despite throwing a spin move to into the mix.
Fullback Michael Robinson even caught a 21-yard pass.
“We wanted to be great against the blitz,” Wilson said. “We like the sense of pressure because there is a lot of green grass behind it.
“We were clicking on all cylinders.”
Defensive tackle Michael Bennett went 22 yards for the Seahawks’ first touchdown. After defensive end Cliff Avril stripped Brees from behind, Bennett was able to run into the end zone to boost Seattle in front 10-0.
Miller caught a 2-yard pass from Wilson with 1:55 to go in the first quarter and put the Seahawks in front 17-0. There would be no comeback.
Baldwin caught a 4-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter.
Second-string fullback Derrick Coleman caught one of the oddest touchdown passes of the season in the third. Tight end Kellen Davis had a Wilson pass clank off his hands then pop into the air about three yards from the goalline.
In a night crossed with purpose and serendipity, Coleman snagged the ball and dove into the end zone.
The Seahawks led 34-7 after Coleman’s unlikely touchdown. The Saints had been beaten, the league had been notified again.
“We feel like we don’t get as much credit as we should,” Baldwin said. “But, that fuels our fire.”
Seattle is a franchise-record 11-1 with a two-game lead for home-field advantage in the playoffs – while holding the tiebreaker advantage with wins against the 9-3 Saints and 9-3 Carolina Panthers (With both those teams set to play each other twice in the next four weeks).
Maintain this for four more games and the Seahawks play where Wilson has won 14 consecutive games.
They can take plenty of credit for that.