Saints 15

(11-5, 3-5 away)

Seahawks 23

(13-3, 7-1 home)

Coverage: FOX

4:35 PM ET, January 11, 2014

CenturyLink Field, Seattle, WA 

1 2 3 4 T
NO 0 0 0 1515
SEA 6 10 0 723

Top Performers

Passing: D. Brees (NO) - 309 YDS, 1 TD

Rushing: M. Lynch (SEA) - 28 CAR, 140 YDS, 2 TD

Receiving: M. Colston (NO) - 11 REC, 144 YDS, 1 TD

Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks top Saints to reach NFC title game

Associated Press

SEATTLE -- When he got around the edge, there was no one for Marshawn Lynch to hit. Directly ahead was open field, the end zone and the Seattle Seahawks' place in the NFC Championship Game.

Once again, Lynch overpowered the New Orleans Saints in the postseason.

"That was maybe 'Beast Mode II.' I don't know but it was a very cool way to end that game and give us the score that we needed," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said.

Lynch carried 28 times for 140 yards and two touchdowns and Seattle's defense flustered Drew Brees and New Orleans in a 23-15 victory Saturday in the NFC divisional playoff game.

"You just don't know how many more opportunities you're going to have," Brees said. "That's what makes it so tough standing up here and talking about it."

Steven Hauschka added three field goals in blustery conditions and the top-seeded Seahawks advanced to the NFC title game for the second time. They will host San Francisco or Carolina next Sunday after last reaching the conference title game in the 2005 playoffs.

Seattle shut out the Saints in the first half, got Lynch's first 100-yard game since Week 10 of the regular season and received a spark from the brief return of Percy Harvin before he left with a concussion. Lynch scored on a 15-yard run in the first half and capped the victory with a 31-yard scoring run with 2:40 left that Carroll celebrated by jumping into offensive line coach Tom Cable's arms.

"I don't run to get tackled," Lynch said.

While the clinching score lacked the stunning explosiveness of Lynch's "Beast Quake" touchdown run against the Saints in the 2010 playoffs, this one was more important. It ensured Seattle would not be the latest No. 1 seed to get upset by a No. 6 seed in the divisional round.

Lynch's clinching TD was a similar to that 2010 play. Lynch read the blocking perfectly and cut to the outside using two blocks from tight end Zach Miller and Jermaine Kearse. Lynch's only contact was a stiff-arm of Keenan Lewis that allowed him free passage to the end zone and left CenturyLink Field swaying.

"It's all want with him," Seattle wide receiver Golden Tate said. "He's blessed with tremendous athleticism and body control and power. But right there he wanted that. He just wanted it and he went and got it."

Lynch set a franchise playoff record for yards rushing. His running made up for another shaky day passing by Russell Wilson. Seattle's offense was a concern heading into the postseason and, outside of Lynch, did little to quell those worries.

Wilson missed on five of his first six pass attempts to start the second half but came through with a 31-yard completion to Doug Baldwin with 2:57 remaining. The Saints blitzed and Wilson and Baldwin connected. Lynch scored on the next play.

"At the end of the game I knew they were going to bring everybody," Wilson said.

Wilson finished 9 of 18 for a career-low 103 yards. His leading receiver was Harvin, making his second appearance of the season after nearly getting put on injured reserve less than two weeks ago. Harvin had three receptions for 21 yards in the first half and one rush for 9 yards, but left the game late in the first half with a concussion.

Carroll said they won't know Harvin's status for the NFC championship game until later in the week as he goes through the league's concussion protocol.

"He was electric. He made some awesome plays today," Wilson said about Harvin. "... They were trying to find ways to stop him and they were struggling with that."

Hauschka hit field goals of 38 and 49 yards with the windy, rainy conditions at his back and hit a 26-yarder into the wind late in the third quarter.

