The Seahawks took all of the suspense out of their matchup with the New Orleans Saints before halftime, and rolled to a 34-7 victory to clinch a playoff berth.
The Seahawks were up 17-0 before New Orleans made a first down, continued to pour it on behind Russell Wilson and a stifling defense, and routed the Saints 34-7 Monday night at CenturyLink Field. The playoff-clinching dominance improved the record to 11-1 and means the Seahawks would have to lose three of their final four games to squander home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
The Seahawks have won seven in a row, a franchise-record 14 consecutive at home, and 17 of their last 19 regular-season contests. Seattle clinched a playoff berth with its overwhelming show against New Orleans, which entered the game as the No. 2 seed in the NFC.
The game figured to be a matchup featuring New Orleans’ second-ranked passing offense vs. Seattle’s No. 2-ranked pass defense, but it never materialized. The Seahawks held All-Pro quarterback Drew Brees to a meager 147 passing yards, snapping a Brees streak of 43 consecutive games, an NFL record, with at least 200.
Brees had been expected to pick on Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane, filling in for suspended starters Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond. That never materialized, either.
The Saints finished with 188 total yards, the fewest of the Brees era in New Orleans. The Saints entered the game averaging 415.0 yards.
Meanwhile, Wilson was nearly flawless. He completed 22 of 30 passes for 310 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 139.6. He also led Seattle in rushing with 47 yards on eight carries. Wilson surpassed 300 passing yards for the third time in his career. He had 385 at Atlanta last Jan. 13 and 320 at Carolina Sept. 8.
Wilson is 22-6 as a starting quarterback and has never lost (13-0) at CenturyLink Field. The 22 victories matches Ben Roethlisberger’s NFL record for most wins in the first two seasons of a career.
“We didn’t do a lot of special stuff,” said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. “We just came out ready to go and we trusted that our guys would get things done. We accomplished that.”
“They were certainly the better team tonight,” said New Orleans coach Sean Payton. “We just didn’t do enough on either side of the ball.”
Wilson threw a two-yard TD to Zach Miller, a four-yard TD to Doug Baldwin and an eight-yard TD to Derrick Coleman. All of those amounted to pile-on scores after DE Michael Bennett returned a Brees strip-sack fumble 22 yards to a touchdown at 6:37 of the first quarter that staked Seattle to a 10-0 lead.
After holding the Saints to a 3-and-out to start the game, Wilson directed an 11-play, 61-yard drive that ate 5:44 of clock and culminated in Steven Hauschka’s 26-yard field goal. Wilson threw 21 yards to Michael Robinson, ran 10 yards on a read option and found Golden Tate for a 12-yard gain during the march.
On the ensuing New Orleans possession, Cliff Avril stormed through and knocked the ball out of Brees’ hands, a sack and a fumble. Bennett snatched the loose ball in the air and romped 22 yards for a 10-o Seattle lead.
The Seahawks made it 17-0 when Wilson hit Miller for a two-yard touchdown, a score made possible by Wilson’s 60-yard catch and run to Miller to the Saints’ four-yard line.
Aided by two defensive penalties on the Seahawks, including an unnecessary roughness flag on Richard Sherman, the Saints inched back to 17-7 with a Brees two-yard TD throw to TE Jimmy Graham. Brees went 8-for-8 on the drive.
The Seahawks responded with another outstanding drive. When the Saints blitzed Wilson on a third down, he hit Baldwin for 52 yards to set up a 20-yard field goal for Hauschka, sending Seattle to a 20-7 lead at 3:42.
The Seahawks added another touchdown just before halftime, Wilson throwing a four-yard TD, his second of the game, to Baldwin. The key play in the drive: A 15-yard Wilson scramble.
Seattle went up 34-7 on a strange play, an eight-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to Derrick Coleman that first bounced off Wilson’s intended receiver and plopped into the hands of Coleman, who fell into the end zone.