The NFC's top-seeded Seahawks, who have lost once in front of
their deafening CenturyLink Field fans over the last two years, are
fresh off a first-round bye and eager to take their initial
postseason step toward a Super Bowl trip to New York.
Elusive second-year quarterback Russell Wilson will try to get the
Seahawks' offense back on track after an inconsistent 2-2 finish to
the regular season that followed an 11-1 start by a team that led
the National Football League in defense.
Cornerback Richard Sherman, who had eight interceptions and was
named All-Pro for the second successive year, said the secret to
success was blending talent with discipline.
"Nobody is worried about doing too much. Nobody is worried about
playing out of their mind or playing crazy," said Sherman, whose
unit led the league in fewest points per game (14.4), fewest yards
(273.6) and widest turnover margin (plus-20).
"Everybody is just doing their job. Once you get everybody playing
on the same page and nobody playing selfish football, it becomes an
New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, who threw for more than 5,000
yards for the third consecutive season, was stifled by the Seahawks
in a 34-7 trouncing in Seattle last month.
But Brees benefited from a balanced attack in New Orleans' 26-24
breakthrough victory over the Eagles in the first playoff road win
for the Saints, who thrive at their Superdome home but must make
their way on the road as a wild card team.
Running back Mark Ingram, playing in place of the sidelined Pierre
Thomas, ran for 97 yards and a touchdown as the Saints rushed for a
total of 185 yards.
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If New Orleans (12-5), whose defense ranked fourth in fewest
yards allowed, can continue to run the ball effectively that
could open up throwing opportunities for Brees.
Despite limiting Brees to 147 passing yards last month for his
lowest total in seven years, Seattle coach Pete Carroll has
utmost respect for the Saints quarterback.
"He's an incredible football player," Carroll said about the
Most Valuable Player in the Saints' march to the Super Bowl
title four years ago. "Historic numbers and accomplishments and
there's nothing that guy can't do."
The rushing game, spearheaded by rugged running back Marshawn
Lynch, is a staple of Seattle's attack and with a chilly rain in
the forecast for Saturday, establishing the ground game could be
a key for both teams.
Lynch ran for 1,257 yards, his second-best total, and a dozen
touchdowns to match his career best.
Saints coach Sean Payton, who had to sit out a frustrating 2012
campaign (7-9) as part of the NFL punishment for the so-called
bounty scandal, relishes the next challenge.
"This (Seattle) is a team that has been dominant all season,"
said Payton. "They're the number one seed. They're unbelievably
"They've had one of those magical seasons and we have our work
cut out for this one."
(Reporting by Larry Fine; editing by Frank Pingue)
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