Here's a top 20 list of why this game was frighteningly awesome.
20. Seattle is still in first place in the NFC West
A win would have given Seattle some separation, but the loss doesn't knock Seattle back. The Rams, Cardinals and 49ers lost. The Rams are the Seahawks major competition for the title. This was a likely loss for both teams from the outset, and both teams lost. No big deal. The Seahawks are still favored to win the NFC West.
19. The run defense was back to respectable
Seattle is still playing without its starting nose tackle, Colin Cole, and starting strongside end, Red Bryant. It was walked out of the building by the New York Giants rush attack. There are few surer displays of dominance than constructing a 13 minute drive largely through your third string running back, but that's what New York did at Qwest Field in week nine.
But, still patching with Junior Siavii at nose and Kentwan Balmer at end, the run defense was respectable. It held New Orleans to five rushing first downs. Chris Ivory exploded through tons of tackles and finished with a discouraging 65% success rate, but he didn't break free. The line held ground, got push and penetration, and though linebackers weren't game to tackle Ivory on first contact, kid has some juice in his legs. He's good. This was a bad performance that was very close to a good performance, and hopefully a sign of improvement to come.
18. Earl Thomas last minute interception
It didn't impact the outcome of the game, but it wasn't a gimme either. Drew Brees made his read, placed the pass well, but Thomas worked the receiver, caught the ball and expertly tapped his toes in bounds. It was an achievement no matter the game state.
17. The Return of Brandon Mebane
Mebane created push, created pressure and finished with tackle or tackle assists of -4, 0, 1 and 3 yards.
16. More quality play by Aaron Curry
Curry committed his trademark encroachment/offside penalty, but I'll forgive a man for working on his pass rush. He's getting his timing down and the potential gain of Curry improving as a pass rusher is worth a nickel here and a nickel there. He didn't have as many big plays like last week, but took better angles, looked more aware in coverage and avoided being picked on. Curry wasn't caught looking as passes were completed in front of him over and over, and on an early outlet pass to Heath Evans, something that's haunted Curry, he showed timely reaction and laid a nice hit on the fullback.
15. Pressure from Balmer
I saw Balmer working around strong side and applying pressure on few occasions. Balmer has looked more comfortable at end each week and may eventually prove a serviceable replacement for Red--as a run stuffer and as someone that can set the edge.
14. Clean pocket
Not only did New Orleans never sack Hasselbeck, but he was rarely pressured and never officially "hit."
13. Excellence by Okung
Russell Okung didn't manage perfection -- Justin Forsett's rush for a loss was in fact a blown block by Okung that Forsett ate to avoid a planned lateral back to Hasselbeck -- but he was a nice mix of quiet without much help and powerful as a run blocker.
12. Four quarters of Okung
11. Walter Thurmond's near pick
It was an up and down game for Thurmond and more down than up. He misread routes and botched tackles, but he showed a little of his potential too. Particularly, early in the second, matched one on one against tight end Jimmy Graham, he jumped under the route, leapt high in the air and nearly snagged an interception in the end zone. The pass fell incomplete, but consider the components: tight coverage, ball skills, read and the good kind of risk taking.
10. Mike Williams
Guy is a number one receiver, minimum. His talent could make that distinction redundant.
9. Drives and time of possession
Time of possession isn't particularly essential, but it does correlate with a team that can sustain drives on offense. Seattle hasn't had that all year. It's depended on big plays, special teams and turnovers, but today, against a top ten defense, it moved the ball and managed a quality 26:15 time of possession.
No one was talking about Seattle's defense playing tired.
8. David Hawthorne interception
Heater was asked to switch from middle linebacker to weakside linebacker this season and the transition hasn't been very smooth. In the long run, and maybe even as soon as this off-season, Seattle may try and upgrade this essential position in the Pete Carroll defense. But we're not there yet, and for next few weeks, Hawthorne can compete for his job. His interception was a nice show of position, awareness and hands. He needs to show a lot more as a coverage linebacker to stick, but the pick was a small step forward.
7. Close calls breaking bad
The onside kick is perhaps the quintessential close call that broke bad. Lawyer Milloy just barely missed reestablishing himself inbound and that cost Seattle what was otherwise a perfectly executed kick by Olindo Mare and a potentially game changing recovery. But Seattle didn't recover and so they lost. But football is like that.
Look at it like this. Football doesn't generate particularly useful stats for the most part. What it does generate is a sense of dominance. When New York came to Qwest and lit up the Seahawks, no one would suggest that the game turned on a few close calls. The final score was however lopsided the Giants wanted to make it.
Seattle traveled to New Orleans and came within a few breaks of a close game, even maybe an upset. There were runs that were almost stuffed and passes that were almost picked, and calls that seemed 50-50 that broke the home team's way.
Seattle faced a team nearly New York's equal and on the road and played respectable football. That's big.
6. Two fumbles; Two fumbles lost
Fumbles drive fans and coaches crazy but are incredibly inconsistent play to play and game to game. Marshawn Lynch lost two fumbles and that's bad, but it doesn't mean Lynch is broken or will continue to fumble in the future. It hurt the Seahawks chances today but it shouldn't haunt Seattle going forward.
5. Ben Obomanu
What makes me excited about Obo is not that he's playing well or that he has seized the starting spot, but that he looks, agile, quick, dependable, good in space, fearless in traffic and like a legitimate NFL receiver.
Out of nowhere.
4. Chester Pitts and Stacy Andrews
I don't have particularly high hopes for either Chester Pitts or Stacy Andrews, but this was an overall quality game from the Seahawks interior blocking. There wasn't consistent interior pressure. There were holes to run through, if not a ton. It may seem minor, but when a bad unit can overcome and play like a serviceable unit, it can mean huge things going forward. In football, a team is often only as strong as their weakest link, and a couple of Seattle's worst performers showed that they can be good enough.
That goes triple for Sean Locklear.
3. The New Offense
Apart from misguided red zone roll out, Bates did a very good job of calling a game Matt could succeed in. Seattle actually out-gained New Orleans per play 7.0 to 6.9 yards.
After saying last week might be a turning point for the Seahawks offense, Seattle totaled 424 net yards offense. That's their second highest total of the season, the second 400 yard game in a row for the Seahawks, and against a very good defense playing at home. This is a hopeful sign. This could mean a lot more than one loss.
Jon Ryan only punted twice today. He had averaged 5.4 for the season. Two today. One last week. Progress.
1. Matt Hasselbeck