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Seahawks at New Orleans: Hard Times in the Big Easy

In Week 11, the Seahawks traveled to New Orleans to face the defending Super Bowl Champions in the Superdome.

Seahawks running back Justin Forsett makes his way from the bus across the tarmac to the charter plane at SeaTac International Airport on Friday afternoon.

On Saturday afternoon, the team underwent a brief walk-thru under sunny skies and warm temperatues at Tulane University.

Game day arrived and linebacker Lofa Tatupu made his way from the hotel to the team buses, passing loyal members of the 12th Man who'd made the trip to support the team.

In the visitors locker room, head coach Pete Carroll paid a brief visit to linebacker Aaron Curry before the team took the field.

Center Chris Spencer "taps in" with the rest of the players as they head from the locker room to the field.

Outside the locker room, head coach Pete Carroll stopped for a brief word with friend and actor Will Ferrell, who spoke to the players during the team meeting on Saturday night.

Seattle's offense got off to a quick start with receiver Mike Williams taking a pass from Matt Hasselbeck 68-yards to set up a field goal.

Linebacker Aaron Curry tried to meet New Orleans running back Chris Ivory at the top of the pile but the Saints scored to take a 7-3 lead.

On the Seahawks sidelines, defensive leader Lawyer Milloy rallied his teammates.

Receiver Ben Obamanu had a big game, tallying five catches for 87 yards including this reception for 42 yards.

Safety Earl Thomas engages former Seahawks running back Julius Jones at the line of scrimmage.

In the locker room at halftime, defensive coordinator Gus Bradley gives instructions to his players.

Cornerback Walter Thurmond makes a pass deflection in the end zone, preventing Saints tight end Jimmy Graham from scoring on a pass from Drew Brees.

Offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates talks through his headset as he paces the sidelines planning Seattle's offense.

Wide receiver Mike Williams hauls in a reception for one of his team-high six catches that netted 109 yards before he left with a foot injury.

Defensive lineman Junior Siavii yells from the sidelines.

New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees eludes the blitz pressure applied by Seattle linebacker Lofa Tatupu.

Linebacker David Hawthorne thwarted a Saints drive with this interception in the red zone.

Despite passing for 366 yards against the defending Super Bowl champs, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck walked off the field on the short end of the 34-19 final score. At left is center Chris Spencer.


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Game at a glance

NEW ORLEANS – A recap of the Seahawks’ 34-19 loss to the Saints at the Superdome on Sunday:

PLAYER OF THE GAME

Drew Brees. The Saints’ Pro Bowl quarterback and MVP in last season’s Super Bowl was as about as good as he could have been.

Asked what the biggest challenge was about the New Orleans’ offense on a day when the Saints rolled up 494 yards, scored 34 points and converted 11 of 15 third-down situations, Seahawks linebacker Aaron Curry did not hesitate.

“Drew Brees was the biggest challenge,” he said. “I mean, how do you catch him off guard? You have to find a way to catch him off guard, and he was sharp today.”

Was he ever. Brees passed for four touchdowns in a 29-of-43, 382-yard performance that would have produced even more ridiculous numbers if linebacker David Hawthorne had not intercepted one of his passes at the goal line, free safety Earl Thomas had not picked off his final pass in the end zone and a holding penalty had not nullified his 36-yard TD pass to former Seahawks running back Julius Jones.

Brees completed passes to 10 different receivers, including eight to wide receiver Marques Colston for 113 yards and two TDs. He also threw a pair of TD passes to wide receiver Robert Meachem. He was 8 of 11 for 117 yards on third downs, including throws that converted on third-and-14, third-and-13 and third-and-10 (twice).

As Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck put it after his 32-of-44, 366-yard passing performance, “They had better stuff than we did today.”

And nobody has better stuff than Brees.

PLAYS OF THE GAME

Offense: It was only a 5-yard run – and on second-and-6 play in the first quarter, at that. But the collision between Saints rookie running back Chris Ivory and Marcus Trufant knocked the Seahawks’ cornerback out of the game with a concussion. Walter Thurmond took over for Trufant and Brees exploited matchups against the rookie the rest of the game.

Defense: The Seahawks had just scored what proved to be their only touchdown to cut the Saints’ lead to 21-13 late in the first half. They had the Saints in a third-and-7 situation at their own 32-yard line. Colston dropped Brees’ pass, but defensive end Raheem Brock also dropped Brees and was penalized 15 yards for roughing the passer. Three plays later, Brees threw his third TD pass to give the Saints a 27-13 lead.

