Saints crush Seahawks, advance to next round…wait, what?

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck throws a second quarter touchdown pass to receiver Brandon Stokley as New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma (R) pursues him during their NFC Wildcard playoff NFL football game in Seattle, January 8, 2011. REUTERS/Anthony Bolante (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

On any given Saturday right? Here are six quick-hit thoughts on the Seahawks’ shocking 41-36 win over the Saints on Saturday.

1. That’s why they play the game.
Gregg Williams said it perfectly this week when he told the media that if the playoffs were about predictions, the Saints would have advanced to the second round already. Everyone was so sure that the Saints would beat the Seahawks that this upset was almost set up perfectly. I don’t buy that New Orleans took Seattle for granted because there’s too much veteran know-how on that Saints’ sidelines for them to look past any opponent. But a game like this is proof that we as fans get caught up too much in records. The Seahawks only won seven of their 16 games this year but they were the ones that created momentum last week with their win over the Rams, they were the ones that had home field advantage and they were the ones that played with an emotional edge. In the end, those three factors play a bigger role in the outcome of a football game than records do (especially in the playoffs).

2. Matt Hasselbeck can still be a difference maker.
Hasselbeck had some rough games this year but when his team needed him the most, he completed 22-of-35 pass attempts for 272 yards and four touchdowns. He was intercepted once but that came off a deflection and had his receivers not dropped a few passes, his numbers would have been even better than they were. This was by far his best game in years and without his performance, Seattle doesn’t pull off this shocking upset.

3. Roman Harper, Darren Shaper, Gregg Williams, Julius Jones and Devery Henderson.
Fail, fail, fail, fail and fail. That was one of the worst performances I have ever seen out of a safety tandem in any game, not to mention in the postseason. Safeties are supposed to act as a team’s last line of defense, yet Sharper and Harper routinely allowed Seattle receivers to get past them deep coverage. I know the Saints were hurt by Malcolm Jenkins’ injury but Sharper has to play better than that. He looked like he had never played a professional game before and retirement is calling his name. And how about Williams? This was the best he could come up with after a week of preparation? The Seahawks’ offense is the epitome of mediocre and yet they hung 41 points on a unit that was supposed to be one of the best in the NFC. Holy terrible, Batman. Offensively for the Saints, Jones cost his team three points by fumbling the ball deep in his own territory in the first quarter and Henderson couldn’t catch a cold. He dropped at least two potential first downs, including an alligator-armed attempt late in the game when the Saints only needed a touchdown to re-claim the lead.

4. Sean Payton doesn’t escape criticism.
It shouldn’t be overlooked that Payton lost his offensive balance when Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory were placed on IR earlier in the week. People always want to talk about the Saints’ passing attack but it was their power running game that won them a Super Bowl last year. Without it, Payton and the entire Saints’ offense was at a disadvantage. But he doesn’t escape criticism for a couple of decisions he made in the second half. The decision to go for it on 4th-and-1 from the 37-yard line down 14 points with just under five minutes remaining in the third quarter was fine. Payton has always been an aggressive coach and he was staying true to himself by keeping his offense off the field. But why run it right up the gut with Julius Jones when your quarterback is Drew Brees? Was Payton not paying attention this season when his team couldn’t run the ball? And how about taking the ball out of Brees’ hands again at the end of the game on the two-point conversion attempt? Talk about outsmarting yourself twice.

5. What a run by Marshawn Lynch.
This may just be the excitement of the upset talking but Lynch’s fourth quarter touchdown was one of the best runs I have ever seen in any game. Granted, the Saints’ defenders were trying to strip the ball at first. But he still shook through about three defenders, stumbled sideways after delivering a stiff-arm downfield and then managed to race 67-yards for a touchdown. Absolutely incredible.

6. What’s next?
Well, what’s next for the Saints is that they get to go home and watch the rest of the playoffs from their couch after choking. As for the Hawks, they’ll wait for the outcome of the Philadelphia-Green Bay game on Sunday night. If the Packers win, the Seahawks will play in Chicago next weekend. If the Eagles win, the Hawks will travel to Atlanta to play the Falcons. Either way, do ya think the Hawks will be underdogs again?

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