Saints v Seahawks
Many NFL fans clearly remember the last time these 2 teams met. It would have been more appropriate if it occurred on Halloween as the Seahawks terrorized the Saints, 34-7. Even the bravest of the analysts out there were afraid to pick New Orleans against that defense despite Future Hall of Fame QB Drew Brees’ presence at the helm. But what was labelled fear before may have been good survival instinct as Seattle moves on to Conference Championship Sunday with a 23-15 victory.
The Saints came out struggling in the first half as predicted thanks to multiple drives stymied with Brees completing 5/12 in the first 30 minutes limited by the rain in Seattle. The Fleur-de-Lis’s field general attempted to cope with the climate using gloves, but several passes sailed above their target nonetheless. New Orleans’ “brightest” moment in the half was a missed FG on the strength of undrafted rookie RB Khiry Robinson having the only solid performance as the main productive weapon with RB Pierre Thomas on the shelf.
The Seahawks were reasonably well contained on offense, but breaks assisted them to set up scoring chances. The first big hit of this physical contest, landed by DB Rafael Bush on WR Percy Harvin, drew a 15 yard penalty that set Seattle up for the initial of 3 first half FGs. Harvin left the game before the second half due to a concussion. The only TD in the primary half was scored by RB Marshawn Lynch on a series begun with favourable field position on a fumble let lose by the Saints’ RB Mark Ingram.
With the score 16-0, the second half brought a back and forth 3rd quarter, but as the rain receded the Saints offense returned opening the 4th quarter by concluding a drive with a TD by Robinson who finished with 57 yards on 15 carries.
Leading 16-8, the Seahawks were playing to run the clock out and secure the victory. To their surprise, Lynch brought beast mode to the party and pounded the rock to the end zone concluding a 140 yard performance on 28 carries with 2 TDs.
After the gap was widened to 23-8, the Saints fought to keep hope alive and make a miracle a possibility. With 26 seconds left, Brees threw his first and only TD pass during his 23/43 performance for 309 yards to WR Marques Colston who accounted for 11 catches for 144 yards.
Hope was further extended with a successful onside kick attempt that New Orleans recovered, but the final drive would stall on an illegal forward pass penalty running down the remaining time on the clock.
While QB Russell Wilson was only 9/18 for 103 yards, the 0 turnover count is the most important stat as it provided harmony to Lynch’s overall performance. It allowed the ‘Hawks to outlast the Saints after Ingram’s early fumble.
Colts v. Pats
I predicted 2 things early about the New England Patriots back on September 2nd, 2013. That they would make the playoffs and they would be eliminated in the first post season game they appear in once they do. That was before they were paired against QB Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts. The Patriots have suffered injuries on defense that weakened both their passing attack and their running defense, making them particularly vulnerable to teams with a solid secondary and a good running offense. The Colts can boast neither of these as evidenced by LaGarrette Blount’s 24 carries for 166 yards and 4 TDs (2nd most in postseason history). That’s why Indy’s Luck ran out in the 49-22 loss.
On the opening drive, the Colts began digging the hole early as Luck turned in an INT on his second throw of the night. After handing the Patriots an easy 7 points via Blount scoring his first of 3 opening half TDs, he Pats doubled up their score on the following drive where he concluded a smoking of the Colts defense on a 5:03 drive.
After a TD trade between Indy’s WR Lavon Brazill and Blount, the Pats committed their first and only turnover of the night when the ball was snapped over the head of P Ryan Allen from their own 44. While attempting to corral the loose ball, Ryan fumbled it it was batted out of the back of the endzone by the Colts for a safety that cut into New England’s lead now at 21-12. With the free kick, Luck now had an opportunity to bring Indianapolis within a single score going into halftime that fizzled with his second INT.
Opening the 3rd quarter, Indy scored a FG that was followed by another trading of TDs between Brazzil and New England’s RB Stevan Ridley who posted 52 yards with 14 carries for 2 scores leaving New England’s lead at 29-22.
Quarter 4 started as the beginning of the end for the Colts as Blount lit up the joint with a 73 yard rumble extending the lead to 14.
Luck found himself at the beginning a drive with 12:55 left in the game trying to reprise his role as the Comeback Commander. Unfortunately, in throwing 2 more INTs in the final period, Andrew Luck’s 20/41 gaining 331 yards and posting 2 TDs was dwarfed by his evening’s 4 INTs.
Surprisingly, QB Tom Brady had a quieter night where he threw a clean game on his
13/25 for 198 passing yards that seemed to only balance their running game the put up 6 total TDs.
It’s not that the Colts couldn’t move the ball with WR T.Y. Hilton reeling in 4 catches and 103 yards and Brazill’s 2 catches with 73 yards and 2 TDs. But that many turnovers is extremely difficult to overcome as the Colts are now 1-2 in the playoffs for the past 2 seasons.
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