Seahawks shock Saints, could face Bears
By Mike Mulligan email@example.com January 8, 2011 11:08PM
Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck (8), who threw four touchdown passes, celebrates after running back Marshawn Lynch (24) scored on a spectacular 67-yard run. | Ted S. Warren~AP
Updated: February 10, 2011 4:09AM
SEATTLE — Welcome to the upside-down world of the NFL playoffs, where even the most ardent of Bears fans will be cheering for the Green Bay Packers today.
If the Packers pull off an upset in Philadelphia, then the Bears will be hosting the worst playoff team in NFL history a week from today. That’s a good thing, right? It has to be, even if the Seattle Seahawks eliminated the defending champion New Orleans Saints 41-36 on Saturday and already have a victory this season at Soldier Field.
‘‘I don’t think the first time we played them will have anything to do with this time if we play them again,’’ said Seahawks wide receiver Mike Williams, who caught 10 passes for 123 yards in a 23-20 victory against the Bears in Week 6 at Soldier Field. ‘‘It’s different this time of year in this atmosphere of the playoffs.
‘‘If that’s where we’re going, we’re going to have our work cut out for us. They have a great coach, a great defense and a great team across the board. We’ll need another good week of practice and be ready to go.’’
The Seahawks didn’t seem too ready to go against the Saints, falling behind 10-0 and 17-7 before pulling off one of the greatest upsets in NFL history.
Las Vegas oddsmakers installed the Saints as double-digit favorites against a lowly Seahawks team that only won the NFC West title a week ago with a victory over the St. Louis Rams. Seattle is the first nine-loss team to make the playoffs.
These last two wins, both at Qwest Field, allowed Seattle to match its victory total of the previous nine games.
‘‘I don’t think we were ever as good as ‘slumping,’’’ Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said, interrupting a question about the team’s evolution.
Carroll said the change for the Seahawks is that they’re ‘‘as together as we can be’’ and playing with a total team concept.
‘‘We are not going to be intimidated by whomever we play or wherever we go, I promise you that,’’ Carroll said. ‘‘It is not going to happen.’’
Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was ‘‘ridiculously good’’ in Carroll’s estimation. Hasselbeck threw an interception on his third pass but wound up with four touchdown passes — two more than the Saints had allowed in any game this season.
His performance was even more impressive considering team doctors drained fluid from his hip before the game. It’s the third time this season they had to perform that trick. He still finished 22-for-35 for 272 yards with touchdown passes of 7, 11, 38 and 45 yards for a 113.0 passer rating.
The game-clinching play came from running back Marshawn Lynch, who broke a spectacular 67-yard run with 3:22 left for a 41-30 lead. Lynch broke six tackles on the play with three Saints trying to rip the ball out instead of just getting him to the ground.
Hasselbeck, who was downfield looking to throw a block, said the play is called 17-power and was simply a power run to the left side that would be considered a success if it gained 4.1 yards.
‘‘I was looking [to block],’’ Hasselbeck said. ‘‘But I was just looking.’’
The Saints made a few questionable decisions in the game, including opting for a 21-yard field goal by Garrett Hartley that cut the lead to 34-30 instead of going for it and playing a field-position game by risking a fourth-and-goal from the 2 with 9:18 left.
Hartley also kicked field goals of 22 and 26 yards, and Julius Jones fumbled early in the second quarter.
‘‘Yeah, they scored 41, but we had opportunities to score 50,’’ Saints quarterback Drew Brees said.
The Saints failed in the red zone, in part, because they came into the game with four running backs on injured reserve and lost Reggie Bush (leg) and Jones during the game.
Jones was knocked out after a violent collision with linebacker Lofa Tatupu, who also left with a concussion.