I have to admit this loss hurts more than I expected. There was a "house money" feeling after the exhilarating road win in Philly accomplishing what can only be described as a historical franchise win. After that game I felt I would be disappointed with a loss to Seattle, but it was something I could live with. But there will be scars from this one. Mostly I feel for Rob Ryan and the defense, who by and large played so well all season and made such a transformation. Yes, the defense didn't get enough turnovers. In this game, or all season. But the big disappointment all year came from the offense, clearly a significant step below what we've grown accustomed to since 2009. The Saints scored what felt like a garbage time touchdown with 26 seconds left until a crazy onsides kick recovery that preceded a bizarre sequence to end the game. Banking on things to work out at that point was a pipe dream, though. The bottom line is that even when the Saints had the ball with 7 minutes left down 16-8, they left points on the board and the offense didn't take advantage of the few opportunities afforded them all game. In the playoffs that is a cardinal sin. Below are my bullets on the game.
- Drew Brees threw for 309 yards. Um, what? I had to check the box score 10 times to make sure that was right. I was floored by that. He amassed a lot in the 4th quarter, and 52 came on the ridiculous completion to Meachem. The Saints rushed for 108 yards on 26 carries. The offensive output, given the conditions, was outstanding. It was the fumble by Ingram, turnovers on downs and missed field goals that cost them.
- Brees was off. Neither QB could get much going. It was raining sheets. It was windy. This game was always going to come down to who ran better, who was better at kicking field goals, and who tackled better. Clearly Seattle was that team.
- Shayne Graham went from hero to goat. Misses from 45 and 48. In that weather it's excusable, but Steve Hauschka hit all three of his including one from 49. That's a big factor any way you cut it. Kicker has just not been solid enough for the Saints this season. When the Saints signed Graham, distance was the issue. Will be interesting to see where the Saints go at kicker in 2014.
- Marshawn Lynch had 140 yards on 28 carries but I thought the Saints mostly did ok on him. Man, that guy is tough to bring down.
- Khiry Robinson looks like a stud. I hope he's the starter next year. If he can become secure with the football he seems like a long term gamer for the Saints.
- Colston quietly had 11 receptions for 144 yards and a touchdown. The Saints should have gone to him earlier. Say what you will about the last play, he played tough as nails.
- Jimmy Graham had 1 catch for 8 yards and is getting killed by criticism. Deservingly so. For an All-Pro, he gets taken out of games a little too easily sometimes. The bottom line is he doesn't seem to show up in the big games when the Saints need him most. His contract situation will be a stressful item this offseason, but of course my position is the Saints have to keep him.
- The defense is so young and the o-line and running backs really came on late this season. Terron Armstead played well again and looks like he has potential as a left tackle. There is tons of reason for optimism with this Sean Payton and Rob Ryan tandem. It will all depend on how the offseason goes.
- Percy Harvin was possibly concussed twice in this game. How he was allowed to return after the first is suspect at best. That guy just can't stay healthy.
- That Meachem catch for 52 yards was so improbable and crazy, it was truly special. You almost felt at that point like the Saints were destined to steal the game.
- Safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas are really good players. I was impressed. Certainly worlds better than Jenkins/Harper. We know how good Richard Sherman but the play of those two is what won this game for the Seahawks.
- Thomas Morstead got the Saints off to a disastrous start after a 3 and out by mishandling the snap and punting the ball 16 yards.
- A couple terrible penalties, but the Rafael Bush personal foul takes the cake. Killed an otherwise crucial stop early. Ramon Humber's personal foul on the kickoff was bad. Josh Hill and Zach Strief had killer holds. There were some bad penalties on the Saints in this one.
- The Saints learned their lesson from last time playing Seattle and they completely bottled Russell Wilson up. He made plays here and there but overall he had a poor performance. The Saints did a good job containing him and not giving him opportunities to run.
- I can't even write about the last play with Colston. No words. Too bad because he otherwise played really big, especially late.
Now that the offseason is officially upon us we'll have plenty of time to go over the season, the offseason and more. For now I think it's nice to reflect on what was an 11-5 season, a playoff win in Philadelphia, and lots of fun. This team struggled down the stretch because it couldn't really produce offensively on the road. That's the bottom line. I think weather in many games had a lot to do with that, and that's always going to be a luck of the draw thing. Obviously if the Saints were playing in the Superdome in the playoffs, that makes a big difference. The path to the Super Bowl was too much to overcome. For the Saints to get back, they'll need to have home games like they did in 2009. That's possible if they get a little luckier in the regular season (the New England and Carolina games come to mind).