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  • 21 Dec 2014

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Seahawks take wind out of Saints' sails

by: COURTESY OF MICHAEL WORKMAN - Marshawn Lynch (left) celebrates one of his two rushing touchdowns with Seattle Seahawks teammate Zach Miller.SEATTLE — The Seattle Seahawks held the New Orleans Saints scoreless for the first three quarters of Saturday’s NFC divisional playoff game.

The Seahawks then spent the fourth quarter enduring.

Seattle survived two Saints touchdowns, a successful 2-point conversion and New Orleans' recovery of an onside kick and won 23-15 before an announced sellout crowd of 68,388 at CenturyLink Field.

“An interesting finish,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “We just kind of held on to where we were bleeding the clock.

"We’re thrilled to be going on, with areas to get better and things we can continue to improve.”

The Seahawks will host the NFC championship game next Sunday against either the Carolina Panthers or the San Francisco 49ers.

The Seahawks are 1-1 against the 49ers this season. Seattle beat San Francisco 29-3 on Sept. 15, then lost 19-17 on Dec. 8.

The Seahawks opened the season with a 12-7 win against the Panthers on Sept. 8.

“We look forward to the next opportunity,” Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson said. “It’s still a 1-0 mentality; we’re right there, right at the edge. Whether we play the 49ers or the Panthers, we’re excited about that opportunity.”

  • It was a wet, windy, miserable day in Seattle, and the Saints — who have a reputation for playing poorly away from their home dome — were put at a significant disadvantage.

    Especially because the Seahawks won the opening toss and chose to start the game with the wind at their backs.

    “In the first half, I felt like (the wind) was swirling,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “The wind was blowing left to right on our sidelines. As we were going into it, it was just off and on. There would be a gust here and there. It was tough conditions for everyone. Credit the plays they were able to make. They made more than we did.”

    Saints kicker Shayne Graham missed two field goals, of 45 and 48 yards.

    “It gusted at different times, always blowing in different directions,” Graham said. “Of course it (the wind) is a factor.”

    Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka hit all three of his field-goal attempts, from 38, 49 and 26 yards.

    “Hauschka did a great job kicking field goals,” Carroll said. “You know how hard it was for their guy, so it was a factor.”

    New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees also struggled at times as he tried to battle the wind. Brees completed 24 of 43 passes for 309 yards and one TD. The Seahawks nearly picked him off off multiple times.

    “We knew the wind was going to be a factor,” Brees said. “It seemed very unpredictable at times. It was swirling.”

  • The Seahawks also were able to plug up the Saints running game, holding them to 108 yards on 26 carries.

    Seattle’s offense was no juggernaut, as the Seahawks finished with just 277 yards. However, Seattle was able to run well. Marshawn Lynch gained 140 yards and scored two touchdowns on 28 carries as the Seahawks gained 174 yards on the ground.

    With the running game working, Wilson’s 9 of 18 passing for 103 yards was good enough to keep the offense balanced.

    “We played a good team game,” Lynch said. “I stayed with what we were calling and just believed in my team.”

    The Saints did not get on the board until 13:11 remained. On third-and-goal from the Seahawks' 1-yard line, running back Khiry Robinson took an inside handoff up the middle for the touchdown.

    With the score 16-6, New Orleans went for the 2-point conversion. The Saints handed the ball to Mark Ingram, who went inside tackle to the left and dove into the end zone, cutting the Seahawks' lead to 16-8 and making it a one-score game.

    The Seahawks' defense held firm during the Saints' next two drives. Seattle then went ahead 23-8 with 2:40 remaining on Lynch's 31-yard touchdown run.

    In desperation mode, New Orleans drove down the field, scoring on a 9-yard TD pass from Brees to Marques Colston with 26 seconds left.

    And New Orleans was able to come up with the onside kick, setting up the possibility for a miracle.

    But, with 11 seconds to go and the ball on the Saints' 49, Brees threw a short pass to Colston along the right sideline. Rather than stepping out of bounds, Colston tried to throw a cross-field lateral to Travaris Cadet. Colston threw the pass forward, though, and by rule, the remaining two seconds were run off the clock.

    Payton was short when asked a question about whether Colston lost track of time at the end of the game.

    “We’ll look at the film,” Payton said. “Next question.”

  • Seattle scored its first touchdown off a New Orleans turnover.

    On the first play of the second quarter, Ingram took a handoff up the middle and coughed up the ball up he was hit by Michael Bennett. The Seahawks defensive end also came up with the recovery, giving Seattle the ball on the New Orleans 24.

    “He got up on me at the last second,” Ingram said. “I didn’t see him. Not until the last second, and he just knocked the ball out.”

    Two plays later, Lynch took a handoff 15 yards for a touchdown, putting the Seahawks up 13-0.

    The Seahawks led 16-0 after Hauschka’s third field goal of the half. The score remained the same until the fourth quarter.