The Saints’ playoff run collided Saturday with two storms: the weather system that bore down on Seattle and the Seahawks’ stout defense.
The wet and windy conditions made it difficult for Drew Brees to throw in the first half — and when he did, the Seahawks’ top-ranked pass defense thwarted him.
Wearing gloves on both hands, Brees threw for only 34 yards in the first half — his lowest first-half showing since the final regular-season game against the Panthers in 2006, when the Saints pulled him early to rest for the playoffs.
With the wind at his back, the 13-year veteran found his rhythm in the second half but his comeback bid fell short and New Orleans’ season ended with a 23-15 loss to the Seahawks in the NFC divisional playoff game.
"You just don’t know how many more opportunities you’re going to have," Brees said afterward. "That’s what makes it so tough standing up here and talking about it."
Brees found Marques Colston with a 9-yard touchdown pass with 26 seconds left to narrow it. Colston recovered the onside kick and gave the Saints the possibility to tie it.
Brees again hit Colston on the Seattle 38, but the 8-year veteran didn’t step out of bounds and instead tried to throw awkwardly across the field to Darren Sproles. The illegal forward pass brought an automatic 10-second runoff and ended the game.
In the end, Brees completed 24 of 43 passes for 309 yards. Colston wouldn’t talk after the game.
The Saints had visited Seattle in early December and suffered a 34-7 loss. Brees was 23-of-34 for 147 yards and the lone touchdown in that one.
"We knew what we were coming in to here," Brees said. "We thought we had a great game plan."
After beating Tampa in the regular-season finale for the sixth seed, the Saints defeated the Eagles 26-24 in an NFC wild-card game last weekend in Philadelphia. It was the first playoff road victory in franchise history. Brees threw for 250 yards and a touchdown but also had a pair of interceptions.
The forecast on Saturday promised to make the game hard on both teams.
The crew at CenturyLink Field had tarp on the field overnight and a tractor braced goalposts against 60 mph winds that knocked out power to some 75,000 homes in Western Washington overnight.
Periodic downpours plagued the game, and at times the gusts were so strong it rained sideways.
The Saints got nowhere on their first possession and then Thomas Morstead muffed the punt, putting the Seahawks in good position for a drive that ended with a 38-yard field goal.
The Saints had a chance to even it but Shayne Graham’s 45-yard attempt went just wide left and Seattle upped its lead to 6-0 before the end of the first quarter with Steven Hauschka’s 49-yard field goal.
Mark Ingram fumbled early in the second quarter and the Seahawks recovered, going on to score on Marshawn Lynch’s acrobatic 15-yard touchdown run to push Seattle’s lead to 13-0. Hauschka added a 26-yard field goal before the end of the first half.
With the Saints down 16-0, Brees orchestrated a 75-yard scoring drive capped by rookie Khiry Robinson’s 1-yard touchdown run with 13:14 left in the game. Mark Ingram ran for the 2-point conversion to narrow Seattle’s lead to 16-8.
Brees connected with Robert Meachem on a 52-yard pass that tipped off defender Earl Thomas’ fingertips. But the Saints couldn’t capitalize on the big play and Graham missed a 48-yard field goal with 3:51 left.
"I could lay all these excuses out there, but I’ll never be willing to let those be my defining moments — that I gave an excuse for something I didn’t perform on," Graham said afterward.
Lynch’s 31-yard touchdown run with 2:40 to go to pushed the Seahawks’ lead to 23-8.
The Saints were without running back Pierre Thomas, who also missed the game against the Eagles because of a chest injury. Thomas led the team during the regular season with 549 yards rushing. He was second among the Saints with 77 catches.
Also missing was linebacker Parys Haralson, who sustained a torn pectoral against the Eagles.
Three seasons ago, the Seahawks beat the defending Super Bowl champion Saints in a first-round playoff game in Seattle.