The 1-1 New Orleans Saints are faced with their second straight west coast road game this week when they take on the 2-0 Seattle Seahawks. This will be the 16th meeting between the Saints and Seahawks, with Seattle owning an 8-7 advantage. New Orleans is just 3-6 in Seattle, where today's game is played. The Saints lost quarterback Drew Brees for 6-8 weeks with a thumb injury during their loss to the Los Angeles Rams last week, leading some to believe that their title hopes could be wrecked. The journey without their legendary signal caller begins this week in Seattle, which has been a site of crushing failures in the past for this Saints franchise.
Seattle and New Orleans were actually in the same division (NFC West) for one year, during the Seahawks inaugural season of 1976. The two met for just one time that season though, on November 21, 1976 in the Seattle Kingdome. The Saints gashed the Seahawks defense for 258 rushing yards on an astonishing 52 attempts, led by 77 and a touchdown from Tony Galbreath and 76 with a score from Chuck Muncie. The Saints defense forced five Seattle turnovers, including two that they returned for touchdowns to break the game open in the 3rd quarter on their way to a 51-27 victory.
The two teams wouldn't meet again until November 18, 1979, again in the Seattle Kingdome but this time with the Seahawks as a member of the AFC West. Both teams would combine for 941 total yards as each squad showed terrific balance. Saints quarterback Archie Manning was sharp on the day, completing 20 of 27 passes for 284 yards and a touchdown, peppering the Seahawks secondary with 6 strikes to tight end Henry Childs for 121 yards and 7 completions for 99 yards and a score to wideout Wes Chandler. Unfortunately, Manning was outdueled by Seattle quarterback Jim Zorn, who threw for 384 yards and 4 touchdowns on the day, finding future Hall of Famer Steve Largent for 9 completions for 146 yards and 2 scores in a 38-24 Seahawk victory. The first time the two teams would meet in New Orleans would be on November 10, 1985. The Seattle defense throttled the Saints offense that afternoon, holding them to 183 total yards and sacking New Orleans quarterback Dave Wilson 8 times. A 7-3 defensive battle entering the fourth quarter, a touchdown interception return by Seahawk defensive end Jacob Green keyed a 20-pt. burst that fueled Seattle to a 27-3 win. New Orleans would then go on to defeat the Seahawks the next three times they met in close battles between 1988-97, winning by a combined seven points in the three contests.
New Orleans would travel to Husky Stadium on September 17, 2000, the first year Seattle would play their games in an outdoor stadium after the demolition of the Kingdome. In a defensive battle, the Seahawks would outscore the Saints 13-0 in the second half in route to a 20-10 victory. The next time the two would meet would be the 2003 season opener on September 7 in Seattle. The Seahawks were again in the NFC, having been relocated as a result of the 2002 league realignment, and now playing home games in their current stadium. The Saints turned the ball over four times during the game, nullifying a 359-270 advantage in total yardage and sending them to a 27-10 loss. The two franchises would meet up again in the 2004 season opener (September 12). The Seahawks would win their third straight game in the series 21-7, behind a defense that held the Saints to just 281 total yards along with 166 offensive yards and three touchdowns from running back Shaun Alexander.
Saints head coach Sean Payton is 3-3 against Seattle since taking over the team in 2006. The Saints first meeting against the Seahawks with Payton at the helm was on October 14th, 2007 in Seattle. The Seahawks outgained New Orleans in total yards and got 364 yards passing from quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, but the Saints defense sacked Hasselbeck five times and stiffened up when it counted. Offensively, New Orleans got 141 all-purpose yards from running back Reggie Bush and 113 yards receiving from wideout David Patten in a 28-17 victory. They would next meet on November 21, 2010 in the Superdome, and with the Saints as defending Super Bowl champions. Both teams' quarterbacks combined for 748 passing yards and five scores. New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees (382 yards, 4 touchdowns) outdueled Matt Hasselbeck (366 yards, 1 score). The Saints also got outstanding individual performances from receiver Marques Colston (8 receptions for 113 yards, 2 touchdowns) and running back Chris Ivory (99 rushing yards and a score) as they rolled to a 34-19 win. A rematch between New Orleans and Seattle would take place just six weeks later though, with both the circumstances and results far different. The defending champ Saints would finish 10-6 and second in the NFC South, but still qualified for the playoffs despite a very lengthy list of injuries. For their wild-card matchup they would travel to Seattle, where despite an 8-8 record the Seahawks would host by virtue of winning the NFC West. What happened that afternoon of Saturday January 11, 2011 on Qwest Field in Seattle may haunt the memories of Saints fans and players alike for a generation.
