What does national media say about the New Orleans’ Saints – and Seahawks – after the Saints’ narrow NFC wild-card victory over the Philadelphia Eagles?
A lot, it turns out.
Most acknowledge that the Saints have a difficult road ahead, traveling to Seattle to face the top-seeded Seahawks, the NFL’s best defense, predicted rainy weather and the roar of CenturyLink Field’s vaunted fans.
But not everyone is taking a pro-Seahawks stance. Norman Chad, a syndicated columnist who is carried in the Washington Post and other newspapers, took several shots at the Seahawks and coach Pete Carroll, and another writer called the Saints a dangerous team and stopped just short of predicting an upset.
Read on for a compilation of what media said over the weekend.
But of more concern to the Saints (12-5) than the weather is the opponent. The top-seeded Seahawks (13-3) are a handful on the road and even tougher at home. The Saints, which earned their first-ever road playoff victory Saturday, are well aware of this after playing dreadfully in a 34-7 loss to the Seahawks on the road Dec. 2.
“This (Seattle) is a team that has been dominant all season,” Saints coach Sean Payton said Sunday afternoon. “They’re the number one seed. They’re unbelievably talented defensively. Offensively they’re coached very well. They’re on a roll.
“They’ve had one of those magical seasons and we have our work cut out for this one.”
The Saints will need improvement in all phases against the Seahawks, Payton said. But perhaps the most impressive part of Saturday’s victory against the Eagles was the emergence of the Saints’ running game.
There is one reason to admire the Seattle Seahawks: Russell Wilson. But there might be close to 100 reasons not to admire the Seahawks, and 92 of them involve Pete Carroll.
So though I love the city of Seattle and root for MLB’s Mariners and wish the NBA’s SuperSonics were still there, every ounce of NFL blood in my perpetually prone body will be dedicated to seeing someone beat the Seahawks between now and Super Bowl XLVIII.
First up: The Saints this Saturday.
(I have just sent a check for $149.95 to the New Orleans coaching staff to provide beignets, cinnamon rolls and Dr. Brown’s Diet Black Cherry for the upcoming week of preparation.)
The Seahawks are 13-3 because, with Wilson at quarterback, they play smart offensive football, coupled with bruising defensive football. A fan could fall in love with them, except that they’re already so in love with themselves.
The New Orleans Saints finally won a road playoff game by changing their personality. They became bullies.
“That line of scrimmage made the difference,” coach Sean Payton said after the game.
The Saints dominated the Philadelphia Eagles up front throughout Saturday night, capping the game with a clock-killing, season-ending field-goal drive to win it 26-24. LeSean McCoy and the top-ranked rushing attack of the Eagles was held to 80 yards. Meanwhile, the Saints racked up 185 yards on the ground after the game of Mark Ingram‘s life.
“Once we felt like we were pushing them, we wanted to be consistent with that,” Payton said.
PHILADELPHIA — It seemed revealing enough when the topic of a cross-country jaunt to Seattle was broached and Curtis Lofton wanted to talk boxing. Classic boxing.
The New Orleans Saints inside linebacker is pumped about another chance to chase Russell Wilson and the test of facing a beast otherwise known as Marshawn Lynch.
The last time was not pretty. The Seahawks pummeled the Saints 34-7 in Week 13.
“It’s kind of like one of those heavyweight fights back in the day — Ali vs. Frazier,” Lofton told USA TODAY Sports Saturday night. “We got knocked out in the first bout, so it’s our turn to go out and throw some punches now.”
This is the alter ego of the Saints speaking. The team’s identity was forged on the golden arm of Drew Brees and a prolific passing game, but as demonstrated in the TKO of the Philadelphia Eagles in the 26-24 NFC wild-card victory, there are times when the Saints can roll smash-mouth style.
All points are valid and none will make a difference in the divisional playoffs. The mere fact that the Saints are alive make them a dangerous matchup for Seattle. The road playoff woes are overrated; Drew Brees quarterbacking resume is not.
As Al Michaels said at the close of NBC’s broadcast Saturday night, “nobody knows anything.” That’s what makes this the greatest football time of the year. With the Saints, you never know what to expect. That itself makes New Orleans the most dangerous team in the field.
That win was due to the fact that New Orleans has one of the most effective, creative playcallers in the game and one of the most effective, efficient quarterbacks running his system. The Saints won because of Sean Payton and Drew Brees. And with those two men at the helm, anything is possible, even a playoff win on the road against the top-seeded Seattle Seahawks next Saturday.
To win in Seattle, a place where the Seahawks have lost just one game in the past two seasons, the Saints will need Brees and Payton to be at their best. Given what happened in early December, Payton won’t need any gimmicks to motivate his team this week. The Saints know what happened. They remember the feeling. …
And there’s a reason New Orleans is still alive. The Saints are peaking at the right time, behind the play of their quarterback and the play calling of their coach. They face a high degree of difficulty in having to win in Seattle, but with Brees and Payton, they should have a chance to avenge the embarrassment that occurred on that Monday night several weeks ago.
The Saints’ “reward” for their historic playoff win is a return trip to Seattle’s CenturyLink field, where they were beaten 34-7 on Dec. 2. Brees was limited to 147 passing yards that day, as Seattle’s opportunistic defense limited his options downfield all night — he was 0-for-8 on passes over 15 yards.
“It’s loud, and it’s crazy,” Brees told Tafoya of his return trip destination. “They’ve got a good thing going, obviously — they’ve only lost one game there in the last two years. But having been there less than a month ago, I think that serves us well. Just knowing what to expect, how to prepare for it … but we’re going to need our best game, that’s for sure.”
The Saints have slain their road dragon.
Shayne Graham’s 32-yard field goal as time expired gave the Saints a 26-24 victory over the Eagles, the first time they’ve won a road playoff game in the history of the franchise. The kick sends the Saints to Seattle next weekend, the site of one of their previous road failures in the postseason.
They’ll be heading to the Pacific Northwest thanks in large part to their running game and their defense. The Saints ran the ball 36 times for 185 yards, allowing them to control the tempo of the game for most of the night. It was an impressive performance by the offensive line and by a coterie of backs that didn’t include the injured Pierre Thomas, which led Sean Payton to lean on them late.
WHICH ROAD TEAM WON’T BE AS BAD THE SECOND TIME AROUND?
Look for a moment beyond the Seahawks’ 34-7 romp over the Saints in Seattle early last month. You know, the game in which New Orleans never really had a chance and watched Russell Wilson (310 yards, three touchdowns) put on a show? We’re here to tell you that was good for the Saints, who have already experienced everything CenturyLink Field and its 12th Man has to offer. That might seem like we’re a bit delusional, considering the Seahawks are rested and favored by more than a touchdown. But consider this: Since the the start of the 2005 season, the No. 6 seeds have won five of seven meetings with No. 1 seeds — including victories by two eventual Super Bowl champions (2005 Steelers, 2010 Packers).
In the Saints locker room afterward, most of the conversation was about finally getting a road playoff victory after five losses away from home in the postseason. New Orleans tackle Zach Strief was asked if he thought questions about the Saints’ road playoff woes would now cease.
“Probably not,” Strief said. “Now we go to Seattle, where it’s tough to play. It will come up all week again.”
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