BY Art Thiel 12:12AM 12/03/2013

Thiel: Seahawks make them the ‘Aints again

Starting with the Saints’ first play, the Seahawks applied a beatdown — supplemented by an audio riot — that was done early and thoroughly.

Zach Miller emphatically celebrates his first-quarter touchdown against the Saints Monday night. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Almost never is a pro football game decided on the first play. Such was the immensity of the beatdown Monday night, however, that the New Orleans Saints were toe-tagged, embalmed and buried on the initial play from scrimmage. Seahawks players were only secondary players in the grid-ocide.

Condemned by a record crowd of 68,387 that set another Guinness world record for stadium noise, the Saints were shouted into a fetal, fatal position.

“The first play of the game was a run that went the (wrong) direction,” said an aggrieved Sean Payton, the Saints coach. “Obviously, not everyone got the redirect.”

So loud, so raw, so cold and so over. Seahawks DT Brandon Mebane burst through the Saints line to drop RB Pierre (Wrong-Way) Thomas for a four-yard loss. For the Saints, it was their last moment on the cliff. It is not clear if they have hit the canyon floor yet.

They did not get a first down until the last half-minute of the first quarter, when they were behind 17-0. They finished with 44 yards rushing. QB Drew Brees threw eight passes that went 15 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, and completed none. They lost, 34-7.

“They were certainly well prepared,” said Brees. “The fact of the matter is we took one on the chin today.

“We are used to being on the other end of these types of games.”

That observation holds the jaw-slackening truth: The Saints (now 9-3) were the second-best team in the NFC, with a smart offense and rugged defense, yet spent the night as a Division II college team. Junior varsity. Freshman-only. On probation.

For a night, they were again the ‘Aints, the dreaded nickname from the franchise’s darkest years.

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson put it this way: “We want to be the most explosive team in the NFL, offense and defense.” Consider Monday night the detonation. Pete Carroll had to agree.

“Well,” he said, “we had a blast.”

So many things were so remarkable about the evening that even the loquacious Carroll had a hard time getting his rhetoric around the achievement. But he finally landed on the key point:

“For the defense to hold that quarterback, that coach and that team to that kind of production . . . . that’s an incredible night for our guys.”

The 188 yards by the Saints was the lowest opponent total for Seattle since January 2002 against San Francisco. The 90 yards at halftime was the third time this season an opponent has been held to 90 or less (San Francisco, Jacksonville). And by the sixth scrimmage play, they fulfilled Wilson’s ambition to be explosive.

As Brees dropped back from his own 25-yard line on a third-and-five, DE Cliff Avril roared around right tackle Zach Strief and leaped to swat the quarterback’s arm. The ball flew in the air and fellow DE Michael Bennett snatched it and rumbled 22 yards for a fum-six and a 10-0 lead.

Any defensive score is almost always a game-turner. This game turned so hard on that play that, aside from a long drive in the second quarter to their only score, the Saints couldn’t muster any sort of sustained rally.

“Coming into this game we knew that is what their defense thrives on,” Brees said. “That sets you behind the 8-ball a little bit. We just couldn’t get much going after that.

“They don’t have any weak links. They are very good upfront. They are very good at the linebacker position. They are very good in the secondary. They put it all together and play very well together within their scheme.”

So evident were the Seahawks plans to deconstruct the Saints that offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn were given game balls by the team. Quinn’s deeds were even more impressive in the wake of the injury/suspension absences of CBs Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond, which some fans feared would leave the Seahawks vulnerable against Brees’ precision.

“We felt bad for them — it was really a compassionate response,” Carroll said of Browner and Thurmond. “As far as the football, it was not an issue at all. We know how to respond to that. That was exhibited again tonight. We handled it really well.”

The resourcefulness in both personnel and game-planning was never more apparent.

“We got to play the way we want to play,” Carroll said. “That’s important.”