Brock wasn’t around after the game to tell his side of the questionable call, but he tweeted, “I guess I’ve forgotten how to tackle the quarterback.”

Special teams: Following the Seahawks’ only touchdown, linebacker Will Herring dropped Saints kickoff returner Courtney Robby with a huge hit after a 25-yard return. Herring was mobbed by teammates on the coverage unit, who converged on him to offer congratulatory shoulder-bumps. The way-to-go gestures continued after Herring got to the sideline.

MEMORABLE MOMENTS

Pre-game: Half the defensive line on the Seahawks’ 35th Anniversary team was on the sideline, as former Pro Bowl defensive end Jacob Green and former NFL defensive player of the year and All-Pro defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy were on hand for the game.

In-game: Running back Marshawn Lynch lost two fumbles while battling for extra yards, ending back-to-back possessions in the third quarter – one near midfield after a 17-yard run, the other at the Saints’ 44-yard line after a 12-yard reception.

Post-game: Leading receiver Mike Williams left the locker room on crutches after getting what coach Pete Carroll called a sprained foot. Before he went out, Williams caught six passes for 109 yards – pushing his team-high totals to 52 for 654 yards.

WORTH NOTING

Rookie LT Russell Okung started only his fourth game, and finished only his second. He has missed time this season with high sprains of both ankles.

Thomas, the Seahawks’ other first-round draft choice, intercepted his fifth pass of the season to tie the franchise rookie record set by Michael Boulware in 2004.

After producing three touchdowns in three red-zone possessions in their Week 6 win at Chicago, the Seahawks’ last 20 trips inside the opposition’s 20-yard line have resulted in four touchdowns, 11 field goals, two missed field goals, two where they failed to convert on fourth-down plays and an interception.

Brandon Stokley caught six passes for 76 yards, despite sitting out last week’s game with a strained calf and being limited in practice all week.

The Seahawks generated 424 offensive yards, after compiling 490 in last week’s win over the Cardinals in Arizona. Those are the only two games in which they have had more than 355 this season.

Hawthorne led the Seahawks with 12 tackles, the second time in the past three games he has hit double figures.

The Seahawks did not generate a sack for the second time in three games – the only two times this season they have failed to get to the opposing QB.

INJURY REPORT

The big losses, of course, were Trufant and Williams. They are scheduled for additional tests on Monday, which will determine how much time they might miss.

YOU DON’T SAY

“Our challenge as a team is how can we get all three phases working at the same time? We really haven’t done that yet this year. … If we can figure that out before the season is over, then we’ll be a very dangerous team. Until that, we’ll just be .500.” – strong safety Lawyer Milloy


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Fourth quarter

Peephole perspective: The Seahawks added a field goal, but the Saints won it 34-19.

Player of the quarter: Uh. Hmmm. Well, why not Brees? Again. He completed passes to 10 different receivers in the game.

Play of the quarter: The Seahawks had the Saints in a third-and-14 situation with 3:49 to play. With a stop, they would have gotten the ball back. But Drew Brees went to WR Marques Colston for a 15-yard gain. It was in indicative of how this game went.

Number of the quarter: 20. Justin Forsett (No. 20) got the ball on the final eight offensive snaps of the Seahawks’ 15-play, 78-yard drive, and Olindo Mare then kicked a 20-yard field goal.

The bigger picture: The Seahawks lost leading receiver Mike Williams, who went out with a foot injury and would not return.

The Saints, meanwhile, lost a chance to pad their lead after reaching the Seahawks’ 11. Drew Brees’ third-down pass to Marques Colston was low and Garrett Hartley hit the upright with his 27-yard field goal attempt.

The Seahawks then moved to the Saints’ 39, but Hasselbeck’s first-down pass to TE Chris Baker was wide and appeared to be intercepted by Saints CB Tracy Porter. Coach Pete Carroll challenged the ruling and the play was ruled incomplete. The Seahawks took advantage, to a point. They drove to the Saints’ 2, but stalled and Olindo Mare kicked a 20-yard field goal to make it 34-19 with 5:26 to play. Earlier in the 15-play, 78-yard drive, Hasselbeck had hit a 13-yard pass to Brandon Stokley on third-and-6 and an 11-yarder to Deon Butler to the Saints’ 39.

