There are two unequal parts to this game. There is the first part, in which Seattle more or less crushed New Orleans for 57 minutes. And then there’s the second part, in which New Orleans nearly came back from a 15-point deficit in the final three minutes of regulation to tie the game and force overtime.
Part One: In which the Seahawks are gonna win forever, win forever, win forever
Michael Bennett was a super-sub in 2013, only starting 3 games but playing in 57% of all defensive snaps. His versatility allowed Seattle to knit tiny wrinkles into otherwise common formations and personnel groupings.
2ND & 6 AT NO 24(15:00)
(15:00) (Shotgun) M.Ingram up the middle to NO 24 for no gain (M.Bennett). FUMBLES (M.Bennett), RECOVERED by SEA-M.Bennett at NO 24. M.Bennett to NO 24 for no gain (J.Evans).
Strategically, this does not look favorable to Seattle. The Seahawks stay in a Cover 3 look, and that creates odd mismatches in coverage. From top to bottom we have: Richard Sherman indirectly covering Jimmy Graham, Kam Chancellor defending Marques Colston shallow with deep help from Earl Thomas, Walter Thurmond III covering Lance Moore in the slot, and Byron Maxwell covering speedster Kenny Stills wide.
Bennett is lined up at left defensive tackle. Well, sorta. Cliff Avril is in a two-point stance playing a kind of end/rush linebacker role to his left. He doesn’t look incredibly comfortable in the role, and he doesn’t really do more than constrict the hole and force Mark Ingram toward the middle, but that’s enough. Bennett then is playing big end or a small tackle, depending on how you’d like to interpret that.
It’s ballsy to go to a sub-package line on second and six. It invites a run. And if New Orleans runs, Seattle is likely left to minimize harm.
Well, begin damage control Seahawks. Saints run it.
Bennett and Clinton McDonald are both double teamed. McDonald, seen below behind center Brian de la Puenta (60), is still mostly locked up. That’s allowed Ben Grubbs (66) to pull out and begin squaring up Bobby Wagner.
Legendary figure of the 2013 season Malcolm Smith draws Zach Strief freeing Bennett from the double team. He’s left one-on-one against Jahri Evans. In a flash he frees himself.
Bennett lands a shoulder tackle on Ingram, and the nature of the blow manages to both free the ball and impart backspin, causing the loose ball to bounce back up into Bennett’s arms.
The 2013 Seahawks allowed for mismatches to stay true to their scheme. It took incredible individual performances for that to work. Considered on its own, this is a great play by Bennett. But for an end to kick inside and face off against a double team comprised of a quality right tackle and an All-Pro right guard, and for that end to not only split the double team and disrupt the run lane, but also to fully disengage from Evans, force a fumble and recover that fumble, is unreal. It’s truly one of the great all-time individual plays in Seahawks history.
2ND & 1 AT NO 15(14:23)
(14:23) (Shotgun) M.Lynch up the middle for 15 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
“You know a lot of us out here only see the 580 and the 880
we just get trapped in our minds and just keep us here
some of the few are able to expand that open up our range
and come back here and tell little dudes and little girls
there’s more than just the 580 and the 880 so don’t get content here.” Marshawn Lynch on growing up in North Oakland.
3RD & 9 AT SEA 34(10:43)
(10:43) (Shotgun) D.Brees sacked at SEA 44 for -10 yards (sack split by M.Bennett and C.Avril). FUMBLES (M.Bennett) [M.Bennett], recovered by NO-J.Evans at SEA 42. J.Evans to SEA 42 for no gain (M.Bennett).
Avril, at left defensive end, and Bennett, at left defensive tackle, get a freakishly quick start off the snap.
That leads to this. Which, what is there to say? Man do I miss this team.
1ST & 10 AT NO 31(02:48)
(2:48) M.Lynch left end for 31 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
The 2013 Seahawks really knew how to wall off defensive ends and outside linebackers to create outside rushing lanes.
The score puts Seattle up 23-8 with 2:40 seconds left in regulation.
Part Two: In which Pete Carroll teams have never been noted for their discipline
4TH & 6 AT SEA 9(00:32)
(:32) (No Huddle, Shotgun) D.Brees pass short right to M.Colston for 9 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
Any incomplete pass or any reception downed short of the three will end the game. Intercepting the pass has no special value, except to the individual intercepting the pass.
Earl Thomas is the deep safety manning the goal line by the right hash mark. He chases a hunch. Which leads to this.
The two receivers, one DB defense though impressively brave has never been known for its effectiveness.
At the beginning of this play, the Saints’ win probability was a Twiggy 0.3%. It would soon swell to the capacious curves of a Kate Moss.
(Onside Kick formation) S.Graham kicks onside 6 yards from NO 35 to NO 41, impetus ends at NO 42. RECOVERED by NO-M.Colston.
Cosmic perfection often looks like a complete mess terrestrially, I guess.
From down 15 with 32 seconds to play, an all but unwinnable position, the Saints were now down only eight and with the ball. I don’t hardly believe it myself, but New Orleans’ resulting win probability was a mere 2.1%. It felt like it was something more in the region of say 100%.
Two plays later, Colston attempted an illegal forward pass ending the game. He could have easily stepped out of bounds and given the Saints eight seconds to work with from Seattle’s 49. Thank goodness momentum is fictitious and clutch only lasts until the next play.
You say YOLO. I say amor fati. Either way, that’s a helluva enthusiastic way of eliminating your team from the playoffs, Mr Colston. Kudos.
Seahawks win. Seahawks win. Seahawks win ugly, but Seahawks win and advance.
Next time: The NFC Championship Game, Part 1