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No. 4: Lynch helps 'Hawks rumble past Saints in playoff thriller

As the research analyst for NFL Network's NFL RedZone, Elliot Harrison watched all 267 games in the 2010 season. We asked him to rank the 20 most memorable.

The fourth game on our list was the best playoff upset since the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, and it might have been better than that.

It's multiple-choice time. Pull out your Scantron and No. 2 pencil. Which of these questions did you ask yourself when watching the Saints-Seahawks wild card game?

A. Is this the worst playoff team I've ever seen?
B. When are the Saints gonna snap out of it and put up 65 on these guys?
C. Man, Pete Carroll looks like the guy with the corduroy blazer in the Cialis commercial I saw 23 times today.
D. Mike Williams is still in the league?
E. OMG. Where the hell was THAT in Buffalo?

Was this not one of the crazier playoff games in NFL history? I mean, really? The Week 17 matchup between the Rams and Seahawks for "all the marbles" was one of the most boring displays of football witnessed all season. Those were some fugly marbles the Seahawks won -- the NFC West was about as bad as a division could be, maybe the worst since the 1970 merger.

Yet, the high-powered Saints, with their sixth-ranked offense and surprisingly solid fourth-ranked defense, ran into a buzz saw in the Pacific Northwest. I had to listen to the first half in my car radio before going back to work, and when the Seahawks climbed back in the game, it felt like I was listening to Ohio State-Michigan. Say what you want about Seattle, rain, and Tom Hanks' 35th best movie, but fans in that town bring it.

That, as much as anything, embedded this clash in our collective football conscience. The feisty Seahawks hung in there, not panicking when the Saints jumped out to a 17-7 lead in the second quarter.

Matt Hasselbeck, who might be as streaky as Dave Krieg, played like Dan Fouts during the middle of this game. He hit tight end John Carlson for two touchdowns. After another scoring strike, this time to Brandon Stokley -- yes, he's still playing, too -- the Seahawks found themselves leading the heavily favored Saints 24-20 at half.

Hasselbeck's performance seemed to be a microcosm of Carroll's team overall, a group that not only played over its head, but out of its freaking mind.

Every time Seattle needed a big play, someone stepped up on this day. That was especially true in the fourth quarter, when Aaron Curry and Raheem Brock corralled Devery Henderson, stopping the Saints on a crucial third-and-3 from the Seattle 4-yard line.

New Orleans settled for a field goal, bringing the defending champs within four points at 34-30.

That's when Marshawn Lynch decided it was his turn to step up and put the game away.

Game rewind

Play of the game

Is there any doubt which play this is? Other than a certain punt return that took place in 2010, no play was as big as this one.

Often you can see the play of the game from a different camera view, but this audio was discovered from a completely different broadcast ...


How in the world Roman Harper let Cameron Morrah, who did very little in the regular season, beat him that bad to give the Seahawks their second touchdown is anyone's guess.

Yup, that was the story of this wild-card game -- a bunch of young guys you've never heard of, or older guys who haven't been good since Creed was relevant, were just killing the league's fourth-ranked defense.

Head-scratcher 2

By the way, Williams is still playing in the league. That's him splitting the double team for a touchdown. He was a nice comeback story in 2010, but speed isn't his game. He might wear No. 17, but Mike Wallace he's not. Enjoy, Saints fans.

Why is this game No. 4 of 2010?

Maybe the worst playoff team ever knocking off the defending Super Bowl champs, that's what makes No. 4 on our list an easy selection.

I'm a firm believer that the Saints could've beaten any team in the playoffs, including Green Bay. But for Sean Payton's group to go down like this? Wow. As much as the Nike-concept-lime-green-Oregon-Ducksesque-style uni's bug me, the level of mania at Qwest Field makes any big Seahawks game extremely cool.

Combine Drew Brees completing a playoff-record 39 passes, putting the Saints on his back, with Lynch in ultimate "beast mode" ... Can anyone have a problem with this sucker at No. 4?

Why not higher?

Let's talk about it. I was asked to pick the 20 best games, and as fun as Saints-Seahawks was, there were three clashes that had me just as entranced, all for different reasons. But this I can say (spoiler alert!): the biggest wild card upset of the 2000s was the best playoff game of 2010.

In spending a little time with Saints safety Darren Sharper on Sunday at NFL Network studios, I asked the veteran about how he felt about this matchup being fourth on our countdown.

"No! That game was terrible ... for us," Sharper finished with a slight whimper. If this quote isn't setting your hair on fire, trust me, you just had to be there.

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