It looked like business as usual for the defending champions early on, with New Orleans jumping out to a quick 10-0 lead. The pesky home team did not wilt though, and trailing 17-7 in the second quarter went on a 17-0 run of their own to take the lead, taking a 24-20 advantage into the break. New Orleans, which had held Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch in check during their regular season victory, had no such luck in this one, as he powered his way to 131 rushing yards. Hasselbeck again had an outstanding performance as well, throwing for 272 yards and four touchdowns. The Saints were able to accomplish little on the ground, leaving it on the shoulders of Drew Brees for any chance at continuing their season. Brees threw for 404 yards and 2 touchdowns on the day, and had willed his squad to within a score in the final quarter after falling behind 34-20 late in the 3rd. Just as it seemed like the favored champs might pull off a road playoff win though, their chances of a repeat were crushed in heartbreaking fashion. Marshawn Lynch took a 2nd and long handoff with just over four minutes remaining and bulldozed his way for a 67-yd. touchdown run, breaking multiple tackles along the way along with the hearts of the New Orleans faithful. The play put the finishing touches on a 41-36 Seattle victory that ended the Saints season. It wouldn't be the last time that the foul from the Pacific Northwest would end the Saints postseason hopes.
The Saints and Seahawks would clash again two times during the 2013 season, both times in Seattle. The first was set up to be a Monday night showdown on December 2, 2013, but instead turned into a laugher for the home team. Seattle routed the Saints 34-7 behind 310 passing yards and three scores from quarterback Russell Wilson, while bludgeoning the New Orleans offense to the tune of just 188 total yards. The Saints would travel back to Seattle for a divisional round playoff meeting just over a month later, on January 11, 2014. New Orleans would again be bottled up offensively in the first half, and a halftime deficit of 16-0 made the game look like it was going to be a repeat of their December debacle. New Orleans would claw their way back into the game though, behind 304 yards passing from Brees and an 11 catch, 139-yd. receiving performance from Marques Colston. After pulling to within a score at 16-8 in the fourth and with firm grasp of momentum however, the Saints fell victim to the power of Marshawn Lynch in a key moment yet again. Lynch, who rushed for 140 yards and 2 touchdowns, burst his way through the New Orleans defense for a 31-yd. scoring run late in the 4th for a 23-15 lead. The play was eerily similar to Lynch's backbreaking run three seasons before, and appeared to seal the Saints fate yet again. Brees threw a scoring pass to Colston with 26 seconds remaining though, then Colston recovered the ensuing onside kick to give the Saints hope for a miracle. Unfortunately, three plays later Colston's magnificent game was wrecked when he was penalized for an illegal forward pass on a lateral attempt after a reception. The penalty caused a ten second runoff, which ended the game and again ruined New Orleans postseason hopes. The Saints gained a small measure of revenge in their last meeting against the Seahawks during a home contest on October 30, 2016. New Orleans was able to dominate the line of scrimmage, owning a 13 minute advantage in time of possession as running back Tim Hightower rolled for 102 yards in a 25-20 Saints victory.
All eyes will be on Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who takes over for Brees in his injury absence. It might be a stretch to think that the New Orleans offense can be as productive without Brees, but expect Payton to come up with an imaginative game plan revolving around wideout Michael Thomas, running back Alvin Kamara, and getting tight end Jared Cook more involved. The Saints have a powerful offensive line, and should also look to establish balance with Kamara and Latavius Murray in the running game, as well as incorporating Taysom Hill into their game plan. The Saints have a talented defensive front that should be able to pressure Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson against their questionable offensive line. The issue is Wilson's mobility, and the Saints must get him to the ground rather then letting him buy the time to torch an inconsistent New Orleans secondary down the field.
Expect a close and physical battle between the two teams on both sides of the ball. The Saints have plenty of talent to win this, even with mounting injuries on both sides of the ball. And Payton will come up with an offense that will be productive using what Bridgewater and Hill do best combined with the talents of Thomas and Kamara. The New Orleans defense is also good enough to keep them in most any game until Brees' return. A second straight west coast game against a playoff calibur opponent is a tall task though, especially for a team that is in it's first week of breaking in a new signal caller.