In seven days the New Orleans Saint will roll into town for what might be the most important regular season game of 2013. Although the Carolina Panthers could still have a say in it, it appears likely that the winner of Monday’s game will take the first seed in the NFL playoffs. That statement will be especially true if the Seahawks win. They will have a two game lead over the Saints and a head-to-head tiebreak if they can come up with the victory.
The impending matchup with the Saints got me thinking about the last time New Orleans was in town. On January 8th 2011 the Saints came to Seattle as defending champions and prohibitive favorites to face a team that had no business being in the playoffs. What transpired was one of the most memorable games in Seahawks history. Largely thanks to a play that will go down in history as “The Beastquake” Seattle was able to pull out a 41-38 victory and hand Pete Carroll his first playoff win as coach of the Seahawks.
Today I thought I would reminisce about that game a bit while pointing out the incredible level of turnover on this team. Below I will list all the players who played in that game who remain with the Seahawks, along with a short account of what they did that fateful day and what they can be expected to do on Monday. Let’s start with the star of the show:
What he did last time the Saints were in town: In the 2010 playoff game against the Saints, Lynch rushed for 131 yards on 19 carries with a touchdown. More importantly, he provided Seahawks fans with one of the greatest plays in not only franchise history, but NFL history. This was also something of a breakout game for Lynch who had struggled since coming to the Seahawks during the 2010 season. He hasn’t looked back since, and has had three excellent seasons in a row.
What we can expect this time: More of the same. Lynch has 365 yards from scrimmage and 4 touchdowns over the last three weeks. The Saints defense allows 4.9 yards per carry to opposing rushers so you can expect a big run or two from Marshawn.
What he did last time the Saints were in town: In his rookie season Thomas was already a 16 game starter playing at a very high level. Against the Saints he put up 8 tackles and defended one pass.
What we can expect this time: Even more. Thomas is still young enough that he keeps getting better and better. Expect him to be noticeable on Monday using his closing speed to shut windows for Drew Brees.
What he did last time the Saints were in town: As a rookie, Tate wasn’t ready to contribute very much as a wide receiver. He would only catch one pass for five yards on the day and was overshadowed by big performances by Brandon Stokley and Mike Williams. That sentence sounds pretty ridiculous in 2013.
What we can expect this time: A lot more. The Saints are tough against the pass, but while Percy Harvin gets up to speed Tate is Russell Wilson’s go-to target. Against a team that can bring quite a bit of pressure with guys like Cameron Jordan, a few short slants and bubble screens to Tate might be in order to see if he can rack up the YAC.
What he did last time the Saints were in town: Mebane had two solo tackles and one assist in that game although I confess I can’t remember him making a big impact.
What we can expect this time: Probably more solid but unspectacular work. Brandon Mebane doesn’t make a lot of huge game changing plays but he is a sturdy cog in this defensive machine.
What he did last time the Saints were in town: Clemons had one solo tackle, one pass defended and two quarterback hits on Drew Brees.
What we can expect this time: The Saints pass a lot, but Brees has a quick release and is surprisingly difficult to sack. Another day where Clemons can be disruptive without him necessarily getting a sack would be considered a success.
What he did last time the Saints were in town: Chancellor defended one pass in very limited duty.
What we can expect this time: A few big hits on Jimmy Graham with any luck. Chancellor has developed from a sub package guy to a Pro Bowl starting safety, largely because he is a major enforcer between the hash marks. If he can help keep the Saints tight end in check in that area that would be a huge success.
That’s the entire list. There is one player who played that day who won’t play today (Walter Thurmond) and three that were on the roster in 2010 but injured for the game against the Saints (Russell Okung, Max Unger and Red Bryant). That’s pretty amazing turnover. In three short years Pete Carroll is dealing with a completely different roster. Clearly that’s not a bad thing. This front office has turned an undeserving 7-9 playoff team into a Super Bowl contender, and if you look at the list of players above they clearly kept the right guys. All the players here play major roles on this team. There is a lot of survivorship bias there, but there is also a team that is taking active steps to keep the right players. Lynch, Chancellor, Mebane and Clemons have all signed big extensions since that game and Thomas and Tate are due. A lot of the responsibility of repeating the magic of that game three years ago will fall on these players; hopefully they are up to the task.