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This Week in Defense: A flashback to 2010, Saints at Seahawks in the Wildcard Round

Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

The Narrative

The Seahawks, in Pete Carroll's first season, had been up and down all year heading into this Wildcard Playoff game.

After a strong 4-2 start, Seattle had dropped seven of their last ten contests to finish the season at 7-9. None of the losses were real blow-out laughers, but after barely squeezing by the St. Louis (now LA)Rams, The Seahawks found themselves as the team that was easy to pick against, especially with the defending champion Saints' high powered offense.

The feature pieces on that team were quarterback Drew Brees, running back Reggie Bush, and receiver Marques Colston -- with an aged Jeremy Shockey at tight end.

That's a formidable group, and easy to pick vs Seattle's talent thin defense featuring a rookie Earl Thomas at free safety, the likes of Kelly Jennings at corner, and a chaotic battering ram, second year future draft bust Aaron Curry at linebacker.

In fact the Starting defense goes as follows:

FS Earl Thomas
SS Lawyer Milloy
CB 1 Marcus Trufant
CB 2 Kelly Jennings
OLB Aaron Curry
MLB Lofa Tatupu
OLB David Hawthorne
RDE: Chris Clemons
DT Brandon Mebane
DT Collin Cole
LDE Raheem Brock

In nickel:

CB3: Jordan Babineaux
Nickel LB: Will Herring
Dime: Kam Chancellor

So with the army laid out, let's get started with one of the signature wins of Pete Carroll.

[First Quarter 11:55 3rd and 2: Drew Brees pass incomplete intended for Reggie Bush - Lofa Tatupu and Earl Thomas defending]

The defense was not helped at the start of the drive by Olindo Mare kicking the ball out of bounds, which gave the Saints great field position. A subsequent big completion to Colston for 30 yards resulted from a Kelly Jennings "missed tackle," and New Orleans ran a screen to Julius Jones, who gained 8 yards. This set up this 3rd and 2.

This play is an interesting one. The defensive set makes me wonder a bit, as it's 3rd and short in the red zone. This is a nice look for the Saints as Seattle goes with its pass rush package in nickel. This means Aaron Curry is down as a 3-tech at the line of scrimmage and Will Herring and Lofa Tatupu are the only linebackers. Up to this point, New Orleans had run one time for 1 yard. Otherwise it's been quick passes against early blitz calls from Pete Carroll and Gus Bradley.

At the snap, Aaron Curry actually forces a double team and Raheem Brock attempts a twist from his right end spot. Everyone gets covered up nicely as the Saints run a short route concept. Chris Clemons forces Brees to step up into the pocket with a nice rush. A little quick tug from the left tackle will save a sack.

Once the initial play is dead, Brees scrambles to his left, Reggie Bush--who had sat himself down just beyond the sticks-- shakes loose from Lofa Tatupu to make himself an available target for Brees. However, Brees' throw is weak and Bush, I think, expects contact as he sort of attempts to grab the ball and turn away from contact.

Earl Thomas comes down and finishes the cleanup on Bush's bobble. The redzone stop forces a field goal.

[First Quarter 7:51 3rd and 8: Drew Brees screen pass to Reggie Bush for 10 yards tackled by Earl Thomas.]

The early work by the Saints with screens and short passes is perfect versus the multiple front and pressure looks from Seattle. A single back split off of Brees spreads out the Seahawks, who actually only bring three on this 3rd and 8. This is atypical of how Pete and Gus like to call things on a 3rd and 7+, or the "fun" down, as Pete calls it.

The Saints run a bunch formation one way and the screen goes the other as Earl Thomas streaks across the field to stop a much bigger gain. I believe he sounded like a Whistling Pete as he built up speed. The chess match between Sean Payton and Gus Bradley making calls is actually kinda cool.

Raheem Brock gets a tremendous jump on the snap and almost sacks Brees before he can dump it to Reggie here.

[Second Quarter 13:42 3rd and 4: Touchdown Julius Jones]

This drive is domination by the Saints, as they start to take advantage of Seattle's limited depth and rookie safety Earl Thomas. He's not the only one lost in the secondary, as Aaron Curry turned Jeremy Shockey loose for a big gain earlier in the drive and neither Tatupu nor Lawyer Milloy picked him up.

This draw run for a touchdown is just the topper on a bad series with three mistakes and a miss by Brees.The Seahawks' pants were down defensively on this play, as no one had a shot to stop Julius on the delay draw.

[Second Quarter 9:01 1st and 10: Run by Julius Jones. Fumble forced by Raheem Brock, recovered by David Hawthorne]

Seattle forced a punt on the Saints' previous drive -- the first punt of the day for either team. Seattle's offense squandered the chance by following up with their own 3 and out. However, this play is a one and done for the Saints as they continue to try and run with Julius Jones and Reggie Bush, with an Pierre Thomas on the sideline.

Jones is not very good. His vision is always terrible, but what's worse about this was he had a lane and lost the ball when Raheem Brock slapped at it through Jones' empty arm. Brock still got a good punch at the front of the football, which is away from Jones' body. We paid this guy actual money to replace an NFL MVP. Yeah, I'm still bitter.

[Second Quarter 5:37 3rd and 5: Drew Brees sacked by Raheem Brock for -8 yards.]

