Sorting the Saturday Pile: Marshawn Lynch carries Seahawks to win

By Ryan Wilson | CBSSports.com

Marshawn Lynch was the Seahawks' best player Saturday. (USATSI)
Marshawn Lynch was the Seahawks' best player Saturday. (USATSI)

Recap: Seahawks 23, Saints 15

We've long beaten the "running backs are fungible" drum but we feel confident in writing that Marshawn Lynch is on the very short list of exceptions. He put the sputtering Seahawks offense on his back and still managed to run through the Saints' defense all afternoon.

Lynch had 69 yards in the first half and finished with 140, including a 31-yard fourth-quarter run that should have put the game out of reach earlier, but a late botched onside kick gave the Saints one last chance.

Turns out, that didn't matter and now the Seahawks, thanks largely to Lynch's ability to get into the end zone, are headed to the NFC Championship game.

Ah, yes, that final New Orleans drive. The game ended with Marques Colston catching a 13-yard pass along the sidelines with 11 seconds on the clock. Instead of stepping 6 inches to his right and getting out of bounds for one final play from the Seahawks' 38-yard line, Colston, to the surprise of, well, everyone, turned inside and threw the most mind-boggling forward lateral you'll ever see (via Bleacher Report).

Game over.

We can't imagine that Colston did this on his own. This seems like one of those plays that have virtually no chance of working but teams practice them once a week anyway. Whatever the explanation, the Saints are headed home after losing a game that could have had a very different outcome if the offense hadn't gotten off to such a slow start.

Lost in all the high-fiving and back-slapping over a heady Lynch effort coupled with a solid defensive performance is that quarterback Russell Wilson had another subpar game.

Through the first 12 games of the season, Wilson completed 64.9 percent of his passes for 223 yards per game, with 22 TDs and a passer rating of 108.5

In games 13-16 his completion percentage dropped to 57.8, yards per game fell to 171, with four TDs and a passer rating of 79.1.

Against the Saints, Wilson had only 38 passing yards deep into the second half before finishing 9 of 18 for 103 yards and 16 rushing yards on three carries.

Good news: Lynch, the defense and the CenturyLink crowd can more than make up for a less-than-stellar Wilson.

Possible concerns: If Seattle makes it to the Super Bowl with Wilson still struggling, they won't have the benefit of home-field advantage, a term that has been redefined by Seahawks fans.

Credit to referee Terry McAulay's crew for calling a clean game, but one no-call caught our attention (as well as some folks on Twitter)

Yep, we sure do. And we think McAulay's crew got it right Saturday.

Drew Brees needed nearly four quarters to get going, and despite trailing 16-0 after 45 minutes, he still almost rallied the Saints back. Just how bad was it? Brees' first-half line -- 5 of 12 for 34 yards -- was the worst half of his career.

Guessing punters, as a general rule about restricting flexibility and whatnot, don't wear cups. Maybe they should, at least if wind gusts exceed 20 mph.

Marshawn Lynch's dominance aside, this was the singularly best play of the game (via @MarcusD):

Sort of an anti-Colston forward lateral.

Jimmy Graham was plenty active during pregame warmups, but finished the day with only one catch for 8 yards, and that came with 21 seconds left.

Great news if you're a Seahawks fan, have to fly Sunday and love free drinks:

This happened:

No doubt reenacting the scene from Empire Strikes Back when Han stuffs Luke in a tauntaun to save his life.

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