By Larry Fine
EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Reuters) - Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson had his first glimpse at MetLife Stadium and it was love at first sight as he led the NFC West leaders to a 23-0 rout of the New York Giants on Sunday.
Wilson completed 18-of-27 passes for 206 yards and a touchdown, and ran eight times for 50 yards, while the Seahawks defense manhandled Giants quarterback Eli Manning with five interceptions to turn the home crowd into boo birds.
Seattle (12-2) hopes Sunday's triumph will be the first of two happy dates for the Seahawks at the Meadowlands, where the Super Bowl will be held on February 2 in the first outdoor, cold weather site for the big game.
"It's hard not to think of it when you are 12-2," wide receiver Golden Tate told reporters. "It's tough not to think about it."
Said Wilson: "I think the biggest thing that we can learn from playing here and getting a win is we'll just have a great feel for the stadium. We've been here before, we were successful here. That's a positive thing.
"You get good vibes when you come back."
The win moved the Seahawks, who have already claimed a berth in the postseason, another step closer to clinching the NFC West title and securing home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Seattle has won 14 straight games before their noisy home fans.
Seattle coach Pete Carroll praised his defense for giving up only 181 yards to the Giants, and his quarterback, whose knack for winning has resulted in 23 wins over his first two seasons.
"I think it's worth noting that Russell has won more games as a quarterback in his first two years than anybody in history," said Carroll. "He's so special, he's such a tremendous competitor and such a unique individual."
Tate said Wilson's ability to scramble and throw on the run made it fun for the receivers.
"When they (pass rushers) do get there, he rolls out of the pocket and that just means more room for us to get open. And then it kind of turns into backyard football," Tate said. "You just got to find a way to get open."
A snowstorm hit the area on Saturday, a possible foreshadow of the February Super Bowl, but the Meadowlands was spared with only a light coating, although areas to the north within a half-hour's drive got more than half a foot (15 cms).
Giants coach Tom Coughlin, however, gave a chilly assessment of his team's showing against one of the NFL's powers.
"It was a pathetic offensive performance," said Coughlin, whose top receiver, Victor Cruz, was sidelined in the third quarter with a concussion and a strained knee just two yards short of reaching the 1,000-yard mark receiving for a third year in a row.
"We're not taking anything away from their defense, they're number one in the league for a good reason. But we can't turn the ball over like that."
Seahawks safety Earl Thomas said he knew Manning was in trouble from the start against the Seattle defense.
"You can easily tell when you're in a rhythm, when everybody is in a rhythm and I felt like we were in a rhythm from snap one," said Thomas, who had one of the Seattle picks. Byron Maxwell and Richard Sherman had two interceptions each.
(Reporting by Larry Fine, Editing by Gene Cherry)