Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks runs with the ball against the New Orleans Saints during a game at CenturyLink Field on December 2, 2013 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Seattle, WA (SportsNetwork.com) - Russell Wilson had three touchdowns passes and the Seattle Seahawks became the first team to clinch a playoff spot with a dominating 34-7 win over the New Orleans Saints on Monday night.
Wilson finished the game 22-for-30 for 310 yards with touchdown passes to Zach Miller, Doug Baldwin and Derrick Coleman for the Seahawks (11-1), who will be in the postseason for a third time in the past four years and built their lead over the San Francisco 49ers to three games for first place in the NFC West.
"I said yesterday after we practiced that I thought it was the best week of practice we had this year," said Wilson. "That preparation was big and I really think it showed up tonight."
Seattle, which is in the drivers seat for homefield advantage in the NFC playoffs, will have its first shot at clinching the division next week, when it plays in San Francisco on Sunday afternoon.
"Great night for us, big win on Monday night for fans and all of our followers," said Seattle head coach Pete Carroll. "The noise was a factor and we got to play the way we wanted to play."
The defense did its part on Monday, limiting Drew Brees to just 147 yards and a touchdown on 23-for-38 passing, and allowing the Saints (9-3) to cross midfield just once in the first three quarters and stopping the team twice on fourth down in the fourth quarter.
"That first half was real tough and we just couldn't get anything going," said Brees. "We had a bunch of three-and-outs before we had that one drive where we scored. But after that we just couldn't do much at all. We took one in the chin today."
With the loss, its first since dropping a game in New York to the Jets on Nov. 3, New Orleans fell into a tie for first in the NFC South with Carolina, which the team will host next Sunday night.
"We'll make sure we'll get the corrections made because there's a lot of things we didn't do well," said New Orleans head coach Sean Payton. "It's a short week and we have some work to do here."
A quick three-and-out from the Saints to start the game saw the team punt with Seattle getting the ball back at its own 31.
Wilson hit Michael Robinson for 21 yards and followed that with a 10-yard run before finding Golden Tate for 12 yards. The drive stalled at the New Orleans 8, and Steven Hauschka connected on a 26-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead with 7:47 left in the first.
It didn't take long for Seattle to add to its lead, though, as Cliff Avril came around the corner to strip the ball out of Brees' hand, with it falling into the hands of Michael Bennett, who took it into the end zone for a 22-yard score and a 10-0 lead.
Another quick possession from New Orleans resulted in Seattle getting the ball back at its own 27. Facing a 3rd-and-1, a roll out to the right saw Wilson flick a toss to a wide open Miller, who took the ball 60 yards down to the New Orleans 4. Three plays later, Wilson hit Miller on a quick slant for a 2-yard score and a 17-0 lead with 1:55 to play in the first.
New Orleans countered with an impressive drive, snapping the ball 13 times and converting four third downs, with the fourth one a 20-yard grab by Jimmy Graham down to the Seattle 12. Two plays later, Brees hit Graham with a dart just inside the goal line from two yards out for a 17-7 game with 8:45 to play.
Seattle countered with a 20-yard field goal from Hauschka with 3:41 left in the half for a 20-7 lead. The big play of the drive saw Baldwin catch a floater down the left sideline on 3rd-and-1.
The Seahawks got the ball back after yet another three-and-out from the Saints, and Wilson hit Jermaine Kearse for 19 yards on 3rd-and-9 to move the chains. A 14-yard run from Marshawn Lynch got the ball across midfield, and Ryan Turbin carried the ball another 12 yards down to the 30. Wilson then took the ball himself for 15 yards. Two plays later, Wilson floated a pass to the left side where a wide open Baldwin caught the ball for a 4-yard score and a 27-7 lead at the break.
After an exchange of punts to start the second half, the Seahawks padded their lead with yet another scoring drive. A 33-yard catch down the right sideline by Ricardo Lockette got the ball down to the New Orleans 28, and a roughing the passer call on third down gave the Seahawks a fresh set of downs. On 2nd- and-goal at the 8, Wilson tossed a pass out to the right that was bobbled by Kellen Davis, but it went into the hands of Coleman and he stretched it over the goal line for a 34-7 lead with 7:07 to play in the third.
The defenses took over from there, with Seattle stopping New Orleans twice on fourth down in the fourth quarter to hang on for the dominating win.
Wilson improved to 14-0 at home during his career ... New Orleans had a streak of nine straight wins on Monday night stopped, while Seattle was won eight straight on Monday night ... Brees had a streak of 43 straight games of at least 200 yards passing broken ... Wilson also led all runners with 47 yards, as Lynch finished with 45 yards on 16 carries ... Miller finished the game with five catches for 86 yards ... Seattle controlled the ball for 33 1/2 minutes, outgaining New Orleans, 429-188 ... Seattle has won five of the last seven games against New Orleans.