The stage was set. The New Orleans Saints were gaining momentum after two signature wins against the San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta Falcons and had a long week to prepare to face the Seattle Seahawks in a battle between the two best NFC teams at the time.
What happens next? The Saints get dismantled on all fronts. The Saints’ offense was held to an anemic 7 points. The defense was as effective as collecting water with a fishnet. Hands down, the worst showing in the Sean Payton-Drew Brees era.
Now, the Saints get a second chance to go back to Seattle to face the Seahawks in the Divisional round of the playoffs. After being completely exploited the first time around, why should this time be any different?
Winning in Seattle will be a tough task and is an unlikely outcome (coming from an optimistic, rational Saints fan). However, there is some reason for optimism going into this game. For one, the fact that this team has visited Seattle already will be a great advantage in knowing what to expect as far as noise and hostility is concerned. A good majority of this team wasn’t there when the Saints were upset in 2010 in the playoffs. It will still be very difficult to deal with, but it won’t be unanticipated at least.
Secondly, the Saints have some momentum and confidence after winning on the road. In the first meeting, though no one in the organization will admit it, there was probably some doubt of whether this team could travel. And that doubt was compounded with subsequent losses to St. Louis and Carolina on the road. However, after winning in a hostile environment like Philadelphia, there is a newfound confidence with that monkey being off their back.
Also, having played in the environment against that suffocating defense will better prepare the players for what to expect on the field. Generally speaking, if an exceptional offensive mind like Payton gets a second shot at a defense like Seattle, the offensive production will usually be better.
On top of that, even though the Seahawks will never say so, human nature says that they might take the Saints a little lightly because of the previous result. I don’t expect that to be much of a factor, but maybe (just maybe), there’s a little bit of an edge missing in this go around.
Finally, one could argue that the Monday night meeting was an anomaly of sorts on both sides. The Saints’ offense put up its worst performance in a couple of years while the Seahawks’ offense played out of this world, especially in the passing game.
Russell Wilson was as efficient as can be throwing for over 300 yards while Drew Brees threw for a mere 147. The last time Brees threw for under 200 yards was Week 17 of 2010 season; meanwhile, Wilson has only thrown for 300 yards or more TWICE in his career. In fact, Wilson has only passed for over 250 yards 4 times this season and only 7 times in his career.
This isn’t to say that these performances can’t be duplicated; however, the numbers and the law of averages suggest that it is highly unlikely. And since beating the Saints, the Seahawks haven’t been able to match the same offensive production in the following games.
This is a game the Saints have been wanting ever since the embarrassment on Monday Night Football. There is a chance the result could be the same as last time, however I think it is more likely the game will be close. The Saints won’t (or at least they shouldn’t) play as badly as they did the first time. Also, for what it’s worth, the Arizona Cardinals proved that winning in Seattle is possible. What we do know is that the defense for Seattle will show up and be their normal, dominant self, and it will be up to the Saints to find a way to move the ball against them.
Chances are the experts will not pick the Saints, and I, as a Saints fan, will have a hard time visualizing the Saints winning; however, they still have to play 60 minutes and stranger things have happened in the playoffs.
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