The Saints, and a growing number in the national media, think New Orleans has improved dramatically since the Seahawks crushed them on Monday Night Football.
It took the Saints 46 years to win their first road playoff game. Is it possible their reputation as a pass-first, pass-always finesse team changed in a little more than a month? After New Orleans beat the Eagles, 26-24, Saturday in the NFC wild-card round, the overwhelming football-world reaction was yes. How the Saints prevailed in Philadelphia — using a stifling defense and a sound running game — excited prognosticators.
The rematch comes Saturday (1:35 p.m., FOX) at CenturyLink Field.
It’s tough to forget the manner in which the Seahawks dismantled at home the Saints 34-7 Dec. 2 on Monday Night Football. Seattle’s No. 1-ranked pass defense held quarterback Drew Brees to a season-worst 147 passing yards. The Saints managed the fewest total yards (188) since Sean Payton became coach in 2006, and the Rob Ryan-led defense let quarterback Russell Wilson have arguably his best game of the season (310 passing yards and three touchdowns), which momentarily made Wilson a legitimate MVP candidate.
A lot has changed. The Seahawks finished the regular season 2-2, and the Saints barely made the playoffs, grabbing the No. 6 seed before using a new formula to squeak by the Eagles in an environment so volatile that one New Orleans fan was spit on.
In the last month, Wilson has been solid but not spectacular, going 59 of 102 (57.8 percent) for 685 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. In the same time, Brees completed 71.1 percent of his throws (123 of 173) for 1,368 yards, 10 touchdowns and four interceptions.