The Seahawks’ season may not be over following Monday night’s 13-10 loss to the Saints – there are 10 games left to play, after all.
But what there shouldn’t be is any debate about what Russell Wilson means to the Seahawks.
In Seattle’s second game without Wilson they suffered their second loss and their third in a row for the first time since before Wilson arrived in 2011. The Seahawks got just one touchdown and went the final 55:52 scoring just three points.
The Seahawks have scored three touchdowns in their two games without Wilson and 30 points overall – barely more than the 28.7 per game they averaged last season.
Seattle’s only score was an unlikely 84-yard touchdown pass from Geno Smith to DK Metcalf on the second series of the game.
The Seahawks never got further than the Saints 23 the rest of the game, scoring only on a 50-yard field goal by Jason Myers – who would miss his next two attempts.
The Saints were hardly any better offensively on a windy, rainy night at Lumen Field, but they had a superstar in Alvin Kamara who caught 10 passes for 128 yards, including a 13-yarder for a TD in the second quarter.
And that was basically the difference.
Seattle’s defense was up to the task for most of the night.
But two critical penalties on a final drive by the Saints proved too much to overcome.
Seattle is now five games behind leader Arizona in the NFC West and has more wins than only one team in the NFC – winless Detroit.
New Orleans got the winning points on a 33-yard field goal by Brian Johnson with 1:56 left.
Seattle’s following drive went incomplete, sack, sack, setting up a fourth-and-28 that resulted in one final incompletion and one of the most futile offensive nights in recent Seahawks history.
Seattle had just 219 yards and averaged just 4.0 per play. Seattle had just 78 yards on 31 plays, or 2.5 per attempt, in the second half.
Seattle had a chance to take the lead when it drove to the Saints 23 midway through the fourth quarter.
But a run and a pass netted minus-one yard.
On third-and-11, Saints end Tanoh Kpassagnon broke through the middle of the Seahawks offensive line to sack Smith at the 35.
Myers then missed his second field goal of the night, this one from 53 yards out. That also gave New Orleans its best starting field position of the game at its own 43 with 6:44 to play.
Seattle appeared to have stopped the Saints on the ensuing drive when Bobby Wagner and Marquise Blair combined for a third-down sack. But Blair was called for roughing the passer as he led with the head as Winston was going down.
That gave the Saints a first down at the Seattle 41 with 5:36 to play.
On third down from the 41, Blair blitzed off the left side. The Saints saw it coming and Kamara ran right where Blair would have been to pick up 12 to the 29.
Seattle forced an apparent 42-yard field goal by Johnson with 3:08 left.
But Al Woods, who had been one of the most valuable Seattle defensive players all game, was called for encroachment, giving the Saints a first down.
New Orleans ran four more plays and took another 1:12 off the clock before Johnson then hit a 33-yarder to put the Saints ahead 13-10 with 1:56 to play.
The Seahawks started at their own 25 with one time out.
A first down pass from Smith to Metcalf was incomplete.
On second down Smith was sacked on a blitz by safety Malcolm Jenkins.
On third down he was sacked by Demario Davis. On fourth down Smith ran around aimlessly in the end zone in the direction of Metcalf that was batted down by Davis.
And that was that.
The Saints led 10-7 at halftime, turning the game around with a thoroughly dominating second quarter.
The Saints went on scoring drives of 86 and 85 yards to score 10 points in the quarter, outgaining Seattle 117-18.
The Seahawks got their yards on 11 plays, averaging just 1.6 yards per play.
Down 7-0, the Saints had a second-and-goal at the 1. But a Kamara run lost a yard and Jordyn Brooks broke up a third-down pass to compel the Saints to kick a field goal.
After a Seattle punt – moved back in part due to a taunting penalty on tight end Gerald Everett – the Saints gained 85 yards, getting a TD on a 13-yard pass from Winston to Kamara.
Seattle took a 7-0 lead on its second possession of the game when Smith found Metcalf in man coverage on three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who in September signed a five-year contract worth up to $97.6 million. Smith faked to Collins then fired to Metcalf down the right side. Lattimore either slipped or was helped to the tround by Metcalf, depending on your rooting interest, and Metcalf had an easy reception. He then had an easy TD when safety Marcus Williams dived and missed a tackle at about the 45.
It was the third-longest pass in Seahawks history (the longest a 90-yarder from Seneca Wallace to Koren Robinson in 2008) and the longest since an 87-yarder from Matt Hasselbeck to Ben Obomanu in 2010.
But Seattle did little else on offense in the first half, finishing with 141 yards on 24 plays.
That included just 31 yards on 12 rushing attempts, 11 on two by Smith.
Seattle opened the second half by driving from its own 12 to the Saints 26, thanks in part to two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on New Orleans – one on Lattimore, who had two in the game.
But two sacks helped kill the drive and Jason Myers then missed a 44-yarder that could have tied it at 10.
Seattle had another chance when an Ugo Amadi tackle forced a fumble by New Orleans tight end Adam Trautman that Jordyn Brooks recovered at the Saints 32 at 1:34 of the third quarter.
But three plays netted no yards and Seattle again had to settle for a field goal.
Myers hit this one, from 50 yards out, to tie the game with 14 seconds left in the third quarter.
But that was it for the Seahawks on a night that brought back too many memories of the pre-Wilson era.