Come Saturday, it will have been just 48 days since the Seahawks and Saints last played, a 34-19 decision in New Orleans.
The game was actually Seattle’s narrowest margin of defeat this season — and, not coincidentally, one of the better games the team played in a loss. But in reality, the score arguably didn’t really reflect how close the matchup was, as the Seahawks lost out on several chances that would’ve drastically altered the final score — if not the outcome. Take a look at the various missed opportunities and what ifs from that game on Nov. 21:
- The Seahawks struggled scoring touchdowns instead of field goals. Both Seattle and New Orleans scored five times in that game — but the Saints scored five touchdowns while the Seahawks reached the end zone just once, kicking three-pointers the other four times. Say you score touchdowns on just half of those four field goals, you’re looking at eight more points and a one-touchdown game during the fourth quarter.
- Marshawn Lynch had two fumbles in the second half, stalling two momentum-gaining drives in Saints territory. Remove the fumbles, and the Seahawks could be looking at two more touchdowns — or at least two more field goals, and a one-possession game at the end of the fourth.
- With the Seahawks down 21-13 near the end of the first half, the defense had apparently held the Saints on third down with 1:27 remaining, setting up a last-minute drive for the Seattle offense to close the gap. But a controversial roughing-the-passer penalty on defensive end Raheem Brock gave New Orleans a first down, which it capitalized on to score a touchdown three plays later. Instead of — at the very minimum — a single-digit halftime deficit, the Seahawks faced a 27-16 disadvantage at the break.
- The bad breaks continued after intermission. On the first play of the second half, safety Earl Thomas broke up a short pass over the middle, which could have been intercepted by several Seahawks as it flew high into the air. Instead, New Orleans scored a touchdown on the drive, pushing the score to 34-16. An interception would’ve put Seattle near the red zone and would’ve resulted in a 14- or 10-point turnaround.
- Yet another brutal occurrence happened after the Seahawks had closed the gap to 15 points during the fourth quarter. Kicker Olindo Mare hit a beautiful onside kick, New Orleans fumbled it and Lawyer Milloy recovered it cleanly, giving the Seahawks the ball with 5:26 remaining and plenty of momentum in their favor. Or so they thought. Milloy had stepped out of bounds, making his recovery an illegal touching penalty and sapping all good-feeling the Seattle bench was gaining.
- As many breaks that went against the Seahawks, masochism became a theme as well. Seattle had five more penalties and 55 more penalty yards than New Orleans in the game.
- The Seahawks defense struggled against the New Orleans offense on do-or-die third downs. The Saints converted 11 of 15 third downs, three of which were 3rd-and-10 or longer.
- The game wiped out a career day for quarterback Matt Hasselbeck (32-for-44, 366 yards), who went nose-to-nose with Pro Bowler Drew Brees (29-for-43, 382 yards).