OK, it’s over! Like when Mickey told Rocky “It’s over Rock,” and like when Pinky told Craig the same thing. As the season ended early Saturday night in a 23-15 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, it’s time to see what went down. And folks, this game and the way we talked about it, wrote about it, read about it and spoke about it, turned out to be right on course of what we previewed a week ago.
I went back in looked at the several features I did for the web, and I found that a lot of the things many of you called Bobby and I to tell us about came to fruition:
1. Saints could not avoid another bad start! It was certainly not as disappointing of a start as the first meeting, but there were a lot more similarities than not. The Saints first drive was a three and out. Seattle’s first two drives of the game resulted in points. Unlike the first meeting, the Saints were able to come up with a solid drive earlier in this meeting. However, after a 54 yard drive the Saints missed a 45 yard field goal. Bottom line, at the end of the first quarter the Saints trailed 0-6.
2. Early missed chances! Mark Ingram should have caught a short pass from Drew Brees on the third play of the game. Ingram could have gained the six yards needed to extend the drive, but he failed to catch the football. Kicker Shayne Graham missed a 45 yard field goal.
3. Dismal halftime numbers again! The Saints gained only 188 yards of offense in the first game with the Seahawks. At halftime of last week’s divisional game the Saints had run 27 offensive plays for a total of 113 yards. And the team was in a huge hole down 0-16 at the break. The Saints would flip their numbers into big yards in the second half. But the biggest number that worked against them was third down offense. The Saints finished the game 3-of-12 on third down conversions. New Orleans was 1-of-5 in the first half and not much better with a 2-of-7 mark in the second half.
4. Numbers can fool you too! If I had told you before the game that the Saints would outgain the Seahawks 409 to 277 in total yards, and that the Saints defense would limit the Seahawks, especially in the second half... the home team gained just 114 yards on 24 plays, went to 2-of-7 on third down in the process in the third and four quarters combined and I think we would have all taken our chances with those numbers. But numbers can go anyway you want them to. In the first half of the game, Seattle was in complete control up 16-0. And the home team took control with only 163 yards of total offense. Seattle did not gain many yards in either half, but it was their average on each play that was most consistent. Seattle ran 32 plays for 163 yards for an average of 5.1 yard per play in the first half of the game. Even though Seattle had nearly 50 less yards of offense than their first half total and scored no points, the home team averaged 4.75 yards per play. They managed to play keep-away just long enough to hold off the Saints.
5. Lost the Turnover Battle! It’s the number one stat in football. The Saints lost it, being -1 in the turnover department. In the two games Seattle finished plus +2 in the turnovers. They more importantly went 2-0 against the Saints keeping the Black and Gold from being in control of the #1 seed in the first game. And Seattle ended the Saints season in the rematch game!
6. Wilson cooled off, but Beast Mode went Beast Mode again! He has one of the best NFL post-season highlights with what he did to the Saints back in January 2011. And this past weekend he went off on the Saints in the post season again. Seattle RB Marshawn Lynch gashed the Saints for 140 yards on 28 carries and scored two TD’s. Lynch did his thing despite getting off to a slow start. The Saints defense bottled up Lynch early as he had one yard on his first three carries, but that was not a sign of things to come. Lynch would go on to carry the ball 25 more times for a whopping 139 yards. The Saints did limit the numbers of QB Russell Wilson, who had a QB rating of 139.6 in the first game and 67.6 in the second, completing on nine pass attempts.
So in closing, I’ll again say that the numbers are deceiving when it comes to sports. I’ll spin them for you. Seattle gained 152 less yards in the rematch game, scored 11 fewer points and their QB had a rating of 72 less points than he did the first time around. And Seattle completed only nine passing attempts. That all sounds good. But as I mentioned several times before, numbers can be altered to make them look the way you might want them to. But the final numbers can never be compromised or altered and the final numbers read Seattle 23, New Orleans 15.
The Saints were called for two defensive PI's and one offensive PI against Seattle. The offensive PI followed an obvious defensive PI by Seattle on the previous play. Jimmy Graham was pass interfered with on practically every play he was in the game. You factor in missed field goals and a fumble by Ingram and you have the recipe for a loss. The Wall Street Journal predicted that Seattle would get away with pass interference on every play. I had visions of Garrett Hartley making four long field goals. Welcome to the WWE, NFL football fans.