(WSCR) – The NFL playoffs kicked off with the Seattle Seahawks facing the New Orleans Saints Saturday. With the Saints being knocked off in the wild card, it is now between the Seahawks or Eagles to face the Chicago Bears.
For a team that was the joke of the NFL playoffs, look who’s laughing now.
Pete Carroll, Matt Hasselbeck and a Seattle team no one believed deserved to be in the postseason pulled off one of the biggest upsets with a 41-36 victory over the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints on Saturday.
Who dat say the Seahawks don’t belong?
Hasselbeck threw four touchdown passes and Marshawn Lynch scored on an electrifying 67-yard run with 3:22 left, and the party was on at the NFL’s loudest stadium.
The Seahawks (8-9) held a 34-20 early in the fourth quarter before Drew Brees looked ready to lead the Saints (11-6) on one of their patented comebacks. But Lynch broke about a half-dozen tackles for his TD to finish off the Saints.
The Seahawks, the first division winner with a losing record, will play next weekend, either at top-seeded Atlanta or No. 2 Chicago.
Hasselbeck, cleared to play just two days ago because of a hip injury, threw for 272 yards and his four TD passes set a playoff career high. The veteran quarterback threw two touchdown passes to tight end John Carlson in the first half and started the second half with a 38-yard strike to Mike Williams to give Seattle a 31-20 lead.
The game wasn’t clinched until Lynch provided a run that’ll be replayed in the Pacific Northwest for years. He took a second-down carry with less than four minutes to go and then the highlights began. He broke six tackles on the 67-yard run, tossing in a massive stiff arm that sent cornerback Tracy Porter to the turf and completed the longest scoring run of his career.
Lynch finished with 131 yards on 19 carries, the first Seattle back to top 100 yards all season.
Hasselbeck, Lynch and a strong performance by Seattle’s offense extended the Saints franchise misery to 0-4 in road playoff games.
The Saints were considered the second-best team in the division behind the NFC South-winning Falcons. Even though they lost to Tampa Bay in the season finale a week ago and were without running backs Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory, safety Malcolm Jenkins and linebacker Danny Clark, the Saints were favored by 10 points to advance.
Now they go home.
Brees and the Saints just couldn’t keep up with Hasselbeck and the Seahawks offense. Brees led one final drive, hitting Devery Henderson on a 6-yard touchdown with 1:30 left to get within 41-36.
Brees finished 39 of 60 for 404 yards and two touchdowns. But DeShawn Wynn was stopped on the 2-point conversion, Garrett Hartley’s onside kick was recovered by Carlson and the Seahawks were home free.
Carroll, in his first year as coach, gathered his team at midfield after Hasselbeck took one final knee, jumping up and down on the Seahawks logo with most of his team jumping in unison.
Hasselbeck left the field to a rousing ovation and his youngest son propped up on his shoulders.
AP Sports Writer Tim Booth contributed to this report.