Seahawks dominate Saints to secure playoff berth
(Reuters) - Russell Wilson led the Seattle Seahawks to a 34-7 thrashing of the New Orleans Saints on Monday as the hosts clinched a playoff berth with a win that maintains the best record in the National Football League.
In a marquee matchup between standout quarterbacks and the leading teams in the NFC, Wilson threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns while Drew Brees was unable to make an impact against a dominant Seattle defense.
"(Russell) loves Drew Brees and what he stands for, but he knew he was playing against the Saints (not Drew)," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told reporters.
"He was just marvelous. (Home field advantage) is why winning the division is important. That's our goal."
The red-hot Seahawks (11-1) have now won seven games in a row and not lost at their raucous CenturyLink Field since the 2011 season.
In their latest victory, Wilson almost single-handedly dismantled the Saints defense during the first half as Seattle stormed to a 27-7 advantage by the interval.
Seattle's opening touchdown came in the first quarter, where their defense knocked the ball loose from Brees and Michael Bennett returned a fumble 22 yards for a score.
The momentum only built as Wilson capped a 73-yard drive with a two-yard touchdown pass to Zach Miller and a 17-0 advantage.
Brees temporarily halted Seattle's charge with a two-yard pass to Jimmy Graham in the second quarter but it was a rare bright spot for his offense.
Steven Hauschka kicked his second field goal of the game in the second as Wilson threw another scoring strike before adding his third in the third quarter to complete the scoring.
The second-year quarterback added 47 of his team's 127 rushing yards while the New Orleans offense struggled to make any sort of headway, with Brees completing a disappointing 23-of-38 passes for just 147 yards and one score.
Seattle played with a depleted secondary, missing Brandon Brower (injury) and Walter Thurmond (suspension) but the Saints were unable to take advantage.
"We had a balanced attack," said Wilson, who completed 22-of-30 passes. "We brought a good amount of pressure and capitalized on that pressure."
Following the defeat, the Saints were joined at the top of the NFC South division by the Carolina Panthers (both 9-3) with the teams scheduled to meet in New Orleans on Sunday.
(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by John O'Brien)