SEATTLE — The resurgent New Orleans Saints defense picked the most inopportune time to produce its poorest performance of the season.
With the nation watching on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football,” the Saints were manhandled in a 34-7 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in raucous CenturyLink Field.
But after picking up the offense at times earlier this season, their aggressive defense couldn’t hold up against a Seahawks offense that was unstoppable in the first half.
The Saints gave up a season high in points after allowing more than 20 points just twice in their first 11 outings. They also gave up 429 total yards — just 5 fewer than the Chicago Bears had in a 26-18 loss to the Saints on Oct. 6.
Even tough they came into the game with the NFL’s fifth-ranked defense, allowing just 309.9 total yards per game, the Saints didn’t have much of a chance in the first half.
The Seahawks scored on all four of their possessions with two touchdowns and two field goals and even got some help from their defense, which also scored a touchdown in taking a 27-7 halftime lead.
“It wasn’t a surprise. … We knew they were a good team, and they came out and played like one,” Saints inside linebacker David Hawthorne said. “We have to match their intensity. They were the better team tonight, that’s for sure.”
The Seahawks’ offense put together five scoring drives. Their field-goal drives went for 61 and 82 yards, and their touchdown drives covered 73, 88 and 79 yards.
While the Saints were determined not to let running back Marshawn Lynch beat them, they couldn’t contain him and quarterback Russell Wilson at the same time.
Lynch, whose spectacular 67-yard touchdown run in a 2010 playoff game helped the Seahawks to a huge upset of the Saints, went into the game needing just 75 yards to go over the 1,000-yard mark. But the Saints held him to 45 yards and a 2.8 average on 16 attempts with a long gain of 14 yards.
That left Wilson, a dual-threat quarterback, to shred them for 47 yards on eight carries. He averaged 5.9 yards per attempt as the Seahawks finished the night with 127 rushing yards.
“I think they knew our game plan,” cornerback Keenan Lewis said. “We had to beat a good football team, and when they’ve got a quarterback who can scramble and get open, that’s hard to stop. It was like Pop Warner out there, the way he was running around.”
When he wasn’t hurting them with his legs, Wilson was killing the Saints with his arm.
He hit on 22 of 30 attempts for 310 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Wilson, who was sacked just once, had a long pass of 60 yards and finished with a 139.6 passer rating.
Wilson helped the Seahawks finish with 302 net passing yards. It was the second-highest total allowed by the Saints’ third-ranked pass defense, which was giving up just 198.0 per game.
“They kind of had us on our heels,” said Hawthorne, who played for the Seahawks from 2008-11. “We were playing to their mercy. When it was time to step up, we couldn’t get off the field.”
The Seahawks were 7 of 14 on third down, which helped them control the ball for more than 33 minutes.
Wilson connected with tight end Zach Miller, who had the 60-yard catch, five times for 86 yards and wide receiver Doug Baldwin four times for 77 yards with a 52-yard completion.
Limiting big plays was one of the things the Saints did well in the first 11 games of the season, but the Seahawks were able to do some damage.
Miller’s 60-yard reception from Wilson was the longest pass against the Saints this season. Three plays later, Wilson tossed a 2-yard TD to Miller to give the Seahawks a 17-0 lead with 1:55 to play in the first period.
Things didn’t get any better in the second quarter for the Saints, who gave up runs of 14, 12 and 15 yards on a drive that ended with a 4-yard TD pass from Wilson to Baldwin with 13 seconds remaining in the first half — giving them a big 20-point advantage.
“We’ll be all right,” Lewis said. “If people just make judgment off one game, then let them judge. It’s a loss, but it’s just one game.”