The Seattle Seahawks came off their bye week and dominated the New Orleans Saints in a 34-7 blowout victory. Seattle dominated in all three phases of the game and became the first NFL team this season to clinch a spot in the playoffs.
The Seahawks must now refocus and get ready for an important divisional showdown in San Francisco in just six days. Before everyone moves on to the rivalry game against the 49ers, here are eight takeaways from this week's blowout win over the Saints.
All stats taken from ESPN.com.
So much has been written about Seattle's problem with slow starts this season that a slow start has become the expectation. The Seahawks did not meet those exceptions this week.
The Seahawks held the Saints without a first down on each of their first three possessions and also turned a fumble from Saints quarterback Drew Brees into a defensive touchdown. After three possessions, the Saints had a total of nine offensive yards.
Offensively, the Seahawks scored on their first two drives. Quarterback Russell Wilson completed six of his first eight passes as the Seahawks jumped out to a 17-0 first-quarter lead.
The Seattle defense absolutely dominated the New Orleans offense. Brees threw for just 147 yards, and the Saints finished with just 188 offense yards and 12 first downs in the game.
The Saints averaged just 3.4 yards per play and were only able to sustain one drive over the course of the game. Overall, this was a completely dominant performance by Seattle's defense over one of the top offenses in the NFL.
The Saints' game plan appeared to be to try to take away Seattle's running game and test Seattle's young passer. Russell Wilson clearly passed the test. The Saints entered the game as the league's No. 3-ranked passing defense, and Wilson carved them up like an experienced surgeon.
Wilson finished the game 22-of-30 for 310 yards and two touchdowns. He also added eight rushes and 47 yards on the ground.
Wilson even found new ways to get called for penalties. He picked up a false start for a head bob when calling out signals before a snap to go with an illegal forward pass.
Russell Wilson walking out to the ESPN set for postgame interview to a chant of "MVP" from crowd hanging around. #Seahawks— Tim Booth (@ByTimBooth) December 3, 2013
The Seahawks were missing two of their top three cornerbacks for this game. Both Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond were suspended over the bye week for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. It didn't matter.
Bryon Maxwell and Jeremy Lane filled in masterfully for the Seahawks, as the defense held the Saints to just 147 yards passing, never allowing them to take advantage of Seattle's depleted secondary.
For the second straight game, the Seahawks have struggled to get running back Marshawn Lynch going. Lynch finished with just 45 yards on 16 carries, with 14 of those yards coming on one run. For much of the rest of the game, Lynch was forced to deal with defenders in the backfield and almost no noticeable running lanes.
While the pass blocking has been drastically improved since offensive tackles Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini returned from their injuries, the run blocking has definitely taken a step back. The Seahawks will need to re-find their running identity if they are going to reach their potential in the playoffs.
Safety Earl Thomas had an excellent game and showed off his range, making plays all over the field. Thomas finished with six tackles and was instrumental in helping shut down the New Orleans passing game.
Thomas has been playing this well all year, and people are beginning to take notice. Even Monday Night Football commentator Jon Gruden indicated during the broadcast that Thomas is now a Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
Wide receiver Doug Baldwin had four catches for 77 yards in this game. While those aren't huge numbers, they are consistent with Baldwin's production since he was promoted to the starting lineup following the injury to Sidney Rice.
In four games as a starter, Baldwin is averaging 72.8 yards per game with a 17.2-yards-per-reception average. If those numbers are projected over a 16-game season, they come out to 1,165 yards. Clearly, Baldwin has stepped into his new role and played above most reasonable expectations.
For the second time this year, the fans of the Seattle Seahawks broke the world record for crowd noise. Midway through the second quarter, the official decibel meter held by the representative from Guinness recorded 137.6 dB.
The 12th Man previously set the record back in Week 2 against the 49ers, only to have the fans of the Kansas City Chiefs claim the record a couple of weeks later.