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Engel: Sure, Seahawks were good — but Saints also blew dat!
As good as the Seahawks were Saturday in their 23-15 playoff victory over New Orleans — and running back Marshawn Lynch in particular was very, very good — they got a lot of help beating the Saints from the Saints.
Actually I'll go a step further. This felt more like a New Orleans loss than a Seattle win, a blasphemous statement I am sure to many of you. Two "Wait, what?" decisions by the Saints felt like the determining factors — though they likely will be overlooked in an avalanche of praise for Lynch, for Russell Wilson's risky yet perfect 31-yard pass to Doug Baldwin, and for this Seahawks D.
What should not be overlooked is New Orleans had a chance — chances, actually — and seemed to self-immolate in critical moments.
First there was the infinitely second-guessable decision by Saints coach Sean Payton to try a 48-yard field goal, into the whirling, freezing, typhoon wind, down eight with four minutes remaining.
And then wide receiver Marques Colston, acting alone, doubled down on the "Wait, what?" by catching a pass as his team scrambled for what would be a game-tying score and was presented with two choices — A) Step out of bounds, allowing for another play and possibly two; or B) Try an ill-advised across-the-field throw.
He chose B, and the pass lamely bounced incomplete.
What was Colston thinking? He looked to have zero clue. Nor did Payton afterward.
"We'll look at the film, next question," was Payton's response when asked if Colston had possibly lost track of time.
Next question, of course, is press conference code for "I'm not going there because anything I say can and will cause a problem."
His answer to the field-goal questioning was equally short.
"With the numbers, I didn't consider it," Payton said, referring of course to 4-and-15.
I was in the Seahawks locker room, being "sweethearted" by Lynch, when Payton talked, so I have only those words. The follow-ups I would have liked to ask, though, are:
"Sean, those are situations you typically and with great success have gone against convention in. Why not here?"
I realize, of course, that Brees looked very un-Brees-ish for most of the game. The stat being tossed around after the game was how Seattle had jumped to a 16-0 lead before Brees completed a pass that traveled beyond the line of scrimmage. Whether it was the weather, the wind, the glove, the Seahawks D or the disappearance of tight end Jimmy Graham, Brees struggled for most of Saturday.
It was hard to find a Saint who didn't struggle, what with a snap hitting their punter in his lower guts, a fumble by their running back that led to points, the first missed field goal.
And yet they were still in this game late, still had a chance to win even after Lynch stiff-armed his way into the end zone for a 15-point lead with 2:40 remaining.
Brees led them on a touchdown drive. They perfectly executed and recovered the onside kick. They were driving, only 37 yards away from a game-tying touchdown at the spot where Colston decided to go off the grid instead of out of bounds. And maybe, they do not win anyway.
It was 37 yards into the wind.
They still would have needed a 2-point conversion just to force overtime.
The odds were long, the hole they dug deep.
All of that is true, yet the Saints did not give themselves their best chance, opting instead for unnecessary trickery and a field-goal try. It is hard to second guess Payton, one of the best coaches in the league, a reputation he only added to by returning from suspension and spearheading this magical bounce-back season.
But the final four minutes were not his best.
And the Seahawks had best not count on getting that kind of help from San Francisco or Carolina.