Brees finished 24 of 43 for 309 yards and scared Seattle in the closing seconds. Brees took the Saints 80 yards in nine plays, capped with a 9-yard TD pass to Marques Colston with 26 seconds left that made it 23-15.

Colston then recovered the onside kick when it caromed off Tate's and directly to the Saints' receiver.

Brees took over at his 41 with 24 seconds left and Jimmy Graham caught his first pass of the game on an 8-yard completion. Brees spiked the ball to stop the clock, then found Colston near the sideline. Instead of stepping out of bounds, Colston tried to throw across the field to Darren Sproles. It was an illegal forward pass and the penalty ran off the final 10 seconds of the clock giving Seattle the victory.

Seattle's defense also made Graham invisible for the second time this season. He had just three receptions in the first meeting in December and was even less of an option on Saturday.

"We're not scared of him," Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman said. "We have to deal with him but he has to deal with us."

Graham's lack of production was just part of the Saints struggles, especially in the first half. New Orleans was shut out in the first half for the third time in Sean Payton's tenure as head coach and first since 2011. Brees was held to 34 yards passing in the half.

There was also Mark Ingram's costly fumble on the first play of the second quarter that was forced and recovered by Michael Bennett. Two plays later, Lynch danced in for his first touchdown and the Seahawks had a 13-0 lead.

"It's my responsibility to take care of the football," Ingram said. "I lost it in a critical moment and they scored a touchdown off of it. That was huge."

Game notes

Colston finished with 11 receptions for 144 yards for the Saints. ... Wilson's previous low for yards passing was 108 against Arizona in Week 16. ... Saints K Shayne Graham missed field goal attempts of 45 and 48 yards both wide left into the wind. ... This will be Seattle's third championship game appearance overall, also playing in one AFC title game.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

1st Downs2513
Passing 1st downs
Rushing 1st downs
1st downs from penalties
3rd down efficiency
4th down efficiency
Total Plays7056
Total Yards409277
Yards per play5.84.9
Total Drives1311
Yards per pass
Interceptions thrown
Sacks-Yards Lost
Rushing Attempts
Yards per rush
Red Zone (Made-Att)2-21-2
Fumbles lost
Interceptions thrown
Defensive / Special Teams TDs00

Passing Leaders


Rushing Leaders


Receiving Leaders


Scoring Summary

seaFG10:24Steven Hauschka 38 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 6 plays, 20 yds, 3:20
seaFG0:42Steven Hauschka 49 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 9 plays, 34 yds, 4:26
seaTD14:23Marshawn Lynch 15 Yard Run (Steven Hauschka Kick is Good)
Drive info: 2 plays, 24 yds, 0:34
seaFG1:22Steven Hauschka 26 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 12 plays, 63 yds, 4:44
noTD13:14Khiry Robinson 1 Yard Run (Mark Ingram Run For Two-Point Conversion is Good)
Drive info: 9 plays, 74 yds, 4:27
seaTD2:48Marshawn Lynch 31 Yard Run (Steven Hauschka Kick is Good)
Drive info: 4 plays, 62 yds, 1:11
noTD0:32Marques Colston 9 Yard Pass From Drew Brees (Shayne Graham Kick is Good)
Drive info: 9 plays, 80 yds, 2:14

