ACT II Scene I
Setting: CenturyLink field in Seattle, WA at 4:35 PST
Weather: 100% chance of rain; wind gusts over 50 mph
Participants: Playing the role of the villain – New Orléans Saints; Playing the role of the hero – Seattle Seahawks
Situation: A battle of wits, stamina and prowess to determine who will move on to the divisional round game.
Story line: Ever had that feeling like you have done something before, at a different time or different location? It’s called Deja vu. Well I have that mystical feeling as I approach this weekend. Most of the players are the same, with a few exceptions. The location will be the same, the crowd will have the same frenetic atmosphere. The difference? Win or go home. One and done. This is for all of the marbles (this week).
Let’s not focus on the regular season at this point, doing so is a moot point. Both teams find themselves in the playoffs with the opportunity of facing each other. This means that both teams are very good. The Saints have finally tasted their first playoff road victory and they want more. The Seahawks are a team that is healthy and rested, awaiting its prey.
Have you ever taken a test in school and, for all intents and purposes, bomb it? I have. If the teacher gave me a second chance to take it I made sure that I learned from my previous mistakes and aced the test the second time around. Well the football gods, playing the role of the teacher in my previous analogy, have given the Saints a second chance at redemption. Do you think Sean Payton is not burning the midnight oil right now, studying hard and getting help from all of the tutors he has in his ‘contacts list’?
In Payton’s mind this is the perfecting ending to a two act play; dejection and utter humiliation in the first act followed by triumphant redemption in the second act. New Orleans looks to play the huntsman to Seattle’s big bad wolf persona. The good news is that these are fictional stories with endings that can be drawn up any way we want. In my story the big bad wolf…well lets just say he ends the day with a full stomach.
New Orleans has rediscovered a weapon in their arsenal…running the ball. I am not sure the status of Pierre Thomas for Saturday but Mark Ingram raised a few eyebrows last week. He earned 97 yards the hard way. Add a dash of Darren Sproles for change of pace and you have the making of tough 1-2 combination running the ball.
That doesn’t even take into account their most feared weapon…Drew Brees‘s arm. He is blessed with a plethora of receivers; e.g. Kenny Stills, Robert Meachem, Lance Moore, Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham. How do you stop them? You plough through the offensive line and put a tremendous amount of pressure on Brees before he has time to set his sights on a receiver. Seemed to work pretty good last time right? And if he is fortunate enough to get the ball thrown to a receiver the Seahawk’s secondary has been outstanding at ‘hawking’ to the ball. Granted it will be a daunting task but as we saw last time it is very doable.
I don’t want to dwell on the weather but it will make a difference. The rain and the wind will limit some deep plays, which will hurt the Saints more than the Seahawks. The team that plays in the rain has more to gain. This sort of field will lend itself to a ground and pound sort of day. Even though New Orléans has found recent success with running the ball, nobody out does Marshawn Lynch in controlled bullying on the field. Add to the weather the fact that the 12’s will be screaming their ever-living lungs out and it will make for a tempest of sensory input that will only help to confuse New Orléans.
Expect Russell Wilson to come out ready to play; ready to prove the naysayers wrong about his ability to put up yards, to look crisp, to have confidence in the pocket and roll out when he needs to. Have no doubt, he is the leader on this team, and where this leader goes his team will follow. I look for Tate and Baldwin to be great possession receivers in this game, limiting the big plays and focusing on moving the ball down the field. And what about….
Percy Harvin? I haven’t mentioned him on purpose because he is an enigma at this point. Will he play or won’t he? Will he return kicks or won’t he? Will he play running back or won’t he? Will he line up in the slot or wide receiver position? We just don’t know…we can only speculate. And guess what that means? So, too, must New Orléans. They have no idea what to expect…and how do you prepare for something you can’t expect? All I know is that if he takes the field a seismic event may just happen again; better get that seismometer tuned up.
Act II will come to a close Saturday evening in Seattle. During the course of this theatrical production we will try to answer that infamous question, Who dat? ….It’s the latest victim of the Seattle Seahawks. Go Hawks!