I spotlighted this play because New Orleans has had, up to this point, survived Seattle's edge pass rush with Clemons and Brock. This time the pressure isn't instant, but it gets home as Brock puts on a spin move against the sliding Jon Stinchcomb, who is trying to reassert against Brock's speed rush that has beaten him at least four other times. This time he gets beat inside, and it's so sexy I watched it a few times. Another Saints possession screeches to a halt.

Side Note: Did you know that Raheem Brock is the son of former Seattle Seahawk Zach Dixon, who also played for the Colts before being picked up by the Seahawks? Small weird world of NFL football.

[Second Quarter 1:10 1st and 10: Drew Brees pass up the seam to Henderson for 40 yards. Tackled by Marcus Trufant.]

A big play that's all about attention to detail. In this case it's situation.

The Seahawks--including Earl Thomas--get sucked up on the shorter routes in this dime package. This leaves Marcus Trufant all alone with no inside help and clearly expecting it, as he allows Devery Henderson to go to the seam. Pete would say something about situation.

Two minutes, a spread offense, this play should never happen.

This one is probably on Kam Chancellor .The Saints ran a lot of short patterns in this game, and he started to guess and try to jump things. This looks like one of those plays. The end result of the drive is a field goal, which sort of dulls the momentum Seattle built up. You just don't give Brees a deep shot up the seam.

[Third Quarter 9:57 3rd and 16: Drew Brees pass incomplete intended for Lance Moore, defended by Earl Thomas ]

The Saints try an up-tempo drive, but another great rush by Raheem Brock puts Brees on the ground as he's attempting a pass. Brees falls to channel Kenny Stabler's "Holy Roller" unfortunately, and can't get the ball to the line of scrimmage, which leaves Seattle with a fun down.

Brees attempts to hold the ball a bit because of the long distance to go, but this time Clemons manages to dip under his man with a spin move. Clemons comes completely unblocked, forcing Brees to move and throw.

Lance Moore actually has a good chance to catch this pass. I should say--he did have a chance, before Earl Thomas came up with a hard tackle to the back--which jars the ball loose for an incomplete pass.

Earl really is bi-polar in this game. Too aggressive at times and then right on the money for others. It's a game of extremes.

[Third Quarter 4:01 4th and inches: Run by Julius Jones for -1 yard. Tackled by Lofa Tatupu]

This game wouldn't be complete if I failed to mention Brandon Mebane. He absolutely stones his man and then gets underneath him almost 3 yards into the backfield. There's nothing else to be said here. It's 2010 Mebane. The best run defender by every metric Pro Football Focus could pull out of its ass.

[Fourth Quarter 10:00 3rd and 3: Drew Brees Pass to Lance Moore for 1 yard. Tackled By Raheem Brock and Aaron Curry]

Seattle's defense sniffs this out. Even Aaron Curry recognizes it quickly enough to get involved on this quick screen to Moore.

Seattle needed this stop, as the Saints had their most successful drive of the second half the previous drive. Great recognition all around.

Raheem Brock must have had some kind of super pregame meal because he's just all in and all on with rushes and run game stops. I think if Sean Payton could have had it to do over he'd have punted on the 4th and inches previous and gone for it here in the red zone.

[Fourth Quarter 4:34 3rd and 8: Drew Brees Pass intended for Colston, broken up by Kam Chancellor.]

Considering how often the Saints ran successful screens or running back dump-off passes, it was interesting to see the Saints elect here instead to try and scheme space for Colston.

The Saints had found themselves spinning their wheels just a bit with a illegal block in the back, which pinned them inside the five to start. They got out of jail a bit with the dumpoff to Jones, but after that followed with a false start. Kam broke up the pass and ended the drive.

This is only the second time I've seen the dime package with Chancellor. I think this may have been necessary as Lofa Tatupu was knocked out of the game when he tackled Julius Jones.

Overview of the game

This game was just so up and down.

The defense had its moments--especially in the second quarter and into the second half. Pete and Gus blitzed early when they felt they may have been out-matched, so that put guys like Kelly Jennings (dry heave) and Marcus Trufant in some one-on-one spots early.

The most interesting thing I took away from this game is how flipped it would be three years later. Seattle gains a bunch of team speed, while on the other side New Orleans just kept aging and aging.

Seattle had no real answer to passes to the running back, especially with how limited their linebacker corps was, speed-wise and instinct-wise. It seemed every major 3rd down that was converted was gained by throws or screens to the running backs.

Perhaps this was because the Seahawks felt they needed to help Earl Thomas and company by playing deeper, cutting off some intermediate throws. Whatever the reason, this game makes me love guys like Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright so much now.

Game Ball

Raheem Brock.

Chris Clemons was still pretty raw here, and while he did have several great rushes, Brock gets the nod for most impactful performance. Key run stops, tackles in the red zone, a forced fumble and sacks to boot? I can't think of anyone more worthy.

Needs work:

Pete: I got a need...

Pete and John: The need for speed!

Author's note:

Change it is a comin' and before it's here I just wanted one last chance to write one of these. Whatever the future holds for Danny, I know he'll do great. I just wanted to annoy him with this piece and 6000 tweets about how something is in the queue for him. If you haven't already, please thank him. He's kept this community together through the highs of Super Bowls and the lows of Percy Harvin destroying my life by forcing Golden Tate to move on.