Saints-Seahawks: Three and Out

1. WHAT WE LEARNED

The Saints closed the gap on the Seattle Seahawks since their 34-7 blowout defeat here Dec. 2 but not enough. A 23-15 NFC Divisional round playoff loss will be no less bitter to swallow for New Orleans than last month’s defeat because this one spells the end of the Saints’ season, and New Orleans was as much a victim of its own mistakes as it was the high-flying Seahawks. The Saints had two missed field goals, a fumble at their 24 and a mental meltdown on a Marques Colston forward lateral on what turned out to be the game’s final play.

2. TRENDING NOW

Marshawn Lynch. In the Saints’ December debacle against the Seahawks, the agent of their demise was quarterback Russell Wilson. Saturday, it was Lynch. The Seattle running back proved again why he is one of the best ball carriers in the NFL, rumbling for 140 yards on 28 carries and both of the Seahawks’ touchdowns. His first score, a 15-yard run, came two plays after the Saints’ Mark Ingram fumbled at the New Orleans 24. His second, a 31-yard run that he bounced around left end, secured the win for the NFC’s top seed in the playoffs.

3. FINAL THOUGHTS

Once the swelling goes down from this painful defeat, the Saints and their fans will realize how much there is to be encouraged and excited about in terms of the franchise’s recovery from the potentially crippling 7-9 Bountygate season of 2012. But there is the realization that the Saints have a lot of distance still to cover to being what the Seahawks are now: the team to beat in the NFC. New Orleans faces a critically important offseason, starting with the attempt to re-sign tight end Jimmy Graham, the goal being to play at home in the divisional round in 2015.