Research Notes

Russell Wilson was better able to cope with the poor weather conditions in the first half Sunday, going 6-of-8 on passes thrown beyond the line of scrimmage. Drew Brees struggled on those throws, going 2-of-8, including 1-of-7 to his wide receivers and tight ends.
The Saints ran six screen passes Saturday, gaining positive yards on only one of those plays. Drew Brees was 3-of-6 for 6 yards on those passes, including two drops and no first downs. The Saints led the league in screen pass completions to running backs during the regular season with 59, 14 more than any other team.
Russell Wilson finished 9-of-18 for a career-low 103 yards, and averaged a career-low 4.0 yards per attempt against four or fewer pass rushers. Wilson completed fewer than half of his attempts against standard pressure (6-of-13) for the fifth time in his career.
Marshawn Lynch ran for a Seahawks franchise playoff record 140 yards, and accounted for both touchdowns in the win. Lynch ran over the Saints in their last playoff meeting for 131 yards, including 102 after contact.
Marques Colston caught 1-of-4 targets for 9 yards in the first half, but caught 10-of-12 targets for 135 yards and a touchdown after halftime. Colston's 135 yards and 10 catches in the second half are both career highs.
Marshawn Lynch had 28 rushes for 140 yards and two touchdowns Saturday, including 66 yards after contact. Lynch had 45 rush yards total in Seattle's Week 13 meeting against the Saints. The Seahawks rushed for 118 of their 174 yards between the tackles, the most allowed by the Saints defense in a game this season. Lynch's success rushing didn't open up the play-action game for Russell Wilson. Wilson finished the game 0-for-5 on play-action attempts.
Drew Brees was 1-for-6 for 8 yards targeting Jimmy Graham. As of the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter, Brees was 0-for-4 targeting Graham and all four attempts were broken up by Seahawks defenders. Seattle has figured out how to shut down Jimmy Graham- the Seahawks held Brees to 4-of-15 for 50 yards targeting Graham in the two meetings this season.
Russell Wilson and Tom Brady were the starting quarterbacks in their team's playoff wins on Saturday, but you'd be hard-pressed to say they led their team to victory.
Drew Brees' completion to Marques Colston with less than one minute remaining in the first half was his first completion to a non-running back in the game.
Since the start of the 2007 season, teams to shut out their opponents in the 1st half of a playoff game are just 4-3. Those teams are just 2-3 when scoring under 20 points in the 1st half.
Updating Elias notes: * Seahawks scored in the 1st quarter for the 1st time in its last 4 postseason games * Seahawks' streak of 5 consecutive games allowing at least 10 points in the 1st quarter snapped (was longest streak in NFL postseason history)
Graham's last made FG of at least 48 yards was exactly one year ago in Houston's Divisional Playoff loss to New England last year.
Drew Brees is 1-7 for 9 yards when targeting wide receivers or tight ends. Saints TEs/WRs have dropped twice as many passes (two) as they've caught.
Saints: 0-32 in team history when shut out through 3 quarters (including playoffs)
When he's healthy, there are few other weapons in the NFL like Percy Harvin... Since Harvin joined the league in 2009, only Darren Sproles has averaged more all-purpose yards per game than the Seattle wideout... Though he's missed 22 games over the last 2 seasons, Harvin has been good for 5 receptions a contest -- and does a lot with the ball when he catches it.
After Mark Ingram's fumble that led to Seattle's first touchdown, the Seahawks have a league-best +26 turnover differential at home since the start of 2012 including the playoffs.
Drew Brees' 34 passing yards at halftime is his fewest in a Saints uniform.
The Saints held the Eagles to 256 total yards, their lowest offensive output this season in 11 games with Nick Foles as the starting QB. You could argue that this Saints defense is the best New Orleans has had since 2000. The Saints allowed 305.7 total YPG this season, the fewest they've allowed in a regular season since 2000 (296.4).
Drew Brees will be looking for some measure of redemption when the Saints visit Seattle tomorrow.... His performance in Week 13 vs the Seahawks on Monday Night Football was one of the worst of his career as a starter... His 147 Pass yards were his lowest in almost a decade, while his Total QBR of 23 was his lowest in more than 6 years.
In the first quarter, New Orleans ran on 8-of-12 plays. In the second quarter (with the wind), New Orleans ran on 7-of-15 plays, which was somewhat inflated by four straight pass plays during a failed two-minute drill.
The Saints rushed on 8-of-12 plays in the first quarter. Including last week, the Saints have rushed on 53.8 percent of plays (43-of-80) in the playoffs. In the regular season, New Orleans' 33.8 rush percentage was the fifth lowest in the league.

ESPN Stats & Information