The Seahawks went for the onside kick, and recovered. But it was ruled that Lawyer Milloy had gone out of bounds before recovering the ball Lance Moore couldn’t handle. That gave the Saints a first down at the Seahawks’ 42.

The Saints moved to the Seahawks’ 8, as Brees passed to TE Tory Humphrey for 12 yards on third-and-3 – making Humphrey the 10th player to catch a pass from Brees. But rookie FS Earl Thomas intercepted Brees’ fourth-down pass in the end zone. It was Thomas’ fifth interception, tying the team rookie record.


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Third quarter

Peephole perspective: Drew Brees threw his fourth TD pass of the afternoon, while Seahawks’ RB Marshawn Lynch lost two fumbles. Saints 34-16.

Player of the quarter: Brees. Again.

Play of the quarter: The Saints were about to score a TD that would have made it 41-16. But Drew Brees’ third-and-goal pass from the Seahawks’ 4-yard line to TE David Thomas ended up in the hands of another David – Hawthorne, the Seahawks’ linebacker.

Number of the quarter: 318. Brees’ passing yards through three quarters.

The bigger picture: Drew Brees picked up in the third quarter where he left off in the second. He was 3 of 4 for 68 yards on the Saints’ half-opening, six-play, 80-yard scoring drive that made it 34-16. The TD came on a 32-yard pass to Robert Meachem, who beat rookie CB Walter Thurmond. Brees also passed 19 yards to TE Jimmy Graham on third-and-3 and 17 yards to Devery Henderson.

The Seahawks looked up to answering, as Matt Hasselbeck passed for 9 yards to Ben Obomanu and Marshawn Lynch then broke a 17-yard run. But Saints SS Roman Harper caused a fumble at the end of the run and also recovered the ball.

Brees went back to work, driving the Saints to the Seahawks’ 3-yard line. But his third-and-goal pass was intercepted by Seahawks LB David Hawthorne.

Hasselbeck moved the Seahawks to the Saints’ 46, but Lynch fumbled after taking a first-down pass. Saints LB Scott Shanle forced the fumble and recovered it.


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Second quarter

Peephole perspective: The Seahawks got an early field goal and a late TD pass from Matt Hasselbeck to Ben Obomanu, but the Saints got a trio of Drew Brees TD passes. Saints 27-13.

Player of the quarter: Brees. He was Cajun-spicy hot in the quarter, completing 12 of 17 passes for 166 yards and the three TDs. That made him 18 of 25 for 205 yards in the half, for a 135.8 passer rating.

Play of the quarter: Brees’ first TD pass, which went to Marques Colston for 23 yards. On the play, CB Kelly Jennings and FS Earl Thomas hit Colston, but bounced off. It summed up the quarter, as the Seahawks were often close, but not close enough.

Numbers of the quarter: 9 to 12. That’s Brees (No. 9) and Colston (No. 12), who hooked up twice for touchdowns.

The bigger picture: The drive than began at the end of the first quarter ended on the first play of the second quarter as Olindo Mare kicked a 43-yard field goal to make it 7-6 Saints.

The Saints came right back, driving 80 yards in 10 plays to a 23-yard TD pass from Drew Brees to WR Marques Colston. Thomas was injured on the play and helped to the sideline. Brees hit his final four throws – 14 yards to Colston, 14 yards to TE David Thomas, 15 yards to WR Robert Meachem and the TD pass to Colston.

The Seahawks’ ensuing possession ended quickly, as John Carlson actually broke up what would have been an interception on a first-down pass to him and Hasselbeck threw wide to Ben Obomanu on third down. The Saints got good field position on the punt, as Roy Lewis ran into Lance Moore after he had signaled for a fair catch. So the 15-yard penalty after a 37-yard punt by Jon Ryan allowed the Saints’ series start at the Seahawks’ 42.

Injury update: CB Marcus Trufant is out with just what it looked like when he left – a head injury. Also DE Kentwan Balmer left after getting a scratch on his face, but he returned. Trufant did not and was replaced by rookie Walter Thurmond.

Meanwhile, back on the field, the Saints drove those 42 yards in eight plays to a 3-yard TD pass from Drew Brees to Meachem. Brees also passed 16 yards to WR Lance Moore to the Seahawks’ 12 on third-and-10 and 14 yards to Colston to the 3 on second-and-15 to setup his third-and-1 pass for the score. That made it 21-6 with 5:48 left in the half.

The Seahawks answered, however, as they went long by throwing short to the TD pass to Obomanu. Hasselbeck was 8 of 10 on the 12-play, 69-yard drive and the longest completion was a 15-yarder.

The feel-good score was quickly matched, as the Saints drove 75 yards in five plays to Brees’ third TD pass – a 22-yarder to Colston that made it 27-13 with 1:00 left. The score was 27 because the Saints didn’t get the PAT as holder Chase Daniel’s knee went down short of the goal line.

The Seahawks tacked on Mare’s second field goal – a 43-yarder – as time expired. Hasselbck hit a 23-yard pass to Obomanu and a 14-yarder to Brandon Stokely to get a first down at the Saints’ 37. But a holding penalty on LG Chester Pitts and a grounding call on Hasselbeck turned that into a second-and-30 situation. Hasselbeck passed to Stokely for 18 yards to get Mare closer.


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First quarter

Peephole perspective: The Seahawks got an Olindo Mare field goal, but the Saints got a 1-yard TD run by Chris Ivory. Saints 7-3.

Player of the quarter: Ivory. In addition to his first career TD, the Saints’ rookie running back had 41 other yards in the scoring drive – including a 24-yard burst to the Seahawks’ 5-yard line on third-and-1.

Play of the quarter: Facing a second-and-18 at their 22-yard line, Matt Hasselbeck pulled the Seahawks out of the hole by hooking up with Mike Williams for a 68-yard pass play to Saints’ 10 to set up Mare’s field goal.

Number of the quarter: 29. It’s Ivory’s number – but also that of Seahawks rookie FS Earl Thomas, who had four tackles, including a first-down saving stop on the Saints’ first third-down situation.

The bigger picture: The Seahawks got the ball first, as Kelly Jennings called tails during the coin toss and it was. But they went three-and-out.

The defense held, forcing a three-and-out. The Saints had a fourth-and-1 from their 41 and QB Drew Bees tried to draw the Seahawks offside with an elongated – and animated – snap count. When it didn’t work, the Saints took the delay penalty and punted.

The Seahawks scored on their next possession, driving 80 yards in nine plays to a 19-yard field goal by Olindo Mare. The big play was Matt Hasselbeck’s 68-yard pass to Mike Williams, who was tripped up at the Saints’ 10. But the Seahawks could not capitalize in the red zone again, so Mare provided the points. Hasselbeck also hit an 8-yarder to Deon Butler on third-and-6. But his third-down pass to Butler in the end zone was tipped incomplete by S Usama Young.

The lead didn’t last long, however, as the Saints drove 80 yards in 12 plays to a 1-yard TD run by Chris Ivory. The rookie carried six times in the drive to his first NFL touchdown for 42 yards – including a 14-yard burst on third-and-1 from the Seahawks’ 29.

But the Seahawks came back aggressively, as Ben Obomanu came back against CB Jabari Greer to take a 42-yard pass from Hasselbeck on the Saints’ 28. The Seahawks had a third-and-7 situation as the quarter ended.


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Okung active, will start

Russell Okung will make is return to the Seahawks’ starting lineup at left tackle in today’s game against the Saints.

The team’s first-round draft choice had missed most of the past four games with a sprained left ankle. But Okung practiced all week and was expected to play today. But coach Pete Carroll wanted to see how Okung was feeling on Saturday and this morning before making the decision.

Also, Ben Obomanu will start at flanker for Deon Butler and rookie free safety Earl Thomas has rejoined the team after attending a memorial service for a family member and will start.


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Bush inactive for Saints

The return of Reggie Bush will have to wait at least another week. The Saints’ running back, who has been out since breaking the fibula in his right leg in Week 2, is among the Saints’ inactive players today. He was expecting to play.

Also inactive for the Saints:

  • S Darren Sharper (hamstring)
  • TE Jeremy Shockey (rib)
  • RB Pierre Thomas (ankle)
  • S Malcolm Jenkins (neck)
  • CB Patrick Robinson (ankle)
  • LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar
  • OT Charles Brown

Also, the Saints placed former Seahawks long-snapper Jason Kyle on IR on Saturday because of a season-ending shoulder injury. He has been replaced by Jake Ingram.


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Stokley active for Seahawks

Injuries have again dictated most of the players who are inactive for the Seahawks today:

  • DE Colin Cole (ankle)
  • OL Mike Gibson (ankle)
  • TE Anthony McCoy (knee)
  • RB Michael Robinson (hamstring)
  • WR Golden Tate (ankle)
  • DE E.J. Wilson
  • WR Ruvell Martin
  • 3rd QB: J.P. Losman

Junior Siavii will start at nose tackle for Cole, as he has in the two games. With Robinson out for a fourth consecutive week, TE John Carlson will get snaps at fullback when needed. Brandon Stokley is active after sitting out last week with a strained calf, so Martin is inactive.


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Countdown to kickoff

NEW ORLEANS – Greetings from the Louisiana Superdome, where the NFC West-leading Seahawks are already preparing for today’s game against the defending Super Bowl champion Saints. It’s another gorgeous November day outside, but we’re inside the structure that meant so much to this community before and especially during and after it was hit by hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The 5-4 Seahawks, who have won twice on the road this season, need this game to insure they retain sole possession of their division lead. The 6-3 Saints need a win to keep pace with the division-leading Atlanta Falcons (7-2) in the NFC South. In an interesting twist, the St. Louis Rams, who are second to the Seahawks in the West at 4-5, host the Falcons today. So there also will be some scoreboard watching going on.

Another storyline in today’s multilayered matchup: How much difference can one player make?

The Seahawks are hoping to have first-round draft choice Russell Okung back in the lineup at left tackle after he missed most of the past four games with a sprained left ankle. The rookie from Oklahoma State also missed the first three games with a sprained right ankle.

But in the seven quarters Okung has played, the Seahawks have averaged 4.4 yards per rushing play, compared to 3.3 yards when Okung has been out.

That’s significant enough, but the difference would be even impactful today because it would mark the first time the Seahawks have had their preferred left side of the line together – Okung at tackle and Chester Pitts at guard. Pitts played for the first since having microfracture surgery last season in the Week 8 game against the Raiders in Oakland.

Coach Pete Carroll said during the week that the offense is just better with Okung in the lineup, while quarterback Matt Hasselbeck added that the rookie’s presence in the running game would enhance the QB’s ability to use play-action fakes in the passing game. That’s also significant, because Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams likes to blitz – against the run as well as the pass. So even the slightest hesitation by one of the Saints defenders could open up the kind of big plays Hasselbeck was able to generate in last week’s win over the Cardinals in Arizona.

The Saints, meanwhile, are hoping to have the versatile Reggie Bush back for the first time since he broke the fibula in his right leg in Week 2 against the San Francisco 49ers. A lot has been made this week – and will be made during the Fox telecast – of the Carroll-Bush connection from their days together at the University of Southern California.

But that was then, and today’s this-is-now angle plays more into Bush being a dangerous runner/receiver/returner in a game the Saints cannot afford to lose. As teams have focused on taking the deep pass away from QB Drew Brees, he has gone to a shorter passing game. Bush is at his improvisational best getting the ball in space on screens and other passes out of the back field, and also has shown during his career that he can alter the course of a game – or at least the momentum – with a big punt return.

As Brees put it this week, “I think he’s obviously a guy that, in space, can really do some special things with the football.  I think as a defense game-planning for a guy like him you’ve just got to have a plan, you’ve got to have an answer.  With as much as we do with him in the backfield and then running routes – free-release out of the backfield, we motion him out of the backfield, we can split him out to a single receiver or whatever it might be – he’s a threat.  He’s one of those guys that you always have to have a plan for.”

Not that Brees needs any more help. He leads the NFL in completions (261), completion percentage (.698), third-down passer rating (112.1) and TD passes on third down (10 of his 18). Tight end Jeremy Shockey will not play today, but Brees still has an array of capable hands: Marcus Colston (54 catches), Lance Moore (35 catches, five TDs), tight end David Thomas (27 catches) and the duo of Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson (who have combined for 46 receptions).

That’s why it’s imperative that the Seahawks defense play not only fast and aggressive, but smart. And for the Seattle offense to try to keep pace with a Saints offense that ranks fifth in the league in passing and seventh overall – and do it against a Saints defense that ranks No. 1 against the pass.

That brings us back to the importance of getting Okung back into the lineup.

The answers to those will-be-play-today questions concerning Okung and Bush will be provided shortly, when the teams announce their inactive lists.


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