Tight end Jimmy Graham #80 of the New Orleans Saints is tackled by outside linebacker K.J. Wright #50 and defensive tackle Tony McDaniel #99 of the Seattle Seahawks during a game at CenturyLink Field on December 2, 2013 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
by Curtis Crabtree
RENTON - In the first matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints in December, Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan challenged the Seahawks' offense by blitzing QB Russell Wilson and playing man-to-man against Seattle's receiving corps.
Seattle made the Saints pay several times as the Seahawks earned a convincing 34-7 victory in the precursor to their return meeting this Saturday in the Divisional Round of the NFC playoffs.
Breakdowns in man coverage by the Saints allowed a 60-yard pass from Wilson to TE Zach Miller and a 4-yard touchdown pass to WR Doug Baldwin. Against an all-out blitz, Baldwin beat S Malcolm Jenkins for a 52-yard gain as well. Seattle found ways to hurt the Saints when Ryan sent the heat after Wilson.
"At some point he’s going to want to bring the house at you, and you have to be ready to answer that question," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said.
Seattle was successful in winning those battles against the Saints in their first meeting. However, the Saints showed a completely different look last week against the Philadelphia Eagles in the Wild Card round. The Saints sat back in coverage more frequently against the Eagles and didn't pressure as frequently.
It leaves the Seahawks having to prepare for multiple different possibilities from the New Orleans defense this week. They may not know which looks they'll get until kickoff Saturday and may have to adjust mid-game.
"One week it could be with a lot of pressure, and they three-man rushed probably more than we would’ve thought against that team. We don’t know, we have to wait and see. We have to be ready to adapt during the course of the game," head coach Pete Carroll said.
However, the Saints are significantly short-handed on the defensive side of the football. LB Parys Haralson was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday. He joins other defensive stalwarts on the injured reserve list including LB Jonathan Vilma, LB Will Smith, CB Jabari Greer, CB Patrick Robinson and S Kenny Vaccaro.
"It’s been tough but here, we have the next man up," Saints LB Curtis Lofton said. "Everyone prepares like they’ll eventually be the starter and when someone goes down, then the next guy steps up, plays great, and becomes a key part for us. So losing those guys hurt us, but at the same time we had to move on."
The team was not required to provide an injury report Tuesday despite holding their first practice of the week. Seattle will have to provide reports Wednesday-Friday this week.
That being said, head coach Pete Carroll said during his press conference that LB K.J. Wright would be the only player not able to practice with the team Tuesday. Wright is expected to run on the team Thursday with the hope of being available for the NFC Championship game, if they advance past the Saints this Saturday.
WR Percy Harvin (hip), TE Luke Willson (ankle) and WR Jermaine Kearse (ankle) were all expected to take part in Tuesday's practice. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell spoke about having all their receiving options finally available on the practice field.
"We like to have all those guys out there," Bevell said. "...It's fun to have them out there. We just have to continue to keep working them, see how they react. There's a lot of guys that are a little bit touch and go so we're seeing how they come out of the week."
Darrell Bevell Confirms Two Interviews:
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell confirmed Tuesday that he had two interviews for vacant head coaching positions last week. NFL rules preclude him from interviewing this week with Seattle having a game this weekend.
It has been reported that Bevell was being approached by multiple teams, including the Washington Redskins, Minnesota Vikings and Tennessee Titans.
Bevell interviewed for the Arizona Cardinals vacancy last year and said it's left him better prepared for new opportunities.
“I think they were great experiences for me last year," Bevell said. "Just to learn what the interview process is. As I came out of it things that I wish that I would’ve done better, and then give it another shot.”