1. Not losing perspective, this should rank as the 3rd biggest win in Seattle history behind their 34-14 NFC Championship win over the Panthers in '06 (only Super Bowl appearance) and their 27-20 Divisional Playoff win in Miami in '84 (the 'Phins were 12-4 in the '83-'84 season and won the AFC in '83, '85, and hosted the AFC Championship in '86); Seattle's lone road playoff win. Ever.
The significance of this game may not be know for years to come, but the shockwaves could be league-wide. There's always the usual chaff spewing from various talking heads about revisiting the playoff seedings, but before the Saints-Seahawks game there was a LOT more of it. The league needs 24 votes to change any rule and there are currently 18 of 32 owners in favor of reseeding. I imagine Seattle making the playoffs with a losing record had to sway one or two, at least solidify the opposition. The fact that the 'Hawks were hosting the defending Super Bowl Champs with a solid 11-5 record (as opposed to some 9-7 squeaker) - the media darling Saints, no less ("What!? You mean we aren't going to get to do a follow piece on how FOOTBALL SAVED THE CITY OF NEW ORLEANS FROM FALLING IN THE SEA?!?!?!") - sure didn't help.
A Seahawks' victory illustrates a great point, something that the NFL has always claimed to believe in - parity. The fact is Seattle is a half-constructed building, year one of Pete Carrol's reign, and had a successful year scraping together seven wins. No one ever expected that would be enough to make the playoffs, much less win the Western Division; it's not the Seahawks' fault Kurt Warner retired and the 49ers underachieved. When the Seahawks get good QB play, their offense is a bird of a different feather than one would think based on record and season stats, and yesterday Hasselbeck played the game of his life. It's these uncertainies that make sports both exciting and infuriating, but without them, sports would be fucking boring.
It hardly matters, though. At most, I figure the Seahawks' victory merely delayed it. Within ten years, probably sooner, I suspect the NFL will go to a tournament seeded by record.
2. Matt Hasselbeck's career is basically over. What he did today will re-define his career because he hasn't been capable of that in 3 years. Where it came from I have no idea, and I don't care. I became a 'Hawks fan in '02 (and lived in Washington since '96) so I've followed Hasselbeck more or less from the beginning of his time here in Seattle, and he's always been enough QB for me. A class guy, a good player, leader, tough, and willing to step up to take the blame or shoulder the load - whatever was necessary - all made up for the fact that he was never elite. Near elite. In my opinion, he was more valuable to this team in '05 than Alexander, and Matt carried the '07 Seahawks with few weapons.
Today, Matt Hasselbeck was elite, partially because the Saints had no reason to suspect that he could be. They played zone under, close to the line of scrimmage early in the game, giving Hasselbeck the deep stuff that he hasn't been able to hit in years. Only Matt was cash money, accurate with his balls deep (pun intended), and New Orleans was left feeling all the uncomfortable pressure (pun, again, intended). 'Beck finished 22 of 35 for 272 yards, 4 TDs (Seahawks' playoff and Matt's personal records), one pick that bounced out of a receiver's hands, and his 45-yard TD to Brandon Stokley in the second quarter was Matt's first 40+ yard completion in ten postseason games. All that tells you is what I saw with my eyes; it was the best game Hasselbeck ever played.
Hasselbeck is 35 years old and is not under contract next season. Given history and probability, the Seahawks' and Hasselbeck's season probably ends next weekend in Chicago or Atlanta (as probability dictated it should've yesterday against Drew Brees and the Saints), but that won't change what happened at Qwest Field yesterday. As he left the Field with his son on his shoulders to a standing ovation, it felt like the end of Matt's time in Seattle. If it is, I can't think of a better way for him to go out, for him, for the Seahawks. It was more than enough.
3. Marshawn Lynch.
Is there anything else to say? That sweet beautiful, ball-grabbing bastard will probably be a hero in this town for the rest of his natural life. Simultaneously one of the most impressive individual and team efforts I've ever seen, which pretty much sums up the game.
4. The Defense didn't play great, but to coin the phrase of a hated rival, "Just win, Baby." Seattle chose to go after Brees with a three or four-man rush most of the day. An assortment of guys rotating the middle tackle spots (Mebane, Cole, Terril), and on the edges pretty much all day was Clemmons and Brock. Brock had a sack and a forced fumble. Clemmons line? One tackle. The casual fan would read that and assume he was not a factor and would prove themselves a fucking idiot.
Brees threw for 400+ yards but there were large segments of the game where he was slowed down and made downright uncomfortable. Also this cat did throw for 4,600 yards this year and had 60 pass attempts in the game. When it was said and done, the 'Hawks held him under his yard/att average on the season, and while that ain't great, it's good enough to give a snowball a chance in Seattle.
A big part of that was that Brock and Clemmons were fantastic forcing Brees to have to move around, re-plant, or throw on the run, and he also got flagged for intentional grounding. Saints LT Jermon Bushrod should also have to register as a sex offender in the state of Washington after the way he held Clemmons for the majority of the day - but, like a famous pop star, got away with it.
Aside from that, the big thing was just the intensity of the defense; swarm tackling, hustle, and throwing their bodies around like college players. Guys like Kelly Jennings throwing themselves at a receiver to set up a fourth down like he isn't the light-in-the-ass cover corner that he is. Also, part of the Saints' success has to be attributed to having the damn ball so much; Seattle's offense was largely feast or famine most of the day, never really grinding any clock.
5. Qwest Advantage. The 'Hawks have now won five straight post-season games at Qwest Field.