SEATTLE — Marshawn Lynch bounced his run late in the fourth quarter to the outside, eyeing the dark blue end zone.
He only had one Saints player to beat.
And like three years earlier, the Saints couldn’t bring him down.
Lynch stiff-armed cornerback Keenan Lewis on his way into the end zone, a 31-yard scoring run that finished off the Saints’ title hopes.
New Orleans’ season is over, a 23-15 loss at Seattle doing the job.
The play sent defensive coordinator Rob Ryan pacing on the sideline, yelling into his headset and gesticulating wildly with his call sheet.
But it wasn’t the defense that lost the game.
New Orleans (12-6) held Seattle to two touchdowns and forced three field goals in keeping the Saints in the game until the bitter end. Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson was just 9 of 18 passing for 103 yards. Lynch finished with 140 yards and two scores.
Once again at CenturyLink Field, the Saints’ offense had a hard time getting going. After putting up just 188 yards in the season’s first matchup, New Orleans couldn’t get going until it was too late.
Just like in the first game, New Orleans couldn’t get into the end zone. In two games in Seattle (14-3), the Saints scored just 22 total points. Saturday, they were just 3 of 12 on third down.
Quarterback Drew Brees wasn’t on target for most of the game, going just 23 of 42 for the game. Seattle, meanwhile, took out his favorite target Jimmy Graham, holding him to just one catch.
Brees’ touchdown pass to Marques Colston pulled New Orleans to within 23-15 with 27 seconds to play. Colston then recovered the onside kick, but a forward pass by the receiver resulted in a game-ending penalty.
New Orleans looked early like it had the right game plan to stick around.
The Saints went three-and-out on the opening series of the game. A bobbled snap led to a 16-yard punt by Thomas Morstead and Seattle was in business at the New Orleans 40. But the defense didn’t allow the Seahawks to get any closer than the 20. Seattle took an early 3-0 lead on Steven Hauschka’s 38-yard field goal.
New Orleans’ offense began moving the ball on the ground on their next series, but a negative play on a second-down screen play made the Saints settle for a 45-yard Shayne Graham field goal attempt. The kicker, however, pushed it wide left and New Orleans remained behind.
Seattle once again moved into New Orleans territory on the next drive, but the defense forced a stop and another Hauschka field goal and the Saints trailed 6-0 with 37 seconds to go in the opening quarter.
But with the game still firmly where the Saints needed it to be, they committed their biggest mistake early. Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett forced a Mark Ingram fumble and recovered it himself. Two plays later, Lynch darted in for a 15-yard touchdown that pushed New Orleans’ deficit to 13-0.
Hauschka’s 26-yard field goal with 1:18 to go in the second quarter put the Saints down 16-0 just before the break.
New Orleans’ defense kept the team in the game, however, and held Seattle scoreless in the third quarter. That eventually came into play when Khiry Robinson scored on a two-yard run, Ingram punched in the two-point conversion and the Saints pulled within 16-8 with 13:11 to go in the game.