Game at a glance

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.    

MEMORABLE MOMENTS

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.”

INJURY REPORT

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.”

WORTH NOTING

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


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Fourth quarter

Peephole perspective: With apologies to Al Michaels, do you believe in miracles? The seven-win Seahawks eliminated the defending Super Bowl champion Saints. Seahawks 41-36.

Player of the quarter: Marshawn Lynch. With the Seahawks looking to burn clock, the Seahawks’ “Beast Mode” back burned the Saints with a 67-yard TD run.

Play of the quarter: With the Saints threatening to erase the Seahawks’ lead, Lynch broke his long run – by breaking five tackles – to give Seattle a 41-30 lead with 3:22 to play.

Number of the quarter: 4. As in the fourth-seeded Seahawks live to play another day. Either next weekend in Atlanta or Chicago, depending on who wins the Eagles-Packers game on Sunday.

The bigger picture: The Saints’ drive that consumed the final three minutes of the third quarter carried over the first four plays of the final quarter and ended with RB Julius Jones scoring on a 4-yard run to cap the 12-play, 87-yard possession and make it 34-27 with 13:11 to play. Drew Brees completed seven passes, including a 14-yarder to RB Reggie Bush on third-and-10.

After the Seahawks went three-and-out, the Saints drove 53 yards in eight plays to a 21-yard field goal by Garrett Hartley that made it 34-30 with 9:13 to play. Brees was 4 of 5 for 48 yards, including a 33-yarder to Jones to the Seahawks’ 23.

“Beast Mode” took over on the Seahawks’ next possession as Marshawn Lynch broke a 67-yard TD run, while breaking five tackles, to give the Seahawks a 41-30 lead with 3:22 to play.

The never-say-it’s-over Saints then drove 70 yards in nine plays to a 6-yard TD pass from Brees to WR Lance Moore. But the two-point PAT run by DeShawn Wynn was stopped.


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Third quarter

Peephole perspective: Seahawks 34-20. Seahawks 34-20? Matt Hasselbeck threw another TD pass. Olindo Mare kicked another field goal. The defense pitched a shutout.

Player of the quarter: Hasselbeck. He was 7 of 11 for 89 yards in the quarter, and the TD pass to WR Mike Williams.

Play of the quarter: Hasselbeck’s perfectly thrown third-down pass that he laid over CB Jabari Greer and FS Darren Sharper, and Mike Williams made a finger-tip catch of for a TD that made it 31-20.

Number of the quarter: 0.7. The Saints’ per-carry average on three running plays in the quarter.

The bigger picture: Hmmm. The Seahawks took the kickoff to open the second half and drove 79 yards in seven plays to what might be the team’s best play of the season – Hasselbeck’s perfectly thrown third-down pass to Williams for the TD that made it 31-20. The hot-handed Hasselbeck was 4 of 5 – to three different receivers – for 76 yards.

The Seahawks struck again on their next possession, this time a 39-yard field goal by Olindo Mare that made it 34-20 with 5:27 left in the quarter. Hasselbeck passed to WR Brandon Stokley for 11 yards on third-and-8, but WR Ben Obomanu dropped a third-and-1 pass. Hasselbeck was 3 of 4 for 13 yards, while Lynch added runs of 9, 5 and 4 yards. The Seahawks got the ball back because the defense continued to turn up the heat on the Saints. SS Lawyer Milloy pressure Brees into an intentional grounding call on second down and FS Earl Thomas then broke up Brees’ third-down pass to WR Lance Moore.

The defense rose up again on the Saints next series, as MLB Lofa Tatupu stopped RB Julius Jones for no gain on a fourth-and-1 carry. On the third-down play, CB Kelly Jennings and DB Jordan Babineaux stopped Jones for a 2-yard on a third-and-3 pass play.

