Saints and Fans Amazed By Loss To The Hawks But Excited About The Future
In a game that featured ground-breaking shock in more ways than one, such as the unbelievable scamper from Marshawn Lynch, the Seattle Seahawks (8-9) defeated the defending Super Bowl and World Champions New Orleans Saints (11-6) 41-36 to kick the 2011 Wildcard Weekend with a bang in the NFL.
Seattle needed a win in Week 17 over St. Louis to have fans paraphrase Jim Mora's widely recognized "Playoffs?!" axiom and sneak into the postseason as NFC West Champions and the first team in NFL history to make the cut with a losing record. New Orleans won in style two weeks ago in the Georgia Dome against Atlanta to capture the fifth seed in the NFC.
QB Matt Hasselbeck had an outstanding performance, delivering 4 TDs through the air against a Saints secondary and defense that had allowed a league-low 13 passing touchdowns this past season.
To top it all off with 3:22 left on the game clock, the aforementioned ex-Bills RB Marshawn Lynch took it to the house on a 67-yard jaw-dropping touchdown run in the final minutes to ice the win and take a 34-30 lead.
Despite being without the company of Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory, Drew Brees wasn't too shabby in the Saturday loss, completing 39-of-60 attempts for 404 yards and 2 TDs. Brees lead the Saints to a 17-7 advantage with 13:38 to play in the 2nd quarter, but the Seahawks rallied with their hair on fire, as Hasselbeck launched a 45-yard bomb to Brandon Stokley and another score to John Carlson to give Seattle a 24-20 lead at halftime.
Seattle scored 10 3rd-quarter points to open up a 34-20 command, but New Orleans slashed the lead to four points before Lynch put the nail in the Saints' coffin.
The funny thing about all of this is prior to the trading deadline, the Bills were contacted by the Saints, who made it clear they wanted Lynch and willing to give up a third-round-pick to get him, but ended up going to Seattle of course, for a fifth-round-pick.
The hope for back-to-back Championships was driven to a screeching halt in the first weekend of the playoffs, much like the Saints counterparts they played in last year's Super Bowl against Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts, who went down on the final play of the game to Rex Ryan and the N.Y. Jets.
New Orleans will watch at home this time at what could have been this coming Sunday when Seattle moves onto the Windy City in the Divisional Round.
Who Dat Nation was amazed from the loss to the Hawks but excited about the future. Improvement of the Saints will be a factor even for this top-notch franchise heading into the off-season, knowing what to improve on and assessing the missing voids to create a better season and stronger team to find themselves right back in contention once again for a championship. In my book, the Saints need to begin to build back on their D-Line, possibly selecting a DE or DT in the first two rounds of the 2011 NFL Draft and/or pick up an experienced veteran in Free Agency to further equip the team.