The question — there are always questions, aren’t there? — is whether they can replicate the same passion and efficiency in six days at Candlestick Park against a 49ers team again playing well and seething for revenge after the 29-3 debacle Sept. 15. It’s still possible for San Francisco to help spoil Seattle’s pursuit of the NFC West title that makes for home-field advantage in the playoffs.

“We’re going after it with everything we’ve got,” Carroll said.

What they’ve got, witnessed by the sporting nation Monday night, is enough to change a game against a good team in the first two series, and change the lyrics in the opponents’ song: When the Saints No Marching In.


YourThoughts

  • jafabian

    It’s funny how the Saints were favored in this game. Despite Payton and Brees insistence that they can win on the road like most team with a climate controlled domed stadium for a home field the wins on the road that they have are usually in warm weather climates or other indoor stadiums. Put them in a cold, wet stadium in December, say in Green Bay, Chicago, New York or Seattle, and it’s a whole ‘nother story.

    Had concerns earlier today when the sun broke out today and the thermometer began to go above 45 at noon but thankfully (?) the rain clouds rolled in at game time. Welcome to the House of Wet New Orleans! Funny how opposing teams will see it rain here and think the Seahawks have the advantage because they live here and are used to it when in fact they’re as uncomfortable playing in the cold and rain as they are.

    Last season the Seahawks had a coming of age party at this point of the season and they kicked things off just as strong today. Coincidence? Might be this is when they get their second wind. We’ll see.

    • dinglenuts

      Saints favored? When? And by whom? I don’t think that was ever the case in this game, at least according to the Wise Guys. (The ‘Hawks were favored by 5, I think. Maybe 4.5. Um, not that I follow these things.)

      They did look awfully good, though, and had key bounces and breaks go their way. Next weekend at Candlestick should be interesting.

      • jafabian

        Oddsmakers had the Saints favored by anywhere from a FG to a TD. Ron Jaworski picked the Saints on ESPN. Since the Hawks would be without Thurmond and Browner vs. the most prolfic passer in the past five years plus no Rice or Harvin I get that. What’s amazing is that Beastmode didn’t have a big game. You’d think missing two big time WR’s would mean more of a running game.

        • dinglenuts

          Oddsmakers had the Seahawks by anywhere from 4.5 to 6 points the week leading up to the game, and Jaworski couldn’t pick his nose. (I don’t know if the pros were picking the Seahawks to cover the spread.) Many sportswriters and announcers may have picked the Saints to win outright, but that’s why they’re sportwriters and announcers and not oddsmakers.

          • art thiel

            Dinglenuts is right, J. Oddsmakers are giving Seahawks more than the standard 3 pts for being the home team these days, and they do it because they see the logic, not the sentiment.

      • art thiel

        They did get breaks, but those happen more often to teams who are well-prepared for almost anything. The Seahawks are very well prepared.

    • art thiel

      Seahawks were favored by six. And as we wrote over the weekend, the Saints road record in outdoor games in sub-40 temps was 2-8. The only weather factor that is of real importance in most late-season games is wind. Last night was merely Brees-y, and I do mean merely.

  • bobk333

    Great column, Art.

    Nobody understands sports in Seattle, the spirit of sports in Seattle and the incredible (albeit fair-weather) Seattle fans more than Art Thiel.

    He was the only Seattle writer who, before last season, saw how good Russell Wilson was going to be, and the only writer who saw the greatness in this Seahawk team.

    .

    • Gary S

      Tone it down a little there Mr. bobk333. Thiel is a very good writer (sports or otherwise), but his head WILL explode if you feed it with too much hyperbole.

      • art thiel

        Thanks, Bob, and Gary is wise to counsel caution. My exploding head would be a civic hygiene issue no one wants.

  • giorgio547

    With the Mariner’s Lincoln now publicly the ultimate decision maker, I’d be concerned if I were Carroll and Company. As Lincoln watches with envy his cross Brougham sports ticket rival pack them in, he has to be thinking Russell Wilson, Russell Wilson – Bo Jackson, Bo Jackson. Can you imagine what would happen to young Wilson under Lincoln’s business acumen – we can…

    • art thiel

      Buzzkill, Giorgio.

