Sea­hawks clinch play­off spot

Red-hot quar­ter­back Wil­son puts on a clinic at home as high-fly­ing Seat­tle trounces New Or­leans 34-7

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS - By AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS in Seat­tle

The rest of the top NFC teams bet­ter get ready to visit the Pa­cific North­west in Jan­uary. Af­ter Mon­day night’s rout, the road through the NFC play­offs is al­most cer­tain to go through Seat­tle.

Rus­sell Wil­son threw for 310 yards and three touch­downs, and the Seat­tle Sea­hawks be­came the first team to clinch a berth in the NFC play­offs with a 34-7 vic­tory over the New Or­leans Saints.

More im­por­tant than just clinch­ing a spot in the post­sea­son, the Sea­hawks (11-1) moved two games ahead of the rest of the NFC in the race for home-field ad­van­tage and hold the tiebreak­ers over New Or­leans ( 9- 3) and Carolina (9-3), the two clos­est pur­suers.

Wil­son was out­stand­ing, pick­ing apart the Saints’ de­fense. He threw touch­down passes of two yards to Zach Miller and four yards to Doug Bald­win in the first half as Seat­tle built a 27-7 lead. Wil­son added a pin­ball eight-yard TD pass to Der­rick Cole­man in the third quar­ter.

“At­ten­tion to de­tails is where it’s at,” Wil­son said. “We had a great bal­anced at­tack. We made some huge plays.”

Michael Ben­nett had a 22- yard fum­ble re­turn for a touch­down in the first quar­ter to give Seat­tle a 10-0 lead and the Saints never threat­ened.

It was a dom­i­nat­ing per­for­mance by the Sea­hawks, mak­ing up for a lack­lus­ter ef­fort the last time they were given the na­tional tele­vi­sion spot­light and were taken to the fi­nal yard and fi­nal play by St. Louis.

Not this time. The most an­tic­i­pated game in the NFC this sea­son was a laugher.

Wil­son com­pleted 22 of 30 passes and fin­ished with a quar­ter­back rat­ing of 139.6. He has 22 reg­u­lar- sea­son wins in his first two sea­sons, tied for the most by a sec­ondyear QB.

Drew Brees and the Saints were stymied the en­tire night as he lost for the first time on Mon­day night af­ter nine straight wins, and con­tin­ued the be­lief New Or­leans can’t win out­doors late in the sea­son.

New Or­leans didn’t crack 100 yards of to­tal of­fense un­til mid­way through the third quar­ter. Jimmy Gra­ham was nearly in­vis­i­ble out­side of his fran­chise- record 12th TD catch of the sea­son in the sec­ond quar­ter that pulled the Saints to 17-7.

Brees fin­ished 23 of 38 for 147 yards. Gra­ham had three catches for 42 yards. Dar­ren Spro­les led New Or­leans with seven catches, many of those check downs.

The seven points tied for the fewest scored by the Saints since Sean Payton be­came coach in 2006 and the 188 to­tal yards were the fewest in his coach­ing ten­ure.

“Lot of things to look at,” Payton said. “Lot of things we didn’t do well.”

The Saints went three-and­out on their first pos­ses­sion and that was just the start of their strug­gles. On their next pos­ses­sion, Brees was hit from be­hind by Cliff Avril and fum­bled into the arms of Ben­nett, who re­turned it for the touch­down.

Brees was un­able to take ad­van­tage of Seat­tle’s de­pleted sec­ondary. The Sea­hawks were with­out Bran­don Browner (in­jury) and Wal­ter Thur­mond (sus­pen­sion) but By­ron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane played well in their places. The Saints couldn’t find a way to ex­ploit the back­ups and the pres­sure from Seat­tle’s de­fen­sive line had Brees rush­ing his throws much of the night.

“We try to make it about us play­ing dis­ci­plined, sound foot­ball. Every­body do their as­sign­ment and we should be good,” Seat­tle cor­ner­back Richard Sher­man said. “And that’s what we did tonight.”

Seat­tle used the bye week to add wrin­kles to its of­fense. Wil­son was a threat not only pass­ing but run­ning with the zone read again be­com­ing an ad­di­tion to the play­book. Wil­son car­ried five times in the first half, three of those de­signed keep­ers.

But it was his pass­ing that stole the show. Wil­son was 14 of 19 in the first half for 226 yards and a rat­ing of 148.1. It was the sec­ond time in three games Wil­son threw for at least 200 yards in the first half.

He found Miller open for a 60- yard catch- and- run to con­vert a third-and-one early in the sec­ond quar­ter, then capped the drive with a two­yard touch­down pass to Miller and a 17-0 lead.

Wil­son later hit Doug Bald­win for 52 yards. Seat­tle had seven pass com­ple­tions of 12 or more yards in the first half and fin­ished with 315 first-half yards, the most al­lowed by the Saints in a first half since 2005 against Min­nesota.

Wil­son’s night was so good, his passes that should have been in­com­ple­tions ended up be­com­ing touch­downs. Fac­ing sec­ond-and-goal from the Saints’ eight, Wil­son threw a pass in­tended for re­serve tight end Kellen Davis. The ball de­flected to Cole­man for a score.

KIRBY LEE / USA TO­DAY SPORTS

Seat­tle Sea­hawks quar­ter­back Rus­sell Wil­son eludes New Or­leans Saints line­backer David Hawthorne at Cen­tu­ryLink Field in Seat­tle on Mon­day.

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