After its road woes during the regular season (3-5 away from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome), the Saints shot down high-flying Philadelphia Eagles at the Lincoln Financial Field last week in the Wild Card Round. It was the first road playoff victory in franchise history.
New Orleans was able to secure a two point victory against the Eagles because of its effective running game. Mark Ingram rushed for 97 yards and one touchdown on 18 carries. The team finished with 185 rushing yards on 36 carries.
However, they’ll go up against the seventh best rush defense during the regular season. In 16 games, the Seahawks gave up 101.6 rushing yards per game, four rushing touchdowns–best in the league‒and forced seven rushing fumbles.
Drew Brees–one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history‒has struggled on the road this season. In 2013, the 34-year-old completed 73.6 percent of his passes for 2,835 yards, 27 touchdowns and three interceptions at home; however, he completed 64 percent of his passes for 2,327 yards, 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions on the road.
Saturday’s clash will be Brees’ second outing against the best defense in the NFL. In week 13, Pete Carroll’s defense was all over the Saints in a 34-7 Seahawks victory. Brees was mediocre all game. New Orleans was limited to 12 first downs, 188 total yards (Brees had 147 of those yards) and one touchdown.
Sean Payton will be looking to his defense to duplicate last week’s performance. New Orleans defense tamed Philadelphia’s offensive weapons. LeSean McCoy–best running back during the regular season‒was limited to 77 rushing yards and he caught four passes for 15 yards. None of Philadelphia’s big-play receivers could lose their defenders.
With a stingy secondary, New Orleans has a chance of slowing down versatile quarterback, Russell Wilson. But they’ll have to come up with a plan to subside Marshawn Lynch’s production.
In order to keep the boisterous crowd at CenturyLink Field quiet, Payton will rely on his defense to stop Marshawn Lynch and Seattle's offense.
New Orleans Saints:
Darren Sproles: Because Seattle’s defense knows how to pressure a quarterback, Sproles will have free himself up for screen passes.
Jimmy Graham: Arguably the best tight end in the league, Graham will have to keep Seattle’s linebackers and safeties busy.
Defensive line: They are the first line of defense against Marshawn Lynch, if they can slow him down it might affect Wilson’s efficiency.
Marshawn Lynch: If he can get his running game going early, it’ll make it easier for Wilson to control the game.
Bobby Wagner: He had 72 tackles and 5 sacks during the regular season. If he can disrupt New Orleans’ running game, Brees will be forced to throw.
Percy Harvin: His return could be the biggest game-changer. He is one of the most dynamic players in the league. If Pete Carroll calls the right plays, Harvin could terrorize Payton’s defense.
Seahawks win 27-13