New Orleans Saints vs. Seattle Seahawks: Live Grades and Analysis for the Saints

James ErmilioCorrespondent IIIJanuary 11, 2014

The Saints are one win away from the NFC Championship Game.
The Saints are one win away from the NFC Championship Game.Elsa/Getty Images

The game ends on a desperation forward pass beyond the line of scrimmage by Marques Colston, drawing a close to a brilliant Saints season.

Final Score

New Orleans Saints 15

Seattle Seahawks 23

Check below for halftime and postgame grades and analysis.

New Orleans Saints
Positional UnitHalftime GradesPostgame Grades
Pass OffenseD-C
Run DefenseC+B-
Pass DefenseB-B+
Run DefenseDF
Special TeamsFF
Bleacher Report

Final Analysis for the New Orleans Saints

Pass Offense:  Drew Brees completed 20 of 34 passes in the second half thanks to some huge plays by Marques Colston (11 catches, 144 yards and a touchdown).  Robert Meachem hauled in a ridiculous 52 yarder off an accidental tip drill with a pair of Seahawks' DBs.  Brees finished with over 300 yards passing, but it wasn't enough as the Seahawks clung to a big first-half lead and withstood New Orleans' surge. 

Run Offense:  Undrafted rookie Khiry Robinson ran well, finishing with a 4.4 YPC on 13 rushes with a touchdown.  Mark Ingram started strong but had just five second-half rushes following a key first-half fumble.

Pass Defense:  The Saints did a great job containing Russell Wilson, who racked up just 16 yards on the ground.  He finished with only 103 yards passing on 9 of 18 attempts and didn't throw for any scores.

Run Defense:  It felt like this was a game in which Seattle would unleash Marshawn Lynch,  and unleash him they did.  Lynch finished with 140 yards and two touchdowns, including a 31-yard rumble that essentially put the game away.

Special Teams:  Shayne Graham missed a pair of key field goals (the second one just a bit right) and Thomas Morstead ripped off a 16-yard weather balloon of a punt.  

Coaching:  Sean Payton's team came up empty on the biggest stage.  They were undisciplined (eight penalties, including killer offensive penalties on back-to-back drives in the fourth quarter).  They lacked explosiveness (three plays over 20 yards, one of which was an entirely lucky catch off a bounce by Robert Meachem).  Most importantly, they were unable to match the physicality of Marshawn Lynch or the Seahawks defensive backs.  Payton couldn't find an answer for Richard Sherman on Jimmy Graham, and Rob Ryan couldn't slow Marshawn Lynch and give the Saints a chance late in the game.  A great season ends on a sad note.

SEATTLE, WA - JANUARY 11:  Tight end Jimmy Graham #80 of the New Orleans Saints sits on the trainer's table in the second half while taking on the Seattle Seahawks during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at CenturyLink Field on January 11, 2014 in Seattle,
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Halftime Analysis for the New Orleans Saints

Pass Offense:  Drew Brees' first and only completion to a wide receiver came with just over a minute left in the first half.  Three of his other four completions went to Darren Sproles on dumpoffs, with Khiry Robinson hauling in the only other reception.  This was as bad a performance as we've seen from the Saints offensively.  Brees hasn't turned it over (though he's been close on a few passes) but the Seahawks are all over his weapons and he can't get anything going in the passing game.  Jimmy Graham was targeted just once (an incompletion in the final minute of the half) and the rest of the Saints' receivers were silent.

Run Offense:  Amazingly, the Saints ran almost twice as effectively as they passed the ball in the first half.  The Saints finished with 5.3 YPC compared to just 2.8 YPA passing. Khiry Robinson ran hard in the half, and Mark Ingram looked good yet again.  Unfortunately, Ingram fumbled the ball in the first quarter and hasn't had a carry since.

Pass Defense:  The pass defense hasn't been a problem for the Saints—they have contained Wilson effectively, though he has been efficient in the short passing game (7 for 9 for 68 yards in the half). The Saints also sacked Wilson twice, though the Seahawks have converted three of seven third down attempts.

Run Defense:  As expected, Marshawn Lynch bullied the Saints in the first half with 68 yards on 15 bruising carries and a touchdown.  Lynch pulled a nice move on the TD and also busted loose for an 18 yard run.  Seattle finished with 95 total yards for a 4.5 YPC.

Special Teams:  Thomas Morstead shanked a 16 yard kick after mishandling the snap and Shayne Graham missed a FG that would have tied the game early.  Overall, a pretty weak first half for the Saints on special teams.

Coaching: Sean Payton's offense hasn't been able to get anything going in the first half.  Drew Brees finished the half with his fewest yards all season and a fourth-down attempt by Payton's squad failed miserably, though the logic behind the call was sound.  We'll see how the Saints respond to being bullied by the more physical Seahawks defense in the second half.