Tale Of The Tape: New Orleans Saints At Seattle Seahawks
- QuarterbackThe Saints had a key breakthrough in winning a road playoff game against the Eagles, but accomplishing that feat against the Seahawks will require an even greater effort. They have the right triggerman in Drew Brees, who stayed calm and performed well against Philadelphia. If his offensive line gives him time, Brees is among the most accurate passers in the game.Russell Wilson is a sensational leader who has keyed the Seahawks’ rise the past two seasons. Wilson is an excellent decision maker who had a 26-9 TD-interception ratio this season and completed 63.1 percent of his passes in 2013. However, he had just four TD passes -- and three interceptions -- in the last four games of the season.
- OffenseSince Pierre Thomas was sidelined, the Saints turned to Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson against the Eagles and they combined for 142 rushing yards. The Saints will need a semblance of a ground game against the Seahawks. Tight end Jimmy Graham will catch nearly everything he can touch, while Marques Colston is a dependable route runner. Kenny Stills has big-play ability.The Seahawks depend on running back Marshawn Lynch to pick up a big chunk of yardage and take pressure off of Wilson. Lynch ran for 1,257 yards and 12 touchdowns, while averaging 4.2 yards per carry. Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin are a dependable but unspectacular receiving duo. Carroll is hoping explosive Percy Harvin can make a contribution in this game.
- DefenseThe main reason the Saints were able to play consistently in 2013 was the consistent return they got from their defense under coordinator Rob Ryan. New Orleans ranked fourth in yards allowed, after ranking dead-last in that category a year ago. Cameron Jordan and Junior Gallette combined for 24.5 sacks, while middle linebacker Curtis Lofton led the Saints with 125 tackles.The Seahawks have one of the most intimidating defenses in the league. In addition to ranking first in fewest yards allowed, the Seahawks will punish running backs and receivers with their nasty tackling. Cornerback Richard Sherman is probably the best cover man in the game, while free safety Earl Thomas had five interceptions and two forced fumbles.
- Special TeamsThe Saints were able to get past the Eagles in the wild-card game because placekicker Shayne Graham made all four of his FG attempts, including the game-winner with no time on the clock. However, Graham was a late-season addition and may not be dependable.The Seahawks have been one of the best coverage teams in the league as they rarely give up any big plays on punt or kickoff returns. Placekicker Steven Hauschka made a remarkable 33-of-35 FG attempts this season, while Jon Ryan is an excellent directional punter.
The Saints dropped a 34-7 decision at Seattle in Week 13, but they have the tools to stay with the Seahawks if they don’t get overwhelmed by the crowd noise and the Seahawks' defense. Winning on the road in the wild-card game was a step up for the Saints, and they should be able to keep it close. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor