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(Saturday, January 8th)
Final Score: Seattle 41, New Orleans 36
Seattle, WA (Sports Network) - Marshawn Lynch reached up and pushed Tracy Porter to the ground, then rumbled the rest of the way to the end zone.
It was the perfect image for a playoff shocker that has the worst NFL postseason team in history moving on.
Lynch broke about eight tackles on a 67-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, and the Seattle Seahawks held on for a 41-36 win over the New Orleans Saints in a thrilling Wild Card game Saturday.
The Seahawks won the NFC West with a 7-9 record, the first time a losing team has ever made the playoffs, but they rallied from a 10-point deficit in this one and knocked the reigning Super Bowl champions out of contention for a repeat.
"A great feeling," said Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.
Hasselbeck returned from a hip injury and passed for 272 yards and four touchdowns, even sprinting downfield to block on Lynch's highlight-reel romp in the fourth quarter that gave Seattle a 41-30 lead with 3:22 remaining.
Drew Brees led the Saints on a 70-yard drive, throwing a six-yard touchdown pass to Devery Henderson, but they were stuffed on the two-point attempt and couldn't recover an onside kick.
Brees ended 39-of-60 for 404 yards and two touchdowns for New Orleans, which became the first defending Super Bowl champion to lose a playoff game after leading by at least 10 points.
The Saints earned a Wild Card berth with their 11-5 record, but got the fifth seed and were forced to travel to fourth-seeded Seattle to face the NFC West champions despite a superior record.
"If there's anything we can take away from this it's just that it's hard to win in this league and it's hard to win on the road, especially in the playoffs," said Brees.
It looked good early for the Saints, who took a 17-7 lead in the first half. But things unraveled quickly as the league's fourth-best passing defense was picked apart by the "other" veteran quarterback on Qwest Field.
New Orleans allowed four passing touchdowns to Hasselbeck after giving up an NFL-low 13 in the regular season.
The Seattle quarterback threw two early touchdown passes to tight end John Carlson, who also caught the Saints' onside kick attempt near the end of the game. He also dropped perfect passes into Brandon Stokley and Mike Williams on 45- and 38-yard scores.
Hasselbeck didn't play in last Sunday's division-clinching win over St. Louis after suffering a hip injury the week before in a loss to Tampa Bay. But he took his starting job back from Charlie Whitehurst for this one and made the most of it.
"I've felt good about out season this whole time, even though other people don't," said Hasselbeck. "For us to handle the adversity and all the things we had to and still come out on top of our division is a tremendous job in finding a way."
The deciding blow was delivered by Lynch, who led all players with 131 yards on 19 carries -- none more important than his 67-yarder in the fourth.
He busted through the line off right tackle on a run that took him toward the right sideline and downfield for the score. Jabari Greer had him wrapped up around the legs, but couldn't hold on.
With what seemed like the entire Seahawks offense trailing him, Lynch saved his best for another Saints cornerback, bowling over Porter with a stiff arm.
"One of the greatest runs I ever saw," said first-year Seattle head coach Pete Carroll. "At a time when we needed it most, it was just an incredible play. I'm sure that everyone will remember that run forever. It was just one of those moments."
Even Hasselbeck made it downfield for a block.
"We worked hard to [win]. It's not like it just kind of happened," said Hasselbeck. "We worked hard this week, we prepared and we believed and we laid it on the line."
With the win, the Seahawks earned a road meeting with either No. 1 seed Atlanta or No. 2 seed Chicago next week. They needed to rally for the honor.
Seattle scored 17 straight points in the first half and carried a 24-20 lead into the locker room after the Saints got a late field goal.
Carrying over that momentum, the Seahawks scored 10 points in the third quarter, the first seven when Hasselbeck dropped a perfect pass over two defenders and into the arms of Williams for a 31-20 lead.
Seattle turned a Saints punt into a 34-20 lead on Olindo Mare's 39-yard field goal, then stopped New Orleans on a 4th-and-1 try when former teammate Julius Jones was tripped up behind the line of scrimmage.
But the Seahawks moved themselves out of field goal range with a delay of game penalty and were forced to punt. Brees moved the Saints 87 yards downfield and Jones scored on a bruising four-yard run to make it 34-27.
Jones took a screen pass 33 yards down the right sideline on the Saints' next possession and Garrett Hartley kicked a 21-yard field goal to pull them within 34-30 before Lynch's run.
To start the game, the Saints got the ball at their own 40-yard line after Mare booted the opening kickoff out of bounds. Reggie Bush dropped a pass deep in the red zone and New Orleans settled for a 26-yard field goal from Hartley.
Hasselbeck was intercepted by Greer on his third attempt and the Saints turned it into a 10-0 lead when Brees hit a wide-open Heath Evans for a one-yard TD.
Seattle pulled within 10-7 on Hasselbeck's 11-yard touchdown pass to Carlson on the ensuing possession, but the New Orleans came right back with an 83-yard scoring drive that ended in Jones' five-yard touchdown on a draw.
The Seahawks then scored 17 straight points to take the lead, beginning with Hasselbeck's seven-yard TD pass to Carlson. The play was set up by tight end Cameron Morrah's 39-yard catch down the left sideline.
Following the game's first two punts, Seattle defensive end Raheem Brock stripped Jones on the first play and Mare kicked a 29-yard field goal to tie the game at 17-17.
The Saints punted again and Hasselbeck dropped a perfect pass into the arms of Stokley, who got behind three New Orleans defenders for a 45-yard TD.
New Orleans got three points back before the half on Hartley's 22-yard field goal, which was set up by Brees' six-yard scramble for a first down.
Jones, who played the first two games of the regular season with Seattle, gained 59 yards on 15 carries with two touchdowns. Henderson led all players with seven catches for 77 yards.
Seattle wrestled the NFC West away from the St. Louis Rams with a 16-6 win at home last Sunday...The Saints had 32 first downs to Seattle's 19...New Orleans outgained the Seahawks 474-415 yards.
01/08 23:23:25 ET
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