The Seattle Seahawks returned from their bye week on Sunday to blow out the New Orleans Saints 34-7. The Seahawks dominated in all three phases of the game and moved one step closer to clinching home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.
So just who is most responsible for Seattle's big win? It is time to find out with this week's report card.
- A's are reserved for individual players who dominated the opposition.
- B's are for players who played well but didn't dominate.
- C grades are given to players who struggled for most of the game.
- D's are for players who truly struggled and were occasionally dominated by the opposition.
- F grades are rare and reserved only for players who were completely dominated by the other team on almost every play.
- Plus and minus modifiers bridge the gaps inside those definitions.
Russell Wilson: A-
It is difficult to criticize anything that Wilson was able to accomplish this week. He threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns while not turning the ball over. Wilson also added 47 yards on the ground, which led the Seahawks.
The only problems were a pair of quirky penalties called on Seattle's franchise passer. Wilson was called for a false start for bobbing his head too much before a snap. He also added an illegal forward pass when he shoveled the ball to Lynch when Wilson was already well past the line of scrimmage.
Remember that time Russell Wilson made a really bad decision? Yeah... me neither...— Michael Silver (@MikeSilver) December 3, 2013
Marshawn Lynch: C-
Marshawn Lynch didn't play up to the level that fans have come to expect from him. Lynch finished with just 45 rushing yards on 16 carries and a disappointing 2.8 yards per carry. While some of these struggles were due to some poor run-blocking, Lynch also lacked his usual power and ability to break tackles.
Robert Turbin: C
Lynch may have had a bit of a bad game, but Robert Turbin wasn't much better. Turbin got more than his usual touches in this game, and it is still unclear if Lynch was banged up or if it was just to rest Lynch because of the score. Turbin didn't do much with the opportunity, averaging just 3.1 yards per carry on 11 carries. This was a game where the Seahawks could have used rookie Christine Michael late in the game, but he was inactive.
Doug Baldwin: A
Doug Baldwin had one of his best games as a member of the Seahawks and was instrumental in helping the Seahawks build their early lead. Baldwin continues to make the most of his increased playing time following the Sidney Rice injury and has averaged 72.8 yards per game since becoming a starter.
Golden Tate: C
Baldwin's success has come in part at the cost of Golden Tate. Tate has been drawing more double-teams than he did earlier in the season, and it his hurting his production. Tate also didn't help his cause this week when he put forth a fairly weak effort to go up and get a long pass from Wilson, resulting in an incompletion.
Jermaine Kearse: B-
It was a bit of a mixed bag for Jermaine Kearse. He dropped the ball in the end zone on a drive where the Seahawks had to settle for a field goal. On another drive, Kearse put up the key block that helped the team convert a long third down. Overall, Kearse's two catches and 26 yards just do not tell the entire story for Kearse's game on Monday.
Zach Miller: A
Zach Miller led all Seattle receivers with five receptions and 89 yards. Miller's presence in the interior passing game also helped to open things up on the outside for the team's wide receivers. It was a solid performance by Miller and demonstrated how dynamic he can be when he's not being asked to block on almost every passing play.
Luke Willson: B
With Miller being featured in the passing game, it was up to rookie Luke Willson to pick up the slack as a blocker. Willson did well in pass-blocking and played an important role in helping offensive tackles keep the Saints' defensive end Cameron Jordan in check throughout the game.
This was easily the best the pass-blocking has looked all season. Wilson had time to throw on most of his passes, and that created some positive results for the Seahawks.
The run-blocking didn't take the step forward that was expected this week. Lynch was getting hit in the backfield far too often, and there were very few running lanes available. Hopefully this will improve as the starters find their rhythm and begin working as a cohesive unit once again.
Chris Clemons: B-
Despite playing against a left tackle who has struggled throughout the season, Chris Clemons wasn't able to get consistent pressure on Saints quarterback Drew Brees. Clemons' performance has dropped off in recent weeks, and the Seahawks need him back dominating again before the playoffs begin.
Clemons does get extra credit for some good coverage skills. The Seahawks dropped Clemons back into coverage on a few zone-blitz plays, and the former linebacker looked natural when covering receivers.
Cliff Avril: B+
Working on the opposite side of Clemons for most of the game, Avril was the better of the two outside pass-rushers at getting to the QB. Avril picked up Seattle's only sack and forced the fumble that Michael Bennett took into the end zone.
