After having a day to let it all sink in, I am kind of surprised that I am not more disappointed than I am over the Saints' 23-15 Divisional Playoff loss in Seattle. I still feel like we would have a great shot to beat San Francisco on Sunday and advance to the Super Bowl. The message that my Dad sent to me after the game is exactly how I feel about what happened on Saturday. "The Saints beat the Saints".
I'm thinking that maybe I'm not as disappointed as I usually would be because the Seattle Seahawks are a damn good football team. Never mind the fact that they are nearly impossible to beat at home (16-1 with Russell Wilson at QB). Not too many people really expected us to win this game. When was the last time that the Saints were +8 in the spread?
After falling behind to a 16-0 deficit at halftime, it's pretty safe to assume that even the biggest die hard and optimistic Saints fan didn't feel too good about the Saints' chances to win this game. I know I didn't. Drew Brees was 5 for 12 for 34 yards passing, with 16 of those yards coming in the final minute of the half.
The Saints were beating the Saints. The Seahawks put 3 on the board after a terrible 16 yard punt by Thomas Morstead place Seattle on the NO 40 yard line. The Saints follow that up with a missed 45 yard field goal by Shayne Graham. The missed field goal puts Seattle on their own 35, leading to a 49 yard field goal by Steven Hauschka, giving the Seahawks a 6-0 lead. On the very next drive, Mark Ingram fumbles giving the Seahawks great field position by placing them on the NO 24 yard line. Two plays later, touchdown Marshawn Lynch. 13-0. The Seahawks scored 13 points on 3 possessions by going 78 yards on 17 plays.
It is important to note that Russell Wilson and the Seahawks are undefeated when they have a halftime lead at home. It is also important to note that the Seahawks gave up more than 200 yards passing only 5 times this season and only 300 yards passing once. This is a historically good secondary. And at half, Drew Brees has 34 yards passing. The odds are definitely against a Saints comeback at this point.
The Saints defense held strong in the third quarter, allowing only one Seattle first down. However, the Saints were unable to score. Time was ticking away. Defeat seemed inevitable.
Then came the 4th quarter. The roller coaster ride really started to get interesting here. Despite the unfavorable weather conditions, Drew Brees threw for 191 yards in the 4th quarter. Only 5 teams threw for more than that in an entire game against Seattle in 2013. But even despite all of that, the Saints continued to beat the Saints. Following a Seattle 3 and out, Shayne Graham misses his 2nd field goal attempt from 48 yards out, giving the ball to Seattle at their own 38. This led to a key 3rd down, 24 yard completion to Doug Baldwin and the eventual 31 yard TD run by Marshawn Lynch against a deflated and disappointed Saints defense.
Even down 23-8 with 2:40 to go in the game, the Saints continued to fight and fire up Saints fan with a no huddle offense that most Saints fans wish they would use more often. A touchdown pass to Marques Colston with 32 seconds left put the Saints down by 8, with the inevitable onside kick to come.
The odds of recovering this kick seemed so small. This is the Seattle Seahawks at home expecting the onside kick. No way the Saints recover this right?
The Saints did recover that onside kick and would have the ball at their own 41 yard line with 24 seconds left. We all know what happens next.
The Saints did not win the game, but the idea of even having a shot to score 15 points in 32 seconds against this defense at their place might have eased the pain for me just a little bit. I did not like the short pass up the middle to Graham to start the drive or whatever that was that Colston did to end the game. But after recovering that onside kick, it was a nice feeling to know that this Saints team fought hard until the very end of that game.
The Seattle Seahawks are a very good football team. They won the game, but the Saints did beat the Saints on Saturday. But they never stopped fighting. And that fight could give them the confidence that the Saints will need in what promises to be a competitive 2014 season in the NFC.
I'm already looking forward to it.