The biggest surprise of wild-card weekend was the Seahawks’ win over the Saints, but it shouldn’t be as big of a shock as most people seem to think. I was saying all last week that the Saints should win the game but that I wouldn’t be shocked on Monday morning if the Seahawks pulled it out.
Well, it’s Monday morning and I’m not shocked.
There were several predetermined factors last week that made me believe the Saints should have been on high alert for this game. The Seahawks are a totally different team at home as opposed to on the road. At home, they play so much faster and more physical. On the road, they’re like a lamb being led to the slaughter and play like a 7-9 team. It was just in Week 16 when they were massacred on the road by the Buccaneers.
Couple that with the fact you had a dome team playing outside in the elements, and Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas weren’t available for the Saints.
In my mind, all of that tipped the scales in favor of the Seahawks. And then what completely changed the balance were the performances of Marshawn Lynch and Matt Hasselbeck. One thing you couldn’t count on was Hasselbeck playing the way he did.
To me that said “game over.”
Hasselbeck is a veteran who has played in big games, playoff games and a Super Bowl. He’s been there, done that. As much as we love Drew Brees and other great quarterbacks, Hasselbeck has been on the biggest stages as well. When he dusted off his injury to play, he gave the Seahawks a whole new mentality and attitude. Hasselbeck took all the hits but still threw the ball accurately and carved up the Saints defense.
The biggest myth was that the absence of Malcolm Jenkins wouldn’t impact the Saints. Roman Harper couldn’t cover John Carlson and was beaten for three touchdowns. Darren Sharper couldn’t run with receivers. Hasselbeck was smart in realizing that the safeties were liabilities in coverage. He attacked where he knew he had the matchup advantages. It wasn’t rocket science or any great mystery. But Hasselbeck exploited it.
I cover the AFC quite a bit, and I’ve seen games in which nobody could tackle Lynch. He calls it going into “beast mode,” and I’ve seen him do it before. Maybe because the Saints are an NFC team they weren’t prepared. Don’t forget Lynch was the first back taken in 2007 behind Adrian Peterson. Lynch can take over a game, and he can do it again. In fact, he probably just earned himself a big contract.
But I’ll say it again: none of this should have really been a surprise.
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