Bradley Handwerger / Eyewitness Sports
SEATTLE ― Saints strong safety Roman Harper watched as the man he was covering seemingly tripped, falling down to the turf as Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck feigned handing off to a running back.
Harper bit, shuffling to the inside to help stuff the run play.
Only, Seahawks’ tight end John Carlson was faking himself. He got off the fieldturf at Qwest Field, moved away from the action of the play and worked his way open. Hasselbeck saw him and seconds later, so did the more-than-66,000 in the stadium.
Carlson caught his second touchdown of the game, an easy 7-yarder that pulled the home team to within three points.
Seattle never looked back and New Orleans went home early in the playoffs with a 41-36 loss to the Seahawks.
“The bottom line is we have to do better in our man-to-man coverage and our eyes,” Harper said. “We just didn’t do that the first half. They scored on us. They got some quick-hitter stuff. We had to make these guys go down the field and earn every little inch.
“We didn’t’ do that. We gave up stuff over the top and we didn’t play well enough in the back end to help our team win.”
The Saints entered Saturday’s playoff game with the NFL’s No. 4 total defense as well as the fourth-ranked pass defense.
They left having given up 272 yards and four touchdowns passing to Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.
“I said after the first time we played them when he played well against us, I thought we didn’t give him enough credit going in,” Saints linebacker Scott Shanle said. “I’ve played against him five or six times before. He’s so efficient. He understands the game.”
Hasselbeck completed passes to eight different players. Brandon Stokley finished with four catches for 73 yards, Mike Williams had five for 68 and a touchdown and Carlson ended the game with only 17 receiving yards, but had two touchdowns to go with that.
New Orleans defensive end Alex Brown doesn’t think Hasselbeck gets enough credit.
“No,” Brown said. “He’s moved a first-year coach, a young team that has changed backs, changed a lot of different things, a receiver that nobody wanted and he has taken them and really molded a playoff team.”
Hasselbeck’s teammates agree.
“Matt is just a warrior, man,” Seattle’s Williams said. “He has had a bad little stretch a little way through the year with interceptions and everything and everyone just jumped on him. But in our locker room, and especially in our wideout group, we trusted him and we knew he’d get it done.”
Harper gave up at least four plays where he left the wide receiver wide open. Two went for touchdowns, both by Carlson.
After the game, he personally took credit for the poor play in the secondary.
“I think I’ll be better because of this,” Harper said. “I hate the way to not have my best game in the biggest situation and better help my team win games and stay in this thing. It sucks, but it’s one of those things we’ll bounce back from it.”