Most of the bouquets go to the defense, which, after holding Drew Brees to his lowest yards per pass attempt as a Saint in December, held him to within one point of his career low playoff point production.
Of particular note was the execution against New Orleans’ screen game, which usually features the electric Darren Sproles. Saturday, the Saints netted just 11 yards on seven screens, including a 9-yarder on third-and-13.
Also credit Seahawks cornerbacks as Richard Sherman did not allow a completion to his man or in his zone. And, setting aside the fluke would-be-interception collision with Earl Thomas, Byron Maxwell surrendered just two completions for 30 yards — including a 13-yard comeback on the last play of the game.
However, the game’s two most memorable plays were back-to-back by the offense inside of three minutes remaining in the game.
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Wheel route to Doug Baldwin for 24 yards: With New Orleans in a cover-0 look with no free safety, what was enticing to Russell Wilson was the manner in which the Saints aligned upon Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin — both receivers pressed.
Usually one of the two cornerbacks will play “off” so to defend at different levels in an effort to avoid being “picked” by a receiver.
In this case, Tate, aligned outside, would pick Corey White, aligned over Baldwin in the slot. But with nine other defenders “in the box,” Wilson had to first secure the pass protection. By keeping in tight ends Zach Miller and Luke Willson, both aligned to the right, Seattle could slide center Max Unger, and ultimately even right guard J.R. Sweezy, to the left.
Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, ever the mad blitzer, in this case was tepid. There’s not much purpose in playing cover-0 but rushing only five plus a delayed linebacker.
In the end, Baldwin had such a superb release from the line against White — who had overcommitted to jamming a potential inside release by Baldwin — that a pick from Tate wasn’t necessary. Of course a perfect throw and catch completed the masterpiece.
Power left touchdown by Lynch: Seattle usually zone blocks in its running game, but in this case they employed a “gap” scheme power play off left tackle.
Gap schemes involve down blocks at the point of attack and a favorable blocking angle from the tight end, in this case Willson, sealing the middle linebacker.
The key block is usually from the backside guard — J.R. Sweezy — pulling to the strongside inside backer, David Hawthorne. Outside linebacker Junior Galette squeezed too far inside in reaction to a good block from Miller and was eliminated entirely by an even better crack block from Jermaine Kearse.
When Sweezy bypassed Hawthorne, Lynch reflexively bounced outside to his left to avoid the unblocked Hawthorne.
From there, Lynch had only to beat cornerback Keenan Lewis, who was way out of position to the inside after failing to exchange run support responsibilities with the safety once Kearse released inside to crack.
KJR analyst and former Huskies and NFL quarterback Hugh Millen is providing analysis after each Seahawks game this season