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Who’s Laughing Now? Why No One Should Be Surprised the Seahawks Beat the Saints

As the dust begins to settle over the NFL landscape, many people are still trying to convince themselves of what they witnessed in a cold soggy Seattle afternoon.   Matt Hasselbeck looked like John Elway, heaving the ball for four touchdowns.  The Seahawks defense made key stops in the red zone, forcing Drew Brees and the Saints to settle for field goals, not touchdowns. 

And of course you had Marshawn Lynch, a castoff from the Buffalo Bills, channeling his inner Jim Brown while running through nearly every member of the Saints defense en route to a game-clinching 67-yard touchdown run.

Yes, ladies and gentleman, those Seattle Seahawks, the 7-9 team that nearly everyone agreed would get blown out at home, beat the defending champions 41-36.  I will say again: Nearly everyone.

There were a few writers and sports fans, this one included, who looked at the two teams and believed Seattle could win this game.  While most people were debating whether the Seahawks deserved to even be in the playoffs, there were those looking at statistics and injury reports that did not benefit New Orleans.

You may be asking, what statistics were there that could possibly lead one to believe the 7-9 Seahawks, a team with the fifth-worst point differential in football, could beat the defending Super Bowl champions?

The first thing to take a look at was the fact the Saints played two games in the West Coast this year, losing to the Arizona Cardinals in embarrassing fashion, and barely beating the San Francisco 49ers with a game-winning field goal. Most teams that have to travel thousands of miles to the West Coast do not fare well, and the Saints epitomized that.

Another stat worth noting was the fact that while it was very well publicized the Seahawks had one of the worst running games in the league, the Saints were not much better.  Their rushing struggles were magnified in this game as Seattle ran for 149 yards to just 77 for the Saints.

When looking at the Saints schedule this year, it was also clear that the team seemed to play down to the level of its competition.  While they beat contenders like the Steelers and Falcons, they also lost to the Browns and Cardinals and barely beat others like the Panthers, Bengals, Vikings and 49ers.  This issue came to a head last night by getting outplayed and outworked by a team with an inferior record.

Also worth noting is the fact that the Seahawks have been one of the most dominant home teams since Qwest Field opened in 2002.  It's been well documented that the Qwest Field is the loudest in the NFL, making life a nightmare for the opposition. 

If stats weren't enough, people should have taken a look at the Saints injury report before they wrote about how the Seahawks stood no chance to win.  As the game kicked off, the Saints began play with a depleted roster with injuries to numerous key positions.

Running backs Pierre Thomas and rookie Chris Ivory were inactive for the game.  If that wasn't bad enough, both Reggie Bush and Julius Jones sustained injuries during the game.  By the time the Saints tried a two-point conversion in the fourth quarter, DeShawn Wynn, who had just been signed this week, was taking the carry. 

If this wasn't bad enough, cornerback Malcolm Jenkins, arguably their best defensive player, was out.  Defensive lineman Anthony Hargrvove did not play, nor did linebacker Danny Clark.

Tight end Jimmy Graham, who had been enjoying a breakout season, had to sit out with an injury.  Even their other tight ends, Jeremy Shockey and David Thomas, had to play the game banged up.  When teams sustain this many injuries, it's hard to make up for the lost talent.

In the end, as I saw the Seahawks enjoying their victory, I thought back to all the prognosticators in the past week talking about how there was no reason to watch the Saints' impending blowout of the Saints.  We all heard incessantly how the NFL needs to re-seed playoff teams or eliminate divisions, period.  Everyone was trying to come up with a way to make sure the Seahawks wouldn't get their just reward for winning a division. 

For those who didn't watch the game, I pity them.  They missed an opportunity to witness a pretty special upset as well as one of the best runs you will ever see.  For those that only watched the game to see the Saints blow out their perceived "sisters of the poor" opponent, I almost feel bad for you.  I, for one, am glad I got to see the game.

Was I surprised by the end result?  Mildly.  What shocked me more was how the perceived experts refused to look over any of the statistics provided in this story and instead went with the common belief that the Seahawks were embarrassing the league.

I was jubilant to see the Seahawks emerge victorious, just so any person who badmouthed the Seattle franchise had to realize just how wrong they were.  

As we move forward, the Saints have now gone marching home, while the Seahawks will have to face the questions that they are the worst team to ever play in an NFC Divisional playoff game.  Undoubtedly, the Seahawks will be trying to out to prove that they are the "worst" team to ever play in an NFC Championship. 

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