The likelihood of foul weather, a six-hour flight and the ear-splitting crowd noise that awaits him at Qwest Field will not serve as distractions for one of the best quarterbacks in the league. New Orleans' Drew Brees won't be overwhelmed by the moment.
“I’d be shocked if Drew was surprised by anything,” Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. “He’s a great player, one of the best. I consider him a friend. He’s a guy I look up to in a lot of ways. He’s just done a great job on and off the field leading his team, leading the people around him. He’s a special player, special person, and he won the Super Bowl last year for a reason.”
So if the Seahawks hope to contain one of the most prolific quarterbacks in the last five years they’ll have to do it the old-fashioned way – they’ll have to earn it.
“Basically, we feel like it’s going to be our defense against their defense,” said Seahawks defensive end Raheem Brock, who has a team-high 16 playoff appearances. “So we think our defense has been stepping up; we’re playing pretty good. The coaches came up with a great game plan for this weekend, and we’re excited.”
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Seattle hosts the defending Super Bowl champion Saints at Qwest Field this afternoon in the first NFC wild-card game of the weekend. The Seahawks hold the distinction of being the largest home underdog in league history – 10 points – along with the first team in the NFL to make the postseason in a non-strike year with a losing record.
But they’ve adopted an us-against-the-world mentality as they prepare to shut down one of the best offenses in the league.
They already got some help, with running backs Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas and tight end Jimmy Graham all out due to injuries.
However, Brees still has several weapons at his disposal, including all-purpose runner Reggie Bush, who did not play in Seattle’s earlier game against the Saints – a 34-19 loss at New Orleans on Nov. 21.
“They utilize their talent – I think as well as you could do,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “Whether it’s (Marques) Colston or (Jeremy) Shockey or (Jimmy) Graham or Reggie (Bush) or Pierre (Thomas), they put these guys in all kinds of spots to do the things they do. They have so many good players that it’s like trying to put your finger in a dike – there’s just so many issues.”
And directing the show is Brees, who led the NFC with 4,620 passing yards and 33 touchdowns. Brees has thrown for 4,000-plus yards in five straight seasons. And against Seattle earlier this season the reigning Super Bowl MVP threw for season highs of 382 yards and four touchdowns, although he was picked off twice.
Brees steps up his game when the pressure is on. His 66.7 completion percentage in the postseason is best in NFL history, and his 103.7 passer rating is second highest.
“He’s just very efficient and he doesn’t make many mistakes,” Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. “He’s very poised back there.
“We know we have to give him some different looks and things like that based on situations. But the biggest thing we can do is get some rush when it’s his time to pass, and cover well. It sounds like it’s simple, but it’s really that.”
The Seahawks also have to get off the field on third down, much like they did last week against St. Louis. The Seahawks held the Rams to 2 of 14 (14 percent) on third downs, which helped them control the clock and the momentum. In the first game against New Orleans, the Saints dominated time of possession by converting 11 of 15 (73 percent) third-down attempts.
The Seahawks finished in the bottom third of the league in third-down conversions at 40 percent, so getting off the field on third down for the defense is critical.
“Earlier in the year that was our struggle – we weren’t getting off the field,” Seahawks linebacker David Hawthorne said. “The opportunity was there, and people were in position, but I think we weren’t finishing.”
The Seahawks can play loose and free today. Nobody expected them to be here, and no one expects them to win.
“They’re not afraid of this opportunity,” Carroll said. “They’re not wowed by it. They’re excited about it, they’re into it. I think the fact that we played these guys before, we have somewhat of a familiarity – we know what they’re like. We know how to block them, and we know how to be blocked by them, and we’ve seen their receivers and all that.
“I think that familiarity helps us at this time. Our guys are excited about the opportunity. They’re not in the wrong frame of mind about this thing. So it gives us a chance. All we want to do is play like we’re capable. If we can do that in this setting, then we’ve accomplished a big thing. We’ll see where that leaves us, and that’s really what we’re trying to get done here.”
Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 firstname.lastname@example.org