A recap of the Seahawks’ 41-36 victory over the New Orleans Saints in their wild-card playoff game at Qwest Field on Saturday:
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Matt Hasselbeck. After sitting out last week’s division-clinching victory over the Rams, the Seahawks’ veteran quarterback came back with a vengeance.
Hasselbeck passed for four touchdowns – two to tight end John Carlson (11 and 7 yards) and one each to Brandon Stokley (45) and Mike Williams (38). He completed 22 of 35 passes for 272 yards. His passer rating was 113.0.
He started his 10th playoff game to tie the franchised record set by Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones. He won his fifth postseason game, which is the franchise record.
Hasselbeck was, on this day and against this opponent, exactly what the Seahawks needed him to be.
“He’s just done a marvelous job of staying within himself today and he threw the ball great and he ran the club and did everything we needed him to do,” coach Pete Carroll said.
Saints QB Drew Brees seconded that emotion.
“Matt played great. He played phenomenal,” said Brees, who passed for 404 yards. “He played exceptionally well. I think that’s what you expect from a guy like him.”
PLAYS OF THE GAME
Offense: The Seahawks’ one rushing touchdown, a 67-yard bruising burst by Marshawn Lynch in the fourth quarter that gave the Seahawks a 41-30 lead with 3½ minutes to play. Five Saints had shots at brining Lynch down, but none were successful – especially cornerback Tracy Porter, who was lifted off his feet and onto his fanny during a run-in with Lynch.
“We have shown the ability to tackle better than that, especially in situations where we are trying to get our offense the football back,” Saints free safety Darren Sharper said. “That was a beastly run by him. He had a lot more hunger than we did trying to bring him down.”
Defense: There were plenty from which to chose, as defensive end Raheem Brock forced a fumble that as recovered by linebacker David Hawthorne, Brock had a third-down sack to end one Saints’ possession, linebacker Will Herring tipped another pass incomplete after the Saints had reached the Seahawks’ 3-yard line and rookie free safety Earl Thomas had a big hit to break up a third-down pass. But the nod goes to middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu stopping former teammate Julius Jones for no gain on a fourth-and-1 run in the fourth quarter.
Special teams: Midway through the fourth quarter, with the Seahawks nursing a 34-30 lead, their possession stalled after reaching their 39-yard line. But Jon Ryan got off a 52-yard punt, and a holding penalty against the Saints pushed the ball back to the New Orleans’ 6. After the Saints punted, Lynch broke his 67-yarder on the second play.
Pre-game: Jones, the Seahawks’ former Pro Bowl left tackle who had his retired No. 71 added to the rafters at Qwest this season, returned to raise the 12th Man flag in the south end zone just before kickoff.
In-game: After Hasselbeck’s third pass of the game went off wide receiver Ben Obomanu and was intercepted, Carroll had a chat with Hasselbeck on the sideline.
“I just said, ‘We’re down a little bit, and we don’t have to do anything special,’ ” Carroll said when asked what he told Hasselbeck. “And he was like, ‘I got it. I know. I got it.’ We’ve been through it so much. There was so much game left, we just wanted to stay within it and see if we could find a rhythm, which w did.”
In past games, when the Seahawks got down, Hasselbeck would try too hard to make something happen. Too often it was something bad.
“Pete came up to me and said, ‘Hey, listen, there’s nothing you could have done about that first one,’ ” Hasselbeck said. “He basically just showed some confidence, I think. And I appreciated that. It allowed me to really focus in on what we needed to do.”
Post-game: Hasselbeck left the field carrying his son, Henry, on his shoulders
“It was awesome seeing my kids out there,” he said, as daughters Annabelle and Mallory also were there to greet their dad. “It was just really cool.”
Tatupu got a concussion on the fourth-down collision with Jones. “We’ll have to deal with that,” Carroll said, not offering anymore details.
Obomanu dislocated a shoulder during the first quarter, but returned. “How he did that I have no idea,” Carroll said. “And he played well when he came back.”
The Saints were penalized three times for false starts, running the league-leading total at Qwest since the start of the 205 season to 107.
Hawthorne, who led the Seahawks in tackles during the regular season, had a game-high nine.
Ruvell Martin had three tackles covering kickoffs and punts.
Lynch 67-yard TD run was the longest of his career, and allowed to finish with 131 rushing yards – the first triple-digit game by a Seahawks back this season, and more than the team had in 13 of its 16 regular-season games.
The Saints are now 0-4 in road playoff games.
YOU DON’T SAY
“Our fans and our players played together today in a way that gave us a chance to beat a championship club.” – Carroll