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Seahawks impress, but Saints fail -- notably on fateful run

by | CBSSports.com National Columnist

SEATTLE -- The winning locker room was chaotic, reminiscent of a Super Bowl postgame. Spontaneous eruptions of child-like glee broke out throughout. Along with a few told-you-so's to the media. The Seahawks weren't holding back. They didn't care if the celebration was a bit much.

Two of quarterback Matt Hasselbeck's young kids played catch. Players hugged and others talked smack. "Go get your exit physical, Drew," a voice piped from a group of Seahawk defensive backs. Drew, as in Drew Brees. "We rattled him a little bit," defensive end Raheem Brock said.

This is how it went following Seattle's unbelievable, improbable, impossible 41-36 win over the Saints. Goodnight, sweet New Orleans. It was a nice run.

Inside that locker room was running back Marshawn Lynch. He was the calmest man in the room, which is strange considering it was only minutes after one of the most violent runs in NFL playoff history.

History was made on a play called "17 Power" and it came just in time. The Saints were launching a comeback, trailing 34-30 with about nine minutes left. It appeared the Saints were going to overtake Seattle. Then came Lynch.

The play initially looked like a short gain but turned into a monster run that will be talked about for years. Lynch was met near the line of scrimmage by two Saints defenders. He bounced off of them [or they him]. A third New Orleans player grabbed at Lynch's waist and bounced off as well. Lynch kept churning like an angry bull with nothing to lose and a matador within striking distance.

Defensive lineman Remi Ayodele and safety Darren Sharper next had shots and like other teammates ricocheted off, too. Ayodele weighs more than 300 pounds. Still, Lynch kept going. His feet churning. Refusing to stop.

Jabari Greer appeared to have Lynch wrapped up about 20 yards downfield but Lynch flicked him off his shoulder pads. Pesky bug, be gone.

The most embarrassing tackle attempt was by cornerback Tracy Porter. At about the 35-yard line, Lynch stiff-armed Porter into an alternate universe. Porter went flying -- literally -- about three yards into the air. It was Jim Brown all over, stiff-arming 150-pound DBs in the 1960s.

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One last Saint had a chance. Defensive end Alex Brown dived at Lynch's feet but the tailback accelerated at the right time and the burst was just enough to get past Brown.

It was a 67-yard touchdown. Game over.

Lynch broke eight tackles.


The only thing missing from the run was the theme from "Chariots of Fire." Or maybe Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds."

The lasting image from the defending Super Bowl champions' season will be Lynch stumbling forward and stiff-arming with the Saints arm-tackling and gasping.

"I saw our linemen downfield, receivers downfield, bodies on the ground," Seahawks center Chris Spencer said. "Marshawn's legs didn't stop."

"At one point my instincts took over," Lynch explained. "I just went for the end zone."

These are the Seattle 7-9ers. Make fun of them, doubt them, mock them at your peril. That's what the Saints seemed to do -– not taking them seriously -- and now Seattle is moving on and New Orleans is going home.

"It's a whole new season," Seahawks corner Kelly Jennings said. "We believe. Why not us?"

CBSSports.com Grades
New Orleans Saints
New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees was, well, Drew Brees, but without a credible run game and a terrible defensive effort, the Saints couldn’t do enough to beat a 7-9 team. Plenty of questionable coaching decisions as well such as going for it on fourth-and-inches in their own territory. Up 10-0, the Saints had a chance to bury the Seahawks, but instead they allowed an inferior team to rally.
Seattle Seahawks
Seattle Seahawks
Matt Hasselbeck was spectacular with four TD passes, Marshawn Lynch iced the game with one of the best TD runs you’ll ever see, and the defense, after getting torched early, came up with some big stops when the Seahawks needed it. A lot of credit goes to the coverage units as well, which constantly pinned the Saints inside their own 20 all day.
By John Boyle
RapidReports Correspondent

Hell, why not?

The 7-9ers, the Redeemers, the Fight of the Condors.

Entering this game, few believed the 7-9ers could win it and there was little reason to. For much of the season, the Seahawks were putrid. Their division was a cosmic joke, they were the first sub-.500 division winner in league history, barely beating an even more abysmal St. Louis team for the NFC West crown.

Still, their dismantling of the defending Super Bowl champions was impressive and Seattle has every right to laugh in the faces of its critics. So go ahead, Seahawks, yuck it up like the angry birds you are.

As impressive as Seattle was, the Saints were just as unimpressive. New Orleans allowed the 31st-ranked running attack to butcher them for long runs. Pete Carroll outcoached Sean Payton. Hasselbeck out Brees-ed Drew Brees with precision-guided munitions and a 113 passer rating.

There will be a great deal of revisionism over the next 24 hours. People will say they knew the Seahawks had a chance. They'll say they thought this game would be close. But few believed that going in. The 11-point spread was the biggest home underdog chasm in playoff history and despite the fact New Orleans was hurt at the running back position, they still had a remarkable overall personnel advantage.

No way should the Saints have lost this game. No way in hell.

There's only one way to say this. Payton failed miserably in this spot as a head coach. The Saints weren't ready from either an emotional or tactical standpoint.

This was an ugly-bad performance.

The opposite of Lynch. The opposite of the 7-9ers.

Here they come, like them or not.


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