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Originally published Saturday, January 8, 2011 at 8:09 PM

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Seahawks make Saints work for their 36 points

"We just didn't want them to beat us up top and score fast," said Pete Carroll, Seattle's coach.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Seattle didn't plan to give up 36 points, the second-highest total ever allowed by the Seahawks in a playoff game.

It was how New Orleans' scored those points that fit with the Seahawks' strategy, though.

"We just didn't want them to beat us up top and score fast," said Pete Carroll, Seattle's coach.

Sure enough, the Seahawks didn't let the Saints get behind them often. Sometimes that was the result of cushions that were maddeningly soft, and New Orleans Drew Brees passed for 404 yards, but none of New Orleans' four touchdowns was longer than 6 yards. When the two teams met in the regular season, the Saints scored three touchdowns on passes of 20 or more yards.

In Saturday's playoff game, Seattle also forced New Orleans to settle for a field goal on three different red-zone possessions.

"We rope-a-doped all day long," Carroll said, a reference to Muhammad Ali's strategy of leaning against the ropes, letting his opponent tire himself out with punches.

Linebacker Aaron Curry is an avid Ali fan, and he said he found that analogy particularly accurate.

"Definitely. I can see us sitting up against the ropes," Curry said. "They threw everything at us that they could throw at us, and when it was time to finish them off, we were able to do that."

In the regular-season matchup, New Orleans scored touchdowns on five consecutive possessions, never settling for a field goal.

Flashback

Many thought if the Seahawks were going to upset New Orleans, it was going to take an ugly game that was close until late.

Instead, the Seahawks wound up winning a shootout with the two teams combining to score 77 points. The previous Seattle franchise record for combined points in a playoff game was 62.

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So were the Seahawks surprised to find themselves with the firepower to compete in a shootout?

"Nope," center Chris Spencer said. "Not at all. No one really talked about how we was really in that game when we played them down there. We had almost 400 yards of total offense. Turnovers killed us. We knew we could play with them.."

Beast mode

"I was just pretty much determined, man," Marshawn Lynch said. "Determined."

He was talking about his 67-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, the longest run from scrimmage in Seattle postseason history. He could have been talking about his whole game in which he gained 131 yards, one short of the franchise playoff record Shaun Alexander set in the NFC Championship Game in January 2006.

In Seattle's regular-season game against the Saints, Lynch lost two fumbles and dropped two passes that could have gone for big yardage.

"It's huge for him because of the last game," right tackle Sean Locklear said. "To bounce back, I was so stoked for him. Kudos to him. It was amazing."

Shouldering woes

Seattle trailed 10-0 when receiver Ben Obomanu suffered a dislocated right shoulder on his 10-yard reception on the Seahawks' second possession. Obomanu went into the locker room, had the joint reset and returned to catch three more passes. He finished with five catches for 43 yards.

Saints running

near empty

The Saints entered the game already missing their top two rushers from the regular season as Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas had been placed on injured reserve, ending their seasons earlier in the week. Reggie Bush left the game in the third quarter because of soreness in his leg that prevented him from running full speed, and Julius Jones left the game after a huge collision with Seattle linebacker Lofa Tatupu in the fourth quarter.

New Orleans finished the game with DeShawn Wynn as its only available running back.

Brock rocks

Raheem Brock forced New Orleans' only fumble of the game, which set up a Seattle field goal. He also had Seattle's only sack of Drew Brees in the game, getting a measure of revenge since Brock was the Indianapolis Colts last season when they lost to the Saints in the Super Bowl.

"It feels good to get them back and hit Brees a couple times," Brock said. "It's a great feeling to take those guys out of the playoffs."

Locklear returns

Seattle right tackle Sean Locklear was absent from practice on Wednesday and Thursday, tending to a personal situation. He returned to Seattle on Thursday evening, participated in Friday's walk-through and started Sunday's game.

Kings of coverage

Seattle's special teams dominated the game in a not-so-obvious fashion Saturday: kick and punt coverage. New Orleans dynamic playmakers managed just 11 yards on two punt returns and an 18.6 yard average on kick returns.

"With the exception of the first kickoff that was kicked out of bounds, I felt that our field position was deep in our territory a lot," said Saints quarterback Drew Brees. "And it's loud at that end."

Times reporter Josh Mayers contributed to this report

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com

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