Brees, who completed a playoff-record 39 passes in 60 attempts for 404 yards and two TDs, still couldn't match 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.
But DeShawn Wynn was stopped on the 2-point conversion, Garrett Hartley's onside kick was recovered by Carlson and the Seahawks were left to celebrate.
"It's disappointing. It starts with us and myself and the rest of the coaches," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "I thought they had effort but in the end, not enough to win this game. It's disappointing to get in the postseason and finish with a loss to start."
Reggie Bush finished with five carries for 12 yards, caught five passes and did not play in the fourth quarter. Bush said he was hit near where he broke his leg earlier in the season, but X-rays were negative.
Julius Jones, cut by Seattle earlier in the season, ran for two short touchdowns and finished with 120 all-purpose yards, but was "dinged" in a collision with Lofa Tatupu in the fourth quarter that left Tatupu with a concussion.
In the second half, Brees all but abandoned the run, throwing on 33 of the Saints' 41 plays, as he tried to rally the Saints from a two-touchdown deficit. Jones' 4-yard touchdown run with 13:11 left pulled the Saints within 34-27, but they had to settle for Hartley's 21-yard field goal on the next drive after Henderson was tackled short on a third-down pass at the Seattle 4.
Seattle got a first down on its next drive when Hasselbeck hit Stokley for 12 yards, but Hasselbeck was sacked by Scott Shanle on second down and Seattle was forced to punt with under six minutes remaining. The 52-yard punt by Jon Ryan, plus a penalty on the return, backed the Saints to their own 6 with 5:36 left.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
"The underdog role, I think we cherished it and kind of took it to heart," Seattle's Marcus Trufant said. "Nobody gave us a chance and we just kind of shrugged our shoulder. We knew we were going to come out and play our ball."
Notes: Seattle WR Ben Obomanu dislocated his right shoulder in the first quarter, but after getting examined, returned to the game. He caught five passes for 43 yards. ... The Saints last playoff road game was the 2006 NFC championship, a 39-14 loss at Chicago. ... Seattle has won its last five playoff games at Qwest Field.
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