Wild Card Weekend 1/5/08: Washington Redskins vs. Seattle Seahawks
Game 1: Washington at Seattle. Saturday 4:15 pm
The 1990 Loyola Marymount Lions and the 1992 Philadelphia Eagles – Two teams that had to deal with the death of a teammate prior to or during the season. The 2007 Washington Redskins are still coming to grips with the unspeakable tragedy of losing their All-Pro Safety Sean Taylor when he was murdered in his home in late November. The Redskins have won four straight to get into the playoffs, today they can begin a magical run to history and one step closer to healing.
Through it all – the Redskins find themselves in the playoffs riding a four-game winning streak. They’ll head into Seattle to face a Seahawks club that is 7-1 at home, averaging 27 points per game while giving up only 14.
Weather may play a part as rain is expected.
The Seahawks have been forced to become a passing offense thanks in part to injuries to Sean Alexander and Maurice Morris over the course of the season. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has passed for over 4,000 yards and is having his best season as a pro. Go-to receiver Bobby Engram has posted career bests of 94 receptions and 1,147 yards, other receiving threats include Nate Burleson, Deion Branch (game-time decision) and D.J. Hackett. They are facing a Redskins secondary ranked 28th in interceptions.
Up front Seattle has a formidable pass rush with Patrick Kearney (14.5 sacks) and Julian Peterson (9.5 sacks). Marcus Trufant leads an exceptional secondary, but the key to the defense is middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu – who has been disruptive in the passing game.
The last time Joe Gibbs took a backup quarterback into the playoffs the Redskins won the Super Bowl. Now I won’t go that far with the ‘Skins, but they have been playing at a championship level for over a month now and I don’t see why it has to end today. Todd Collins took over when Jason Campbell went down against the Bears and hasn’t looked back. Collins has thrown for 5 touchdown and has yet to throw a pick. More importantly for Collins is that he has a full cast of healthy Redskins to work with. Receiver Santana Moss is back and looks in mid-season form, Antwain Randle-El and tight end Chris Cooley provide Collins with three receivers who have at least 50 receptions and 700 yards.
The turning point could come in the running game, especially if the rain becomes factor. Clinton Portis has shaken of injuries and subpar performances to reassert himself as one of best backs in the NFC. Expect Portis to run behind Chris Samuels on the left side right at Peterson. Washington can go with bigger backs Ladell Betts and Mike Sellers in short yardage situations.
Defensively the Redskins have given 13 points a game in the past month. The front seven are as solid as there is in the post season. They have the personnel to keep the Seattle running game in check, they have given up 76 yards per game on the ground in the last four games. In the secondary Sean Springs will be looked upon to make a play or two today. Springs has had four picks in the last four games as well as 10 passes defensed. It has been a tough season for Springs, who prior to Taylor’s passing was dealing with health issues concerning his father who fell into a coma mid-way through the season.
The Redskins will need to start fast and control the clock. Seattle needs to somehow get Alexander in situations where he can become effective, the Seahawks cannot pass the ball 35-40 times and win this game.
I don’t think Seattle has enough of a running attack to keep the ‘Skins defense at bay if Alexander is ineffective the Seahawks are in trouble. On the other hand the ‘Skins have enough on offense to keep Seattle guessing. But playoff football ultimately comes down to the running game and the Redskins have enough of a run game. Add that in with an emotional incentive and I can see Washington pulling off the upset.
Redskins 24 – Seahawks 20