      • giorgio547

        True enough, King of Satire, but better to give Howard pause early rather than regret not mentioning it later. I’m surprised you hadn’t already thought it or maybe you did and just wanted bask a bit – Pete never rests…

  • Matt712

    I think we witnessed the aftershock of the Beast Quake. So focused were the Saints at stopping Marshawn Lynch from doing to them what he did almost three years ago, that they had no answer for the rest of the team. I would almost be surprised if no one in the Saints locker room said after the 34-7 drubbing, “Well at least we stopped Lynch.”
    Good for you, Saints!

    • Diamond Mask

      Might be some truth there.

      • art thiel

        It was true. Carroll said Wilson was prepared for the stack as well as the blitz and changed protections and routes at the line of scrimmage to account. Bevell had his finest hour as his playcaller, and Wilson had his best execution.

        • Bayview Herb

          I wonder how much input Bevell had vs the line of scrimmage play calls of Wilson?

  • Diamond Mask

    It sure was fun watching Dilfer walk it back.

    • art thiel

      I didn’t see the broadcast. Please fill me in.

      • Joe Fan

        I saw the broadcast. Dilfer was one of the ESPN hacks that was predicting a Saints win. You would think Dilfer of all people would know the significant, intangible impact on the Seahawks of playing in front of the home crowd. In the post game broadcast he manned up and admitted how wrong he was in his pre-game prediction.

  • Hammtime

    The play where the Saints brought a max blitz was defining to me. Everyone saw it coming and I was thinking this wasn’t going to be good for the Hawks. But, a perfect pass and boom it turned into a huge play. Love it!

    • art thiel

      A very telling play, Hamm. Wilson checked out of the play and into what the Saints gave him. The kid is so bright I’m beginning to avert my eyes to protect my corneas.

  • ll9956

    Great article, Art. You had me cackling at a few of your inventive phrases.

    • art thiel

      Glad you enjoyed. The goal is to bring something you didn’t already see.

  • DT

    did anyone count how many times gruden used the word “impressive” in regards to RW?

    • art thiel

      Gruden had a man-crush on Wilson three minutes after he met him before the draft.

      • bugzapper

        That doesn’t make Gruden any less of a twink.

        • Bayview Herb

          I’m an old guy. Please define “Twink.”

          • MarkS

            It’s quite the opposite of an old guy.

        • Diamond Mask

          Oh man. I love chuckie!

  • 1coolguy

    The Hawks don’t have an “easy” game left on their schedule. All the 4 teams have very good coaches and the teams will be targeting the Hawks as their defining game of the year. I want the Hawk to sweep but if they go 2 and 2 it wouldn’t surprise me.
    This was a defining game for both teams and the Hawks rose to the challenge. As probably everyone is, I am almost stunned each game by Wilson’s maturity and skill level. The guy doesn’t get rattled, feels the pressure, scrambles like Tarkenton, has great timing in the pocket, etc, etc, etc. The guy is going to be fun to watch for many years!

    • Bayview Herb

      No they don’t. But neither do their opponents who have to face the team that beat the other leading team in the NFL.

  • Bayview Herb

    I find it interesting that Art referred to the team as the “Ain’ts. I remember back when fans would show up at the stadium with paper sacks over their heads so that friends wouldn’t recognize them. They haven’t slipped back that far, but they are no longer unreachable. This will encourage other good teams to feel they can be beat. Ergo, whey will be.

  • Bayview Herb

    Perhaps we should pause for reflection here. While the offense was very special, it was special teams and the defense that shut the “Aint’s down to 7 points. Also, without the defense constantly stopping the Saints, the Seattle offense wouldn’t have had the number of touches they had. “And please, tell the coaches and broadcasters that length is a horizontal measurement, not a height, which is vertical. Perhaps English wasn’t taught in sports majors of or for that matter, Journalism 101.

  • Gerald Turner

    The Seahawks played with the finesse Saints offense the way a destructive child plays with a balsa wood model airplane.