After screaming out to a 34-20 lead, the Seahawks offense began to sputter and stall. With 3:51 left in the third, it drove two yards in three plays, took a delay of game penalty and punted after netting negative three yards. The Saints drove 87 yards and scored a touchdown to pull within seven. With 13:11 left in the fourth quarter, Matt Hasselbeck threw three consecutive incomplete passes and the Seahawks punted. Jon Ryan punted short and Lance Moore returned it to the New Orleans 44. A long screen pass and a little dink and dunk later, the Saints kicked a gimme field goal from the Seahawks three to pull within four.
It was now 34-30. The Seahawks were crumbling. New Orleans needed a touchdown to pull ahead, probably for good. Seattle netted ten yards on their next possession but pinned New Orleans at their six. 5:36 remained in the game. Long enough for a touchdown scoring drive. Long enough for the Saints to methodically drive down the field, score, put themselves up three and with little or no time left on the clock.
The Seahawks season, 7-9, substantial draft position, Pete Carroll's first season and maybe Matt Hasselbeck's last, depended on Seattle stopping the Saints and then somehow, someway controlling the clock and holding on. Somehow constructing the drive that had eluded them for almost a quarter. Someway stopping a Saints offense that everyone in America knew was better, that was averaging 70 yards over its last two drives, that was destined for come from behind glory.
4-14-SEA 39 (5:52) 9-J.Ryan punts 52 yards to NO 9, Center-49-C.Gresham. 16-L.Moore to NO 12 for 3 yards (26-M.Robinson; 59-A.Curry).
Jon Ryan doubles over fielding a low snap. The Saints have committed only five to pressuring the punter, and the Seahawks eight man front is controlling the boundaries, keeping Ryan clean and uncontested. The force of his swinging leg sends him hopping forward and the pigskin explodes off his foot. The punt is high and deep and drives Moore from the 14 to the 10. He staggers back, catches and attempts to negotiate the coming wave of Blue.
Dexter Davis leads the charge. He's cleared left by Ramon Humber. Behind him is Aaron Curry and Michael Robinson. They bracket and contain Moore. Anthony Waters attempts to clear Curry by blocking him from behind, but Curry shrugs Waters off and closes on Moore. Robinson and Curry tackle Moore after a gain of three.
Curry stands up and jaws with Waters. Flags fly. The officials assess two penalties: block in the back and illegal block above the waist. The illegal block by Waters pins New Orleans at their own six.
1-10-NO 6 (5:36) 9-D.Brees pass short middle to 21-J.Jones to NO 17 for 11 yards (51-L.Tatupu; 57-D.Hawthorne).
Brandon Mebane forces back a center-guard double team. At his side, Chris Clemons works over Jermon Bushrod, forcing him back with an edge rush and then cutting in and nearly sacking Drew Brees at the cusp of the end zone. Brees finds Julius Jones free out of the back field. Jones is wide open. He jumps, catches, redirects and negotiates three Seahawks defenders before lowering his helmet and concussing Lofa Tatupu. Tats recoils like an upended turtle. Jones wearily curls to his feet. Both players sub out.
Heater moves to middle. Herring fills for Hawthorne. Wynn takes over in the Saints backfield.
Raheem Brock stands up, crosses the neutral zone and points, points, points: false start.
1-10-NO 17 (5:04) PENALTY on NO-78-J.Stinchcomb, False Start, 5 yards, enforced at NO 17 - No Play.
And Qwest roars.
1-15-NO 12 (4:46) (Shotgun) 9-D.Brees pass incomplete short middle to 19-D.Henderson.
Clemons spins through Bushrod. He's three yards from Brees and closing. Brees shifts his weight to his back foot, plants and fires. The pass zips past Clemons' outstretched arm.
From wide right, Devery Henderson runs 15 yards then plants and runs a dig. His pattern traces the first down line. His pattern has an unhappy ending. David Hawthorne closes on Henderson, threatens to crush Henderson if he continues his route and receives, but Henderson doesn't continue. He slides and attempts to secure Brees's pass. It clangs between his hands and ricochets off the turf, incomplete.
2-15-NO 12 (4:41) (Shotgun) 9-D.Brees pass short right to 44-H.Evans pushed ob at NO 19 for 7 yards (59-A.Curry).
