For Seahawks and Saints, a lot can change in five weeks
Seattle coach Pete Carroll says earlier 34-7 Seahawks victory virtually meaningless.
Seattle Times staff reporter
RENTON – The Seahawks and New Orleans Saints don’t have to dig too deep into their histories to find a situation similar to what they face this week.
Saturday, the teams meet in an NFL Divisional Playoff game at 1:35 p.m. at CenturyLink Field, roughly six weeks after Seattle beat the Saints 34-7 in a Monday Night matchup.
Seattle coach Pete Carroll said Monday, though, that the Seahawks’ blowout victory earlier this season won’t mean anything come Saturday.
“We start all over again,’’ Carroll said when asked how the team prepares for the Saints. “Has nothing to do with what happened before. We learned and gained information in the game, as they did. But you start all over again and start from scratch. … It would be a mistake to try to call it because of what’s happened in the past. We don’t care about that.’’
And if he needs to remind his team of how quickly things can change, he can simply point to Seattle’s last playoff game at CenturyLink Field, a 41-36 victory over the Saints on Jan. 8, 2011. That came less than two months after the Saints had beaten the Seahawks in New Orleans, 34-19.
True, it changes the dynamics that in the 2010 season one game was at home and the other on the road.
Still, the Saints, then the defending Super Bowl champs, were 10½-point favorites in that 2011 wild-card game, making a Seattle team that ended the season 7-9 the largest home underdog in playoff history.
This time, it’s Seattle that is a big favorite — by eight points — with the Seahawks’ domination in the earlier game no doubt influencing the spread, just as it did in the opposite way in 2011.
Carroll said that while it might be obvious to the players that winning the first game easily is no guarantee of a similar result this time, he will reiterate the point to make sure they understand.
“There are no automatics here,’’ he said. “They are going to hear about it. It’s just human nature that you’d like to think it’s going to be the same. But we know better than that. So we need to respect this opportunity for what it is — a great, championship matchup for us. They are going to come loaded up and give us a great football game.’’
What the Saints also will do is bring a statistically revived running game to Seattle.
The Saints finished the regular season ranked 25th in the NFL in rushing at 92.1 yards per game. Generally, the Saints used the run as a complementary feature to a passing attack that averaged 307.4 yards a game, No. 2 in the league.
In beating Philadelphia 26-24 Saturday, though, the Saints rushed for 185 yards on 36 carries. That came on the heels of rushing for 126 yards at Carolina on Dec. 22, one of only five times all season the Panthers allowed 100 or more yards.
“They run the ball a little bit more on the road,’’ Carroll said when asked if anything about the Saints appears to have changed since the first meeting.
“They ran it quite a bit at Philadelphia and that could have been because of (the Eagles’ up-tempo) offense and the (weather) conditions and all of that, as well. We’ll have to see how that figures into our game.’’
One other big difference will be the absence of Seattle linebacker K.J. Wright, who got a lot of the credit in the first game for holding New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham to three receptions for 42 yards. Graham finished the season with 86 catches for 1,215 yards.
Wright won’t play against the Saints due to a broken foot suffered Dec. 8. Replacing Wright has been Malcolm Smith, who at 6 feet is 4 inches shorter than Wright and 7 inches shorter than Graham.
On his radio show Monday, Carroll said Wright “had a phenomenal game’’ against the Saints the first time and “that’s four, five, six plays that have to be made up.’’
• Carroll also said on his show that Percy Harvin “looked very good’’ in practices last week and said at this point there are “no indications’’ he won’t be able to play. But Carroll cautioned they still need to see how the workload “wears on him’’ before declaring him good to go.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org.