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Take 2

A different spin on sports by The Seattle Times staff and readers.

January 11, 2014 at 8:09 PM

Seahawks: What the national media say about the playoff win over Saints

The national media weighed  in on the Seahawks’ victory over the New Orleans Saints, writing about everything from a pregame confrontation and stormy weather to Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks’ hard-nosed defense.

Here is what some of the media said about the game, with links to the complete stories.

Chris Burke, SI.com

Seattle did not hide during the second half the fact that it thought its defense could keep New Orleans from rallying. The Seahawks’ play calling — much like the Saints’ approach, at least early — dipped into ultra-conservative range. Because of that, a comfortable 16-0 lead nearly disintegrated, with New Orleans pulling to within eight and then threatening to drive for a tying score.

The Seahawks need just one more win to reach the Super Bowl, and they’ll host the NFC title game. They would be well-served to go for the throat should that chance present itself next weekend.

Kevin Seifert, ESPN.com

The Seahawks’ disappearing act allowed the Saints back into the game, you half-emptiers are thinking, and demonstrated how some season-long offensive issues could in fact impact their playoff fate. On this day, it gave the Saints a genuine opportunity to steal a victory had they not neglected the tenets of game management — and then forgotten some basic rules of football. (Two 45-plus-yard field goals attempts into the wind? Throwing into the middle of the field with 26 seconds remaining and no timeouts? Two downfield passes on one play?) Had the Seahawks played that way against a sharper opponent, they would be packing up their lockers instead of preparing for the NFC Championship Game.

Those are the two sides. Consider my glass half empty. NFL teams and their fans rarely pause to question the means of a playoff victory. They’re hard to come by, no matter how they happen. But do you realize how close the Seahawks were to a divisional round knockout at the hands of a lesser — and much dumber — team? And do you agree that it provides at least a pause in anticipating a Super Bowl championship?

Larry Holder, New Orleans Times-Picayune

The New Orleans Saints’ 2013 season ended in mind-numbing fashion Saturday night.

New Orleans’ offense was stagnant in the windy, rainy conditions for too long, while Seattle’s offense mustered just enough life as the Saints fell to the Seahawks 23-15 in an NFC divisional playoff game at CenturyLink Field.

Katherine Terrill, New Orleans Times-Picuyne

It was said all along this would be a factor. And most pundits believed the strong winds and rain favored the run-first Seahawks.

Looks like they were right.

Tom Pelissero, USA Today Sports

The big throw to Baldwin was a positive end for a rocky day for Wilson, who missed several third-down throws earlier and finished 9-of-18 passing for 103 yards. But Brees (24-of-43, 309 yards, one TD) wasn’t much better until the Saints were forced into catch-up mode.

They came out in heavy sets, determined to run the football as sheets of rain fell and winds seemingly threatened to rip the 12th Man flagpole out of the ground. But they generated just 113 net yards of offense in the first half and committed the lone turnover.

Brendan Prunty, Newark Star-Ledger/NewJersey.com

Before the game even started on Saturday, before the fans were even allowed into the building really, Jimmy Graham already started stirring the pot. He was running routes with Saints strength and conditioning coach Rob Wenning, when a couple of Seahawk players wandered into his area. At first, there was normal jawing back and forth. But then …

Then, the Saints tight end, he, um … well, let Richard Sherman explain it.

“It hard coming in here and talking a big game,” the Seahawks’ all-Pro cornerback said, sitting at his locker. “You’re bringing it into the wolves den. It’s a lamb coming to the wolves. It’s throwing meat at ‘em. Slapping ‘em in the face. He got us riled up. He woke up the DB group and that’s the last unit you want to wake up.”

Graham found that out the hard way.

His stunt with Seahawks defensive end Bruce Irvin before the game and then another one during pre-game warmups — he ran out of the tunnel and right through the Seahawks on the sideline, inciting another war or words with Sherman — ended up back-firing. Because at the end of the day, what Graham did before the game was more than he did during it.

Much, much more.

His final stat line: One catch, eight yards.

Barry Fedorovitch, Newark Star-Ledger/NewJersey.com

Incredibly, Seattle got 65 of its 103 passing yards on three plays (a 24-yard reception by Doug Baldwin, a 25-yard snag by Jermaine Kearse and 16-yarder by Percy Harvin).

Take away those three plays and the New Orleans defense completely neutralized Seattle’s passing game, holding it to an anemic 38 yards, which can partially be attributed to the Saints’ excellence, partially to the poor weather conditions, but primarily due to Seattle’s mediocre receivers.

Behind a superb defense, Seattle has been able to hide this major weakness in an era dominated by the pass; the Seahawks have the top-ranked pass defense by many metrics, but incredibly were ranked only 26th in the league in passing during the regular season.

It bears mentioning that two of the six teams below the Seahawks in the passing stats are today’s two NFC combatants, the Panthers and Niners, so winning with the pass is not always a pre-requisite.

But you won’t always get 140 yards rushing from Marshawn Lynch, either.