Heath Evans runs a corner route. Brees badly wants to pass to anyone else. Evans is wide open in the right flat. Brees looks left, looks middle, looks right, looks right and passes to Evans.
Evans catches, redirects, cuts in and slows. Curry has him contained. Hawthorne, Earl Thomas and Marcus Trufant are closing. Raheem Brock is pursuing from the back side. Evans breaks towards the right sideline and is forced out after seven.
Third and long.
Saints call their second timeout to avoid a delay of game penalty.
3-8-NO 19 (4:34) (Shotgun) 9-D.Brees pass incomplete short right to 12-M.Colston (31-K.Chancellor). Penalty on NO-78-J.Stinchcomb, Offensive Holding, declined.
Seahawks rush three. Mebane torques and bulls and forces Nicks and Goodwin backwards. Clemons rolls through Bushrod and separates from the interior. Brock destroys Jonathan Stinchcomb. He explodes off the snap, reaches Stinchcomb's right shoulder, races past, forces a desperation hold, runs through and with Stinchcomb draped on his back and shoulder like a cape, closes to within touching Brees. Brees scrambles forward, is forced to cut left to avoid Clemons, resets with Brock at his feet and passes into double coverage towards Marques Colston.
Babineaux is beat. Kam Chancellor jumps the route and tips it away, incomplete.
And Qwest Roars.
Thomas Moorestead kicks it high and short and Leon Washington signals fair catch.
Seattle takes the ball with 4:20 left in the fourth. Qwest settles from a "Sea! Hawks!" chant. Qwest quiets.
1-10-SEA 33 (4:20) 24-M.Lynch right tackle to SEA 33 for no gain (56-J.Dunbar, 96-A.Brown).
Seattle runs from an offset-I right. It stretches right. Toward Robinson, now down, now downed by Roman Harper and at Lynch's feet. Toward Gibson. Toward Alex Brown slicing through Mike Gibson. Toward Locklear. Toward Jo-Lonn Dunbar spinning through Sean Locklear and tackling Marshawn Lynch in the backfield. The Seahawks stretch right from an offset I into second and ten. Second and long.
Qwest quiets. The brassy sound of the play-by-play announcer can be heard. Lynch rolls to his feet, grabs his helmet from off the turf and straps it back on.
Mike Mayock says: "Hasselbeck is probably going to have to take a shot down field sometime in this series to get the first down."
Matt Hasselbeck will not take that shot. The Seahawks will not get that first down.
2-10-SEA 33 (3:38) 24-M.Lynch right tackle for 67 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
Hasselbeck kicks out his right leg. Ben Obomanu motions to outside John Carlson's left shoulder.
Hasselbeck turns right and hands off to Lynch. Obo ties up Harper. Dunbar knocks Carlson back. Carlson regains himself, begins desperately torquing and twisting his body, little by little fighting Dunbar back. There is no hole. There is a confusion of players and two Seahawks approaching. Gibson pulls from right guard and flanks Dunbar, completing the block. Lynch approaches, slowly, patiently; zigging left, then right, then behind Carlson--who has turned and controlled Dunbar; behind Okung, who has muscled Will Smith two yards right and set the edge; and behind Robinson, who has anticipated the hole, hit it and popped and turned Jonathan Vilma.
Lynch plants and cuts through the hole and straight up field. Scott Shanle is the first to hit him. Lynch lowers his shoulder, stands Shanle up, cuts right, into Sedrick Ellis and through Ellis and Shanle. He weaves back behind Carlson, to the right toward Chris Spencer. Spencer pops Harper and springs Lynch. Spencer pops Harper and tears open a lane into the open field.
Lynch drives up field, through arm tackles by Harper and Remi Ayodele, stumbles, is caught from behind by Jabari Greer, sheds him like a stanky pair of drawers; twists and cuts hard right, toward the sideline, away from Tracy Porter, one man to beat to the end zone.
Porter closes. He pushes his chest against Lynch's forearm and grabs at his back. Lynch lowers his head, flattens his free hand against Porter's left shoulder pad, throws his hips open and pushes Porter to the turf. Porter rolls away. Lynch regains himself. He runs through an Alex Brown ankle tackle, up the right sideline, wends back toward midfield, hop steps over Harper, swings his right leg into the end zone and leaps and twists and presses the football against his helmet like a boom box and grabs at his crotch and takes off from Qwest field and lands in Seahawks history.
AND QWEST ROARS.