METAIRIE, La. — When the Saints last were in Seattle for a game at CenturyLink Field, among the defense’s main goals was to slow down Marshawn Lynch.
There was only one problem, however.
In focusing so much on Lynch, they failed to contain quarterback Russell Wilson, whose movement in and out of the pocket helped the Seahawks offense put up 27 points on the way to Seattle’s 34-7 win.
This time, the Saints (12-5) know exactly what they’re facing in Wilson.
They’ll better; the winner of Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. NFC divisional playoff game moves on while the loser’s season is over.
“I better have a better understanding,” Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said. “He was exceptional.”
He was not just phenomenal in that one contest. The game against New Orleans was the last in a stretch in which he completed nearly 73 percent of his passes, threw nine touchdowns and had just two passes intercepted.
But in the four games since, Wilson has come back to the pack. He’s completing just 57 percent of his passes, thrown just four touchdown passes and had three throws intercepted. He also has taken 14 sacks, 31 percent of his season total.
It’s no coincidence that the Seahawks have gone 2-2 in this stretch.
So, the question is, how did those final four teams do it?
Saints linebacker Junior Galette has an idea.
“Just knowing that we didn’t keep him in the pocket last time, we’re going to have to do a much better job,” said Galette, who was credited with five combined tackles and two quarterback hits in the first matchup.
Easier said than done. Wilson is 15-1 at CenturyLink Field, including 7-1 this season. He has 14 home touchdowns to only five interceptions. And he has nine career wins when Seattle trails or is tied entering the fourth quarter, including two at home during this campaign.
What makes Wilson so difficult to contain is the talent he’s surrounded by, including running back Lynch.
Lynch finished the year as the league’s sixth-most potent back, gobbling up 1,257 yards and 12 touchdowns.
“We know who he is,” Ryan said of Lynch, who the Saints held to just 45 yards on 16 carries in December. “He’s not hard to find. I think he’s the premier power back in football.”
Still, the game’s outcome could hinge on how the Saints handle Wilson. Keep him contained an inside the pocket and the job gets easier. Allow him outside the tackles and hold onto your seat because anything can happen.
“We have to get pressure on him, we’ve got to attack the pocket and we have to do a better job of keeping him contained,” Ryan said.
The defensive coordinator doesn’t expect the same performance this time around.
“We did not play really our style of game at all,” Ryan said. “I think that’s really the only game that I just don’t think we were ourselves at all.”