The Seahawks could not capitalize, however. WR Mike Williams dropped Hasselbeck’s second-down pass and the third-down pass was incomplete to WR Ben Obomanu, despite what appeared to be pass interference on Saints CB Patrick Robinson. Olindo Mare lined up for 53-yard field goal attempt, but the Seahawks were called for delay of game and had to punt.


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Second quarter

Peephole perspective: Wow. Seahawks 24-20 at the half, as Matt Hasselbeck threw TD passes to TE John Carlson and WR Brandon Stokley.

Player of the quarter: Raheem Brock. The Seahawks’ “other” defensive end forced a fumble on Saints RB Julius Jones that LB David Hawthorne recovered to set up a game-tying field goal. Brock also played off a block by RT Jon Stinchcomb to drop Drew Brees for a sack – something the Seahawks were unable to do in their Week 11 loss to the Saints in New Orleans.

Play of the quarter: On third-and-3 from the Saints’ 45 with less than two minutes remaining in the half, Stokley got open on the left side behind the Saints’ coverage and Hasselbeck went to him for a 45-yard TD that gave the Seahawks the lead.

Number of the quarter: 141.3. That was Hasselbeck’s passer rating, as he completed 7 of 11 passes for 123 yards and the two TDs. He was 13 of 18 for 168 and three TDs in the half – compared to 16 of 27 for 189 yards and one TD for Brees.

The bigger picture: The Saints scored on the fourth play of the quarter, capping an impressive 10-play, 83-yard drive that started at the end that also consumed the final 3½ minutes of the first quarter. The TD came on a 5-yard run by former Seahawks RB Julius Jones, who is getting a lot of carries because the Saints placed Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas on IR during the week. Drew Brees was 4 of 5 on the drive for 52 yards, while Jones carried three times for 23 yards. The only third down on the drive was the TD run.

But the Seahawks answered, and quickly. Another Hasselbeck-to-Carlson pass got the TD – this time a 7-yarder – to cap a five-play, 70-yard drive. The big play came just before the TD, as Hasselbeck and TE Cameron Morrah combined for a 39-yarder to the Saints’ 7. Hasselbeck was 3 of 3 for 58 yards.

The defense then forced a three-and-out, as Brees’ third-down pass was pressured by DE Chris Clemons and incomplete as three Seahawks were surrounding intended receiver Marques Colston. But the Saints’ defense came right back with a three-and-out of its own as Hasselbeck threw incomplete on second and third downs.

On the very next play, however, Brock separated Jones and the ball, and Hawthorne recovered the first-down fumble at the Saints’ 18. The Seahawks settled for a 29-yard field goal by Olindo Mare, but it tied the score at 17. It was the Saints’ first turnover in their past three playoff games.

Brock wasn’t done. He ended the Saints’ ensuing possession with a third-down sack.

The offense then took over, and the Seahawks took the lead on the 45-yard TD pass from Hasselbeck to Stokley. The pass capped a nine-lay, 76-yard drive. Hasselbeck passed 15 yards to WR Ruvell Martin on third-and-11 and RB Justin Forsett gained the needed yard on third-and-1 during the drive. The TD pass came on third-and-3. Hasselbeck was 4 of 6 for 65 yards.

The Saints, however, weren’t done. Getting the ball with 1:10 left, Brees moved them to a 22-yard field goal by Garrett Hartley as time expired in the half. Brees went to WR Devery Henderson for 40 yards on the first play, passed to WR Lance Moore for 15 yards on third-and-10 an then ran for 6 yards on thid-and-5. Brees was 4 of 7 for 71 yards.


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First quarter

Peephole perspective: The Saints jumped to a 10-0 lead, but Matt Hasselbeck’s 11-yard TD pass to TE John Carlson got the Seahawks on the board. Saints, 10-7

Player of the quarter: Drew Brees. The Saints’ Pro Bowl QB was 9 of 13 for 94 yards, including a 1-yard TD pass to former Seahawks FB Heath Evans.

Play of the quarter: The TD pass from Hasselbeck to Carlson. It’s a play the Seahawks practice all the time, but rarely have been able to execute in a game.

