Saints vs. Seahawks: Score, Grades and Analysis

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Saints vs. Seahawks: Score, Grades and Analysis
USA Today

The Seattle Seahawks steamrolled the New Orleans Saints 34-7 on Monday night at CenturyLink Field, improving to 11-1 and gaining a massive advantage for the NFC's No. 1 playoff seed.

In a battle of two of the NFL's top three pass defenses, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson outplayed his superstar counterpart Drew Brees by a long shot.

Wilson threw for 310 yards on 22-of-30 passing and three touchdowns, while also gaining a game-high 47 yards on the ground, extending his perfect 14-0 record at home.

Rainy weather was a bit of a factor, and Seattle's vaunted secondary and relentless pass rush stymied Brees and Co. for most of the evening. From the beginning, it seemed almost everything went the Seahawks' way.

An opening three-and-out for New Orleans was followed by an impressive stand by its defense to force Seattle into a 26-yard field goal and an early 3-0 advantage.

Cliff Avril was then able to get to Brees on the Saints' next possession and strip him of the football. The ball bounced right to defensive end Michael Bennett, who rumbled 22 yards into the end zone to make the score 10-0.

GIF courtesy of Bleacher Report

Yet another three-and-out followed for the Saints, setting the stage for a six-play 73-yard drive in which Wilson found tight end Zach Miller behind the defense for a 60-yard gain, then hit him on third down for a two-yard TD strike.

The Saints were able to respond, as Brees marched them down the gridiron on a masterful, 13-play drive, capped with Jimmy Graham's 12th receiving touchdown of the year.

That was a mere temporary reprieve for the visitors, though. Another Steven Hauschka field goal and another three-and-out led to Wilson starting from his own 12 with a little more than two minutes left on the clock.

No matter.

Wilson led the Seahawks down the field on a 12-play drive. He was able to finish things off on a roll all the way to the right side of the field, as he caught Doug Baldwin slip to the other side of the end zone, and hit him for a wide-open score from four yards out, giving the Seahawks a 27-7 lead at the half.

Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

The outcome was well in hand from there. Instead of relying exclusively on Marshawn Lynch and the ground game, though, Seattle continued to apply the pressure.

On the second fortuitous bounce of the night, unheralded fullback Derrick Coleman caught a deflected pass and tiptoed down the sideline for an eight-yard touchdown reception.

GIF courtesy of Bleacher Report

Brees could not stretch the field against Seattle's physical, "Legion of Boom" secondary. Even without the services of cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond, there was no chance for Brees to get into a rhythm aside from the lone touchdown drive.

The Seahawks have put some distance between them and the Saints (9-3) atop the conference with a two-game lead in addition to a head-to-head tiebreaker with only four games remaining.

Mike Sando of ESPN.com highlighted just how devastating Seattle has been against the top teams in the NFC:

After the game coach Pete Carroll talked about the defense's performance: 

Below is a look at some grades for several marquee performers, along with a brief look at what's ahead for both teams.

 

Grades

Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks: A

Sensational stuff from the second-year signal-caller. Wilson is making a case for himself as the best QB in the celebrated 2012 draft class even as a third-round pick.

Facing one of the league's best pass defenses was not too tall of a task for Wilson, whose shorter stature caused his draft stock to plummet. Seattle is more than happy to have him, and his virtuoso performance was yet another instance of how dangerous a QB he is.

 

Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints: C-

Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

The streak of 43 straight games with 200 or more passing yards came to an end for Brees on Monday, but it was to a worthy opponent to say the least.

It was indeed a rare letdown from Brees, who has won a Super Bowl MVP in the past and is no stranger to thriving in the most critical games. Look for him to bounce back following this clunker of a game by his high standards.

 

Richard Sherman, CB, Seattle Seahawks: B+

There was nothing to be too critical of with regard to one of the NFL's premier cornerbacks from a production standpoint.

Sherman denied Brees any chance to take shots down the field on the outside, but he did have an ugly cheap shot in the end zone on Kenny Stills that drew a 15-yard personal foul.

It is in Sherman's nature to be physical, but that was taking it a little bit too far. Protesting the call made it worse, but it was a mere blip of adversity that the Seahawks overcame with ease.

 

Darren Sproles, RB, New Orleans Saints: B-

This was a night where Sproles needed to be his typical elusive self, as Brees had to keep relying on screen passes and his running back's ability in the open field in lieu of opportunities to stretch the field.

Sproles did not quite deliver the goods and was tackled in the open field too often. He wound up with seven receptions for 32 yards, but credit Seattle for being disciplined and keeping Sproles in check, too.

 

What's Next?

Seattle will circumvent its comfortable home-field advantage for a two-game road trip, beginning on Sunday at Candlestick Park for an NFC West battle with the San Francisco 49ers.

This was an ugly effort on both sides of the ball for the Saints, who will look to recover in a monumental showdown at the Superdome this weekend against the Carolina Panthers. The two teams are now tied atop the NFC South, and will face each other twice in the next three weeks.

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