Michael Bennett: A-
The best defensive end on the field for Seattle this week was Bennett. Bennett played a large role in shutting down the Saints' rushing attack, and he was the most consistent pass-rusher at disrupting Brees. It also doesn't hurt that Bennett was able to grab the first-quarter fumble from Brees and turn it into six points for the Seahawks.
Brandon Mebane: B
Brandon Mebane had a solid game on the inside of the defensive line. He didn't provide much in the way of a pass rush, but the Seahawks did a good job of rotating him out on pass downs. Instead, Mebane did an excellent job of anchoring the center of the run defense and keeping blockers off of Seattle's linebackers.
Tony McDaniel: B-
Tony McDaniel had a quiet game with just two tackles. His playing time seemed to have declined this week, as the Seahawks looked to keep their pass-rushers on the field more than usual.
Clinton McDonald: A-
The one non-starter at the position had the best day of the team's three defensive tackles. Clinton McDonald was instrumental in helping disrupt the Saints' passing attack.
Bobby Wagner: B
Seattle's middle linebacker led the team with 11 tackles and was a big part of shutting down the New Orleans' rushing attack. The Seahawks also dropped Wagner back into coverage on most passing plays, and he did an adequate job at taking away the center of the field in zone coverage.
K.J. Wright: A-
K.J. Wright's six tackles don't tell the story of his impact on this game. Wright did a good job of sniffing out screens and preventing the Saints from getting that portion of their offense going. Wright was also asked to cover the incredibly dangerous tight end Jimmy Graham and was a big part of limiting Graham to only three receptions.
Bruce Irvin: B-
Strong-side linebacker Bruce Irvin made a few big plays, including breaking up a pass while he was in coverage, but he also disappeared for long stretches of this game. Irvin continues to be inconsistent, but the Seahawks don't seem to be concerned.
Richard Sherman: A-
The Saints decided to test Richard Sherman deep a few times in this game, and Sherman passed every test. This was the type of game that everyone has come to expect from the All-Pro, with the exception of one badly missed tackle and stupid personal foul penalty.
Byron Maxwell: A
Making his first start filling in for the suspended Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond, Byron Maxwell shined. The Seahawks mixed their coverages up throughout the game, which meant that Maxwell was left in coverage without any help on many occasions. The young corner didn't back down and played solid coverage all night long.
Jeremy Lane: B
Special teams ace Jeremy Lane became the team's nickelback with Walter Thurmond out. While Lane played well, he struggled at times with extra space that inside receivers are accustomed to. Lane is better suited to play outside where he has a sideline to defend, and that showed at times in this game.
Earl Thomas: A
The importance of Earl Thomas' performance is greater than his six tackles would suggest. Thomas helped prevent the Saints from stretching the field, which greatly limited what their offense could do. Thomas has been playing so well this season that there is growing talk of his candidacy for Defensive Player of the Year, including from commentator Jon Gruden during the game's broadcast.
Kam Chancellor: B
Strong safety Kam Chancellor was second on the team with eight tackles. The Seahawks kept him near the line of scrimmage for much of the game and allowed Chancellor to focus on playing the run and covering backs coming out of backfield. It was a plan that worked out very well for the Seahawks.
Steven Hauschka: A
Steven Hauschka's perfect season continued with two more field goals, though the longest was just 26 yards. Perhaps more importantly, Hauschka was able to drive his kickoffs deep. Just three out of seven were returned, and none were able to provide the Saints with good field position.
Jon Ryan: B-
Seattle's punter didn't have his best game this week. Perhaps it was the lack of use, since he was only on the field for three punts. Jon Ryan hit one good punt that went for 50 yards, but his other two averaged just 35 yards apiece.
Return Teams: D
This was not a good game for Seattle's return teams. Punt returner Golden Tate was only able to put together one good punt return, and it was called back because of a penalty.
The kick returns were even less exciting. Robert Turbin took on the kick return duties this week and was unable to get the ball out past the 20-yard line on either of his two returns.
Coverage Teams: A-
Both the kick and punt return units put together another solid showing. This includes allowing zero return yards yet again. The Seahawks have still only given up 15 punt return yards all year and are now on pace to break the NFL record for fewest return yards in a season.