Saints’ offense struggles to gain any momentum

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees stretches before Monday's game. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) Show caption
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees stretches before Monday's game. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

SEATTLE — Drew Brees has accomplished great things in his NFL career, and he’ll continue to do so for years to come.

On Monday night, though, the fast and furious defense of the Seattle Seahawks silenced Brees and the rest of the New Orleans offense in a manner rarely seen. Combine that with a dominant performance by Seattle’s offense, and the Saints may have been lucky to lose “only” 34-7.

“The road to the Super Bowl looks like it’s traveling through here,” Brees said.

Brees, held to a paltry 147 passing yards, had nothing but good things to say about Seattle’s defense.

“They don’t have any weak links,” he said. “They’re very good up front. Very good at the linebacker position. Very good in the secondary. They put it all together.”

Tight end Jimmy Graham led the Saints with 42 receiving yards on three catches. He also came away impressed with the Seattle defense.

“They’re pretty good, obviously,” Graham said. “And at home, they play very, very special.”

Brees and Graham, whose touchdown reception was the Saints’ lone score, said the loud CenturyLink Field crowd did not have a major impact on the Saints. The Seahawks, however, were another story.

“We just got outplayed,” Brees said. “They played great. We didn’t.”

“We weren’t as good as we normally are,” Graham said.

The Seahawks also benefited from a lucky break or two. New Orleans trailed only 3-0 in the first quarter when Brees’ arm was struck as he prepared to make a pass. The ball popped directly into the waiting paws of defensive end Michael Bennett, who laboriously returned the fumble 22 yards for a touchdown.

“You can’t turn the ball over when you’re playing away,” Graham said. “That’s a huge stat. ... It definitely hurt.”

Seattle finished with a 429-188 advantage in total yards. The yardage is the lowest for the Saints in 124 games coached by Sean Payton since he arrived in 2006. The previous low had been 213 on Jan. 2, 2010, at Carolina, when Brees and other starters rested with a playoff berth clinched.

The game was all but over at halftime, when the Seahawks led 27-7 after piling up 315 total yards and holding New Orleans to 90. Only 74 of those yards were credited to Brees’ right arm, even though he completed 13 of 16 passes.

A strong pass rush and suffocating pass defense limited Brees to 5.5 yards per completion in the opening half. Brees finished 23 for 38 for 147 yards and one touchdown.

Brees had not recorded so few passing yards since totaling 132 against the New York Giants in 2006. He had passed for at least 200 yards in 43 straight games.

A chilly night, rain and the din of Seattle’s notoriously loud fans did not make it easy on the Saints, but the Seahawks looked every bit as good as their 11-1 record suggests.

The 27-point margin of defeat was the largest in the history of a series that dates to the Seahawks’ first season of 1976. The Saints won that first meeting by a convincing 51-27 margin, but Wilson and his playmates made it clear that things are different in the Pacific Northwest nowadays.