Seahawks, Saints feel force of wind, slash of rain in divisional playoff

SEATTLE — The wind gusts and drenching rain expected Saturday for the NFC divisional playoff game between the New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks weren’t as bad as originally forecast.

A pregame shower cleared downtown Seattle, and the sun came out briefly before the wind and rain returned for the start of the game, which the Seahawks won 23-15 to advance to the NFC Championship game.

There were periods of steady rain, but the biggest problem was with a 20 mph wind and gusts of about 30 mph that affected the quarterbacks and kickers — especially early in the game and in the third quarter.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees seemed to have trouble wearing gloves, which he uses only when it rains. He managed to connect on 24 of 43 passes for 309 yards with a touchdown, while the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson was 9 of 18 for 103 yards.

Saints punter Thomas Morstead had a 16-yard kick into the teeth of the wind in the first quarter to set up the Seahawks’ first field goal and the Seahawks’ Jon Ryan had a 24-yard punt in the third period — also against the howling wind.

Tough sledding

Brees threw for just 19 yards against the wind in the first quarter, connecting on just 3 of 4 passes.

It was the first time since the 2006 regular-season finale he had less than 50 yards in the opening quarter. That year, he played just one series and one play of a second before leaving because the Saints had already clinched the No. 2 seed in the playoffs.

Graham mixes it up

Saints All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham had a bad day all around with just one reception for 8 yards, which came with less than 30 seconds to play in the game.

About 90 minutes before the game, when players from both teams were warming up, Graham got into a verbal confrontation with Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin. It wasn’t known what precipitated the incident.

Later, there was another confontation right in front of the Saints bench in full view of the game officials. Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Kam Chancellor were jawing with some Saints, who were quickly ushered from the area by the officials.

Nothing for three

The Saints were blanked on the scoreboard for the first three quarters, the first time that’s happened since Sean Payton arrived in 2006.

The last time the Saints failed to have any points going to the fourth quarter was in the 2001 regular-season finale — in a 38-0 loss to the San Francisco 49ers when Jim Haslett was head coach.

Another shutout

The Seahawks pitched a shutout in the opening quarter for the 12th time in 17 games this season.

In leading the NFL in scoring defense at 14.4 points a game, they allowed a league-low 22 points in the first period with just one touchdown scored against them.

That came in Week 5 in a 34-28 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

Thomas a no-go

Saints running back Pierre Thomas didn’t play even though he practiced on a limited basis Thursday after missing last week’s wild-card game.

Thomas, who suffered a chest injury in the team’s regular-season finale, was listed as questionable Friday by Payton.

Thursday’s practice was the first for Thomas since he was injured, suggesting he might have a chance to play until being listed as inactive Saturday.

Inactives

Also inactive for the Saints were WR Nick Toon, DE Tyrunn Walker, LB Rufus Johnson, CB Terrence Frederick, S Jordan Pugh and QB Ryan Griffin.

Inactives of note for the Seahawks were LB K.J. Wright (foot), DT Jordan Hill (groin) and G James Carpenter.

Injuries

Saints LB Junior Galette injured his right ankle in the first quarter, but returned on the next series.

For the Seahawks, WR Percy Harvin had to be taken to the locker room twice in the first half to be evaluated for a concussion. He did not return after leaving for the second time.

Harvin played in only one game in the regular season after having hip surgery in August.

Everyone counts

The CenturyLink Field crowd of 68,388 Saturday was a stadium record for the Seahawks.

That was one more than the team drew for their Dec. 2 “Monday Night Football” matchup with the Saints — when 68,387 came through the gates.

Lagniappe

The Saints are now 2-3 in the divisional round. They previously beat Philadelphia (2006) and Arizona (2009) and lost to Minnesota (2000) and San Francisco (2011). … The franchise’s all-time postseason record stands at 7-9 with a 6-4 mark under Payton. … A 1-yard touchdown run by Saints running back Khiry Robinson early in the fourth quarter was only the fifth rushing score allowed by the Seahawks this season. … Saints backup linebacker Keyunta Dawson was active for the first time since suffering a calf injury Nov. 21 at Atlanta. … Members of the Saints and Seahawks each earned $23,000 for playing in the divisional round.