The “Jimmy Graham Revenge Game” in a return to the Superdome in New Orleans came up short. What started out as a fast and furious pair of three and outs by both teams led to a defensive forces fumble by Cliff Avril and recovered and returned 34 yards for the games first six points by Earl Thomas III. Thomas was so overjoyed, he hugged the referee present and promptly received a flag and fifteen penalty yards.
Penalties would be the name of the game, as Seattle accrued 11 of them for 76 yards, while the Saints would only receive 2 calls (quizzically), for 10 yards. On nearly every third down when Seattle was on defense, there was some call that allowed the Saints to convert for a first down. The Saints had 4 such plays, but it certainly felt like more, when Seattle had no penalties for first downs. Some of these penalty yards came on absolutely silly errors, like clipping on offensive lineman George Fant (starting in place of Bradley Sowell, out with a PCL sprain), and the typical holding and false start calls.
Seattle’s defense was stingy when it mattered in the early stages, holding New Orleans to a field goal when they were at the Seattle 6 yard line. Wilson and company responded right back with a trick play, coming from the hands (and feet) of a 43 yard bomb from Tanner McEvoy to C.J. Prosise. That set up Christine Michael for a score, and Seattle held the Saints to another FG, before Wilson was intercepted on the next drive, giving the Saints enough field position to allow Drew Brees to rush 1 yard for a score, giving the fans in New Orleans a lot to cheer about, as the score at the half was 14-13 Seattle. It could have been 17-13, but a botched snap (or hold) caused Jon Ryan to run and throw the ball away after the ‘Hawks marched down into field goal range.
The frustrations continued after halftime, with both teams settling for FGs before the 3rd quarter ended. Seattle clung to a 17-16 lead until things got awfully wonky. A pair of pick plays miscalled set up New Orleans for business in the red zone and they capitalized on it, resulting in a 2-yard touchdown for Brandin Cooks. The ensuing 2 point conversion failed, but the message was clear: Seattle needed to get it going, falling behind 17-22.
Unfortunately, they would settle for a field goal and would fail to stop New Orleans from scoring another time, notching the final field goal that would place the Saints on top for good, 25-20. Seattle’s last second attempt to lob a TD in the endzone came up short after a brilliant march down the field aided from the arm of Wilson, and legs of C.J. Prosise and Doug Baldwin. The time ticked away, but Wilson spiked the ball to give Seattle one more shot. Jermaine Kearse caught the pass but couldn’t remain in bounds.
While there are many storylines to talk about, recall that Seattle isn’t that far removed from the barnburner of a game that ended in a tie versus the Cardinals. For the second time this season, Seattle’s defense has limited big name players, which is nothing to turn your nose up to. While the offense looked at times anemic (failing to score any rushing or passing touchdowns in the second half), the numbers also fail to tell a story. Seattle out gained New Orleans on a per rush basis (4.4 to 3.2), per pass basis (7.7 to 6.8), and average yards per play (6.6 to 5.2) basis. For some reason, they just weren’t able to capitalize on the situation when needed.
Both Michael Bennett and Kam Chancellor missed this game. In his third start in relief of Chancellor, Kelcie McCray notched 10 total tackles. One of those tackles was the incredible stop at the Seattle 6-yard line to force the Saints to kick a field goal. He and Richard Sherman combined for another tackle to push Saints TE Colby Fleener out at the 1-yard line, which led the ‘Hawks defense to force yet another field goal in the 3rd quarter. McCray really has stepped up in trying to replicate ‘The Enforcer’. Frank Clark and Cliff Avril again proved they can be a dominant duo with Michael Bennett wearing street clothes for this game, each recording a sack. Bobby Wagner continues to look like he’s the main character of The Exorcist, recording 15 total tackles, and generally playing lights out football at the middle linebacker position.
Up next, the ‘Hawks welcome the Buffalo Bills at home on Monday Night Football. The Bills recently re-welcomed WR Percy Harvin (a name that should be familiar to Seattle fans) from retirement, as their WR corps has been depleted due to injury. Their stud running back, LeSean McCoy, has been battling a hamstring injury and may be limited. The ‘Hawks will see their first legitimate scrambling QB in Bills Tyrod Taylor. For a team that runs the ball very well, Seattle will need to slow that attack down and force Taylor to throw. Kam Chancellor has already been ruled out, as has Bradley Sowell, so George Fant will make his second professional start on the offensive line.
Wilson dropped his ankle brace last week, and ran strongly for short yardage in key situations. Tyler Locket returned a few kicks and punts and looked like he had some explosiveness coming back. The Bills defense is no joke, and the ‘Hawks will look to add another statement win on their resume come Monday night. ESPN will broadcast the game at 8:30 EST, 5:30 PST.