Ben Shpigel, New York Times

For their return to that caldron of cacophony called CenturyLink Field, the New Orleans Saints reconstructed the atmosphere. Tried to, rather. They painted the Seahawks’ logo on their fields. They practiced outside to prepare for inclement weather. They pumped crowd noise at such an earsplitting volume that two speakers blew out.

What the Saints failed to recreate was how the Seahawks thrive in this, their natural habitat. They could not simulate the ferocity of Seattle’s defense. They could not mimic the elusiveness of quarterback Russell Wilson. And they could not reproduce the punishing running style of Marshawn Lynch, who rumbled for both Seattle touchdowns in a 23-15 victory Saturday that escorted the Seahawks into the N.F.C. championship game.

Gregg Rosenthal, NFL.com

While the rest of the NFL throws the ball all over the field, the Seattle Seahawks keep winning with running and defense. While the rest of the NFL zigs, Pete Carroll and crew zags.

Seattle survived a strong test by the New Orleans Saints on Saturday to win 23-15 to advance to the NFC Championship Game. The Seahawks will host the conference title for the second time in team history, facing either Carolina or San Francisco next Sunday.

This was an ugly game, but that’s what Carroll likes. The Seahawks battled all season to earn home-field advantage for a game just like this is in windy, rainy conditions. Russell Wilson was spotty throwing the ball. Unlike most teams, the Seahawks don’t need to throw the ball to win.

Ebenezer Samuel, New York Daily News

The jawing began long before the game even started, long before Seattle’s fabled 12th Man crowd could drown it out.

That’s when Saints tight end Jimmy Graham dared to wander into the Seahawks’ warmup area at CenturyLink Field on Saturday afternoon, announcing himself to Seattle linebacker Bruce Irvin, by saying: “I’m Jimmy.” Irvin retaliated by knocking the football from the Saints’ playmaker’s hands and punting it away.

By the end of Saturday’s 23-15 Seahawks win in the NFC Divisional Playoffs, it hardly even mattered. Behind on-again, off-again rains and raucous cheers from the crowd known as the “12th Man,” Seattle spent the afternoon taking the Saints completely out of their game as they punched their ticket to the NFC championship game. It was Seattle’s second win over the Saints this season.

Andy Nesbitt, Fox Sports

Marques Colston has some explaining to do.

Just when it looked like the Saints might have a last-second chance to score another late touchdown and give themselves an opportunity to tie the game, the wide receiver did something incredibly stupid.

What did he do?

Colston was flagged for throwing an illegal forward pass and by rule there was a 10-second run-off of the clock. Since there were just two seconds remaining, the game was officially over.

Yikes.

Yes, chances are the Saints wouldn’t have scored a touchdown after this play. And yes, even if they did score a TD they still would have had to punch in a two-point conversion to send the game to overtime.

But to not even give your team that chance with one of the worst attempts of a backward lateral ever attempted?

Yeah, not smart. Not smart at all.

Tim Booth, The Associated Press

When he got around the edge, there was no one for Marshawn Lynch to hit. Directly ahead was open field, the end zone and the Seattle Seahawks’ place in the NFC championship game.

Once again, Lynch overpowered the New Orleans Saints in the postseason.

“That was maybe ‘Beast Mode II.’ I don’t know but it was a very cool way to end that game and give us the score that we needed,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said.

Lynch carried 28 times for 140 yards and two touchdowns and Seattle’s defense flustered Drew Brees and New Orleans in a 23-15 victory Saturday in the NFC divisional playoff game.

Mike Wilkening, Pro Football Talk/NBCSports.com

Overall, the Saints outgained the Seahawks 409-277, but make no mistake: the Seahawks’ defense played a strong game, a winning game. By the time the Saints’ offense finally started to get into rhythm, they were running out of time.

And when Seattle’s defense absolutely needed stops, it usually got them.

James Ermilio, Bleacher Report

It felt like this was a game in which Seattle would unleash Marshawn Lynch,  and unleash him they did.  Lynch finished with 140 yards and two touchdowns, including a 31-yard rumble that essentially put the game away. ..

Sean Payton’s team came up empty on the biggest stage.  They were undisciplined (eight penalties, including killer offensive penalties on back-to-back drives in the fourth quarter).  They lacked explosiveness (three plays over 20 yards, one of which was an entirely lucky catch off a bounce by Robert Meachem).  Most importantly, they were unable to match the physicality of Marshawn Lynch or the Seahawks defensive backs.  Payton couldn’t find an answer for Richard Sherman on Jimmy Graham, and Rob Ryan couldn’t slow Marshawn Lynch and give the Saints a chance late in the game.  A great season ends on a sad note.

Want to be a reader contributor to The Seattle Times’ Take 2 blog? Email your original, previously unpublished work or proposal to Sports Editor Don Shelton at dshelton@seattletimes.com or sports@seattletimes.com. Not all submissions can be published. The Times reserves the right to edit and publish any submissions online and/or in print.

http://www.nj.com/times-sports/index.ssf/2014/01/barry_federovitch_seahawks_wid.html

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