Seahawks win because they were tougher than Saints
Marshawn Lynch epitomized a tough Seahawks team that was too much, again, for the Saints. It was closer than their easy win over New Orleans in December, but the 23-15 win moves Seattle into the NFC title game.
Times staff columnist
Marshawn Lynch made the ground shake again. It’s still undetermined, though, what caused Beast Quake II on Saturday afternoon — the jubilation of the 12th Man, or the knee-knocking of the New Orleans Saints.
It’s a little of both, probably, because as raucous as the record CenturyLink Field crowd of 68,388 was, the Saints were just as timid for most of the game. They sought to match the Seahawks’ overbearing identity, with tight end Jimmy Graham barking at Seattle linebacker Bruce Irvin to start a pregame skirmish, with safety Rafael Bush pummeling Percy Harvin with a helmet-to-helmet hit on the Seahawks’ third offensive play.
But just as Harvin rose (at least until another big hit knocked him out of the game later), so too did the entire team, taking the toughness challenge to another level on a soggy, gusty day.
The weather conditions turned this game into a street fight, a game of will above skill. So it figures that Lynch, who is addicted to crashing into people, was the standout.
His fingerprints are all over the Seahawks’ 23-15 victory, mostly because his hand had to land somewhere after all those vicious stiff arms. Beast Mode, the soft-spoken, hard-charging running back, set a franchise playoff record with 140 rushing yards on 28 carries. He scored the Seahawks’ two touchdowns. When the game got close in the fourth quarter, when Seattle couldn’t afford to be conservative in the bad weather anymore, Lynch sealed the win with a 31-yard dash that local seismologists anticipate will register greater than his famous Beast Quake run three years ago against the Saints.
In 2011, Lynch’s 67-yard, earth-moving rumble clinched an epic Seahawks upset and symbolized that the soft Seahawks of the past were in the process of a rugged makeover.
This Lynch run? It was merely the latest confirmation that the Seahawks are not the team you want to see in a dark alley — or in a Biblical storm.
“I don’t run to get tackled,” Lynch said.
Said fullback Michael Robinson: “He’s the bell tower. His style summons us. His running epitomizes what we are, the philosophy — tough, physical, straining, grit.”
It wasn’t the Seahawks’ best performance, and they nearly surrendered a 16-0 lead in the fourth quarter. But they were just flat-out tougher than the Saints. They were better when it mattered. With Lynch leading them, the Seahawks rushed for 174 yards and 5 yards per carry, returning to their ground-and-pound roots. The production offset a feeble passing-game performance; Russell Wilson completed only 9 of 18 passes for 103 yards. And the defense was, as usual, nasty. Drew Brees threw for only 34 yards in the first half, and though he wound up with 309 yards, it was the most misleading stat of the day.
For three quarters, the Seattle defense lived up to its No. 1 ranking. Aided by the Seahawks’ inability to hold onto potential interceptions, Brees almost threw the Saints back into the game in the fourth quarter, but overall, it was another dominant defensive effort.
“They did a great job, boss,” Lynch said of the defense, as only he could put it.
Graham, who led all NFL tight ends with 86 receptions, 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns in the regular season, caught one pass, and it came in the game’s final seconds. Seattle defended him even better than it had during a 34-7 blowout of the Saints last month. Graham had three receptions for 42 yards and a touchdown in that game.
This time, he had as many catches as pregame incidents. Graham blamed Irvin afterward.
“He tried to disrespect me, and I’m not going to let anyone disrespect me,” Graham said. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
It seems Graham only tolerates disrespect during the actual game.
Irvin described the fracas this way: “Asked him to move, he didn’t move, knocked the ball out of his hands, kicked it across the field, and he knocked my hat off.”
According to Irvin, when he told Graham to move, Graham said, “No, I’m Jimmy.’ ”
Irvin’s response? “Who the (expletive) is Jimmy?”
Then he punted Graham’s football, and all sorts of machismo ensued. By halftime, it was apparent who would win this scuffle.
Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp predicted it before the game. He actually predicted worse. His opinion was all based on the Seahawks’ bruising style, and the Saints’ discomfort playing that kind of game.
“It’s going to be a repeat performance up in Seattle,” Sapp said Saturday morning on the NFL Network. “You can paint the field, you can stick those [earpieces] in your ear, you can blow all of the speakers you want. Toughness is something that is ingrained inside of you. It’s not something that’s learned in a week before you travel for a football game.”
The Seahawks are tougher than $9.99 steak. The Saints are not.
That’s why they’re in the NFC Championship Game, boss.
|Beast Mode again|
|Marshawn Lynch’s big runs capped another playoff victory over New Orleans. A look at both games:|
|Jan. 8. 2011 vs. Saints||19||131||6.9||1||67|
|Beast Run I: 67 yards with 3:38 left: Epic Beast Quake rumble broke eight tackles, registered on the Richter scale|
|Jan. 11, 2014 vs. Saints||28||140||5.0||2||31|
|Beast Run II: 31 yards with 2:40 left: Sweep left looked easy until he slowed to apply a nuclear stiff arm|
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or firstname.lastname@example.org