Numbers of the quarter: 8 and 9. The 8 was Hasselbeck, who was 6 of 7 in the quarter. The 9 was Brees. Put them together and you get Carlson’s number (89).

The bigger picture: The Saints got the ball first when TE Jeremy Shockey called heads during the coin toss and it was. They also got the ball at the 40 as Olindo Mare’s kickoff went out of bounds. Drew Brees then moved the Saints 52 yards in eight plays to a 26-yard field goal by Garrett Hartley. The big play was Brees’ 30-yard pass to WR Marques Colston to the Seahawks’ 16. Brees was 4 of 5 for 49 yards.

The Saints got the ball right back – at the Seahawks’ 35 – when Matt Hasselbeck’s third-and-1 pass went off WR Ben Obomanu and was intercepted by CB Jabari Greer. The defense appeared to have the Saints stopped twice, but Brees went to WR Reggie Bush for 10 yards on third-and-8 and rookie CB Walter Thurmond was guilty of pass interference at the goal line against WR Lance Moore on Brees’ third-and-3 pass. On the next play, Brees passed to former Seahawks FB Heath Evans for the 1-yard TD that made it 10-0 with 6:21 left in the quarter.

The Seahawks answered, after Michael Robinson returned the short kickoff 18 yards to the Seahawks’ 43. The TD came on Hasselbeck’s 11-yard pass to TE John Carlson with 3:38 left. Hasselbeck was 4 of 4 for 36 yards on the six-play, 57-yard drive and RB Marshawn Lynch carried twice for 16 yards. The Seahawks did not have a third down play on the drive.


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Jenkins, Clark inactive for Saints

Saints free safety Malcolm Jenkins was ruled out for today’s game on Friday, so veteran Darren Sharper will start against the Seahawks in the wild-card playoff game at Qwest Field. The Saints also will be without strong-side linebacker Danny Clark, so Jo-Lonn Dunbar will start.

Also inactive for the Saints:

S Matt Giordano

RB Joique Bell

DL Anthony Hargrove

OT Charles Brown

TE Jimmy Graham

WR Adrian Arrington


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On the roster, but inactive

Guard Lemuel Jeanpierre and cornerback Josh Pinkard were signed to the 53-man roster from the practice squad Friday, but they are inactive for today’s game against the Saints.

Also inactive:

CB Marcus Brown

LB Joe Pawelek

OG Paul Fanaika

OT Breno Giacomini

DT Amon Gordon

3rd QB: J.P. Losman


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Happy Birthday to ‘Blue’


“Mama Blue” turns 80 tomorrow, but the long-time Seahawks fan is celebrating her birthday today from her usual seat in the south end zone at Qwest Field.

And guess what “Mama Blue” – a.k.a Patti Hammond – wants for her birthday.

“Well you know I want a win, first,” she just said, in between greeting players as they emerged from the tunnel that leads to Seahawks’ locker room. “Then, I want to go to the Super Bowl and see them win.

“Other than that, all I can say is I want everybody to just love the Seahawks like I’ve done for 35 years. It’s all good.”

Even turning 80.

“It’s just a number,” she said. “Age only counts when you’re talking about wine and cheese.”


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Countdown to kickoff


Postseason greetings from Qwest Field, where the 2010 NFL playoffs will get underway in a couple of hours when the Seahawks host the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints in a wild-card game.

That’s the 11-5 Saints, who play their home games in a domed stadium and had a first-round bye in the playoffs last season, vs. the 7-9 Seahawks, who were not only sitting at home when the postseason started a year ago but getting ready to play for their third coach in as many seasons as Pete Carroll was brought in to replace Jim Mora, who had replaced Mike Holmgren the previous January.

What a difference 12 months can make.

The big question today, of course, is what can the Seahawks do to come up with a different outcome than in their Week 11 game in New Orleans – when the Saints won 35-19?

