Not many teams in the NFL look ready to compete against the soaring Seahawks at CenturyLink Field, a menacing venue that was as packed and loud as it has ever been Monday.
New Orleans appeared to be just that, a sound opponent that ranked among the league leaders on offense and defense heading into a hype-filled, nationally televised clash between conference titans.
Instead, it was no contest.
The high-powered Saints offense had no answers all night and a defense that came in fifth-best in points and yards allowed was consistently overmatched in a 34-7 blowout, New Orleans’ worst margin of defeat since the first game of 2007 (a 41-10 loss at Indianapolis).
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Other benchmarks, and not good ones, were set on both sides of the ball.
The offense scored its fewest points since a 30-7 loss at Carolina in Week 1 of 2008, matching a team low since coach Sean Payton, a lauded play-caller, was hired seven years ago. The defense allowed its most points of the season and 315 yards by halftime, the most against the Saints in a half since 2005.
“We didn’t do a lot of things well in that game,” said Payton. “We’ve got to do a better job as coaches, starting with me.”
The venue certainly played into that. While the temperature and rain weren’t as bad as feared, 68,387 fans were a CenturyLink Field record, and at one point they hit 137.6 decibels, setting a Guinness world record for stadium noise.
Payton said that clamor was evident on the Saints’ first play on offense, a Pierre Thomas rush that lost 4 yards, when there was a miscommunication regarding some of the blockers. Tackle Zach Strief said there were multiple instances where the offensive line couldn’t hear the cadence from quarterback Drew Brees, who threw for just 147 yards, his fewest since 2006.
Brees had gone 43 games with at least 200 passing yards.
Payton, in particular, gave low marks to his team in running the ball, converting third downs, pass protection and even the kicking game.
“Everything went wrong,” said tight end Jimmy Graham, who caught his 12th touchdown pass of the season, tied for the league lead with Detroit’s Calvin Johnson.
“We really didn’t give ourselves a chance at any point,” added Strief, who left the game in the second half with an ankle injury.
New Orleans (9-3) fell to 3-3 on the road after a game that could have big home-field implications in the playoffs. The Saints are two games behind the NFC-leading Seahawks, not to mention without the head-to-head tiebreaker, meaning there is a good chance they would have to return to Seattle on the road to the Super Bowl.
A humbling defeat, however, prevented much looking ahead. Instead, the team is left having to regroup on a short week ahead of a division game against surging Carolina, which has won eight games in a row.
Payton, when asked if the team will be looking to move past this loss as quickly as possible, said: “Yeah, as best you can. It takes a little bit of time.”
Especially after a letdown like Monday’s.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org