For starters, there’s this stadium and the weather. The Saints will have to deal with the noise generated by the 12th Man today, as we discussed Friday in this story. Then there’s the weather, with the forecast calling for a chance of showers and temperatures in the low 40s – but a feels-like factor in the high 30s.

Drew Brees, the Saints’ Pro Bowl QB and MVP from last season’s Super Bowl, is 3-5 as a starter with the Saints and San Diego Chargers in games where the temperature was less than 40 degrees at kickoff. That’s in stark contrast to his en fuego performance against the Seahawks in Week 11, when Brees completed 29 of 43 passes for 382 yards and four touchdowns in the Superdome.

Playing at Qwest, especially if the defense can play as it did in last week’s division-clinching victory over the Rams, also should help. The 6-foot Brees had 28 passes either intercepted (eight) or defensed (20) by linemen and linebackers during the regular season. Against the Rams, the Seahawks sacked Sam Bradford three times (2½ by DE Raheem Brock); intercepted him once (LB Will Herring); and got their hands on six other passes (three by D-linemen or linebackers).

The Seahawks, meanwhile, are going back to Matt Hasselbeck, who is 4-1 in playoff games at Qwest. Hasselbeck sat out the game against the Rams because of strained muscles in his left hip and buttock, so backup Charlie Whitehurst stepped in and stepped up. But Carroll told Hasselbeck on Monday that he would start this game, if healthy.

Hasselbeck is not only back, he seems to have regained some of his swagger. While talking to reporters for the only time during the week on Thursday, the veteran QB had some fun with the Seahawks finally getting coverage from the national media, the talk that the Seahawks shouldn’t be in this position because of their record and what the Saints might have been thinking as they headed West on a short work week.

The Seahawks are healthy for this game, and the Saints can’t make such a statement. For the only time this season, the Seahawks listed no one on their end-of-the-week injury report Friday – although DE Red Bryant, DE-DT Junior Siavii, OGs Max Unger and Chester Pitts, TE Chris Baker, special teams captain Roy Lewis and WR Deon Butler are on injured reserve. But the Seahawks have had time to adjust to playing without them.

The Saints placed RBs Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas on IR this week, so the running game will be in the legs of former Seahawk Julius Jones (inside) and Reggie Bush (outside), the former USC Heisman Trophy winner under Carroll. And they’ll also be without FS Malcolm Jenkins.

There are so many other storylines in this game: A Saints offense that led the league in third-down efficiency going against a Seahawks defense that had problems getting off the field on third downs in the nine losses during the regular season; Seahawks KOR-PR Leon Washington going against Saints coverage units that ranked 24th and 28th in the league during the regular season; offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates and Hasselbeck going against the innovative and aggressive defensive schemes of Saints coordinator Gregg Williams; a Seahawks running game that finally found its legs in the second half last week running into a Saints defense that ranked 16th against the run during the regular season.

The Seahawks have nothing to lose in this game – where they weren’t even expected to be and no one is giving them a chance to win. Playing loose, and playing their game, is the best way to approach it – and the way Carroll wants them to approach it.

As Hasselbeck said, “We really don’t focus on the opponent; we really don’t focus on who we’re playing. Actually, it’s kind of funny because Pete always says, ‘Hey, I don’t care who they bring in here – they could bring in the World Champs!’ And the irony is they really are bringing in the World Champs, so there you go.”

Get ready to sit back – or sit on the edge of your seat – and see how it plays out, as the playoffs return to Qwest Field for the first time since 2007.


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Up next: New Orleans Saints

When: Saturday, 1:30 p.m., Qwest Field

What: NFC wild-card game between the conference’s No. 4 seed (Seahawks) and No. 5 seed (Saints)

Record: 11-5 and second in the NFC South

Where they rank: No. 6 on offense (28th rushing, 3rd passing); No. 4 on defense (16th rushing, 4th passing)

Series: Saints lead 6-5 after their 35-19 victory over the Seahawks in Week 11 in New Orleans

Bing Stat Comparison: Bing.com, the official decision engine of the Seahawks, provides us with a statistical comparison of the key positions in this weekend’s matchup:

To perform your own statistical comparison visit Bing.com and search for any two players of the same position.

Star power: Drew Brees. When the Saints’ Pro Bowl quarterback and MVP from last season’s Super Bowl gets it going, it’s something to see. There’s no need to remind the Seahawks. They witnessed it in November at the Superdome, when Brees was 29 of 43 for 382 yards and four touchdowns – and that was playing without versatile back Reggie Bush and tight end Jeremy Shockey. “Drew Brees had a phenomenal game against us,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “He really had his way throwing the ball down the field.” It wasn’t just a Seahawk thing. Brees passed for 4,620 yards during the regular season – third in the league behind the Chargers’ Philip Rivers (4,710) and Colts’ Peyton Manning (4,700). He also completed 68.1 percent of his passes (448 of 658) to rank No. 1 in the league; and threw 33 TD passes, which tied for second behind the Patriots’ Tom Brady (36). But Brees also threw an uncharacteristic 22 interceptions, including two against the Seahawks. His previous career high was 18 in 2007.

Unsung hero: Chris Ivory. The rookie free agent from Division II Tiffin University is the Saints’ leading rusher (716 yards) and also has run for five touchdowns. He got 99 of those yards and one of the TDs in the Week 11 win over the Seahawks, when the defense had problems tackling the 222-pounder. “A lot of teams have a difficult time tackling him, he’s a very physical runner that we weren’t ready for,” Carroll said. “He ran over us.” But Ivory injured his left foot in Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Buccaneers, so is status for Saturday’s game is questionable.

On the spot: Jerome Bushrod and Jon Stinchcomb. The Saints’ offensive tackles did not allow a sack in the Week 11 game. But this week’s game is being played at Qwest Field, where the din generated by the 12th Man crowd plays into the pass-rush ability of Seahawks’ rush-ends Chris Clemons and Raheem Brock – and should make things more difficult for the larger duo of Bushrod (6-5, 315) and Stinchcomb (also 6-5, 315). Clemons has produced a career-high 11 tackles this season, and Brock is right behind him with a career-best nine after collecting 2½ against the Rams on Sunday night. “They finished that game fire,” Carroll said of the pressure Brock and Clemons applied on Rams rookie QB Sam Bradford. The Seahawks will have to generate a pass rush against Brees, as well, to avoid a repeat passing performance. So it’s up to Clemons and Brock to be at their disruptive best.

Burning question: Can the Saints win a playoff game on the road? They won the Super Bowl, of course, and the game was played in Miami. But in earlier-round playoff games the Saints are 0-3 on the road – losing 16-6 in a wild-card game against the Bears in 1990; 34-16 to the Vikings in a divisional-round game 2000; and 39-14 to the Bears in 2006 NFC Championship game. The Saints say they’re tired of hearing about it, especially after winning the Super Bowl last season. But it will remain a topic for discussion – and annoyance – until they do something about it.

Familiar faces: RB Julius Jones led the Seahawks in rushing the past two seasons, but signed with the Saints after being released in October. FB Heath Evans (2001-04) and snapper Jason Kyle (1995-98) also played for the Seahawks. Then there’s the Seahawks South flavor to the Saints’ front office. Executive VP/general manager Mickey Loomis was with the Seahawks for 15 years (1983-98), while assistant head coach/linebackers coach Joe Vitt (1982-91), director of operations James Nagaoka (1980-2002), director of college scouting Rick Reiprish (1984-94) and area scout Mike Baugh (1992-99) also worked for the Seahawks. Area coach Terry Wooden was a second-round draft choice by the Seahawks in 1990 and started at linebacker for seven seasons.

The last word: “Once you get into the postseason, no one’s really interested in how you got there. That’s been the history of our league and (the Seahawks) played awfully well (Sunday night) in a game that was very much like a playoff game unto itself.” – Saints coach Sean Payton


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