The Washington Redskins, who were on their greatest winning streak since the six-game 2005 run that put them in Seattle for a divisional playoff game against the Seahawks, fell flat in the final minutes of Saturday's wild card game. It ended a season of tremendous tragedy and accomplishment.
On to the Fifth Quarter rankings, which are based on a scale of 1 to 5 Quarters:
Todd Collins continued to play the wily veteran, leading a well-managed passing attack that kept the Redskins' yard-marker chains moving. Although the team managed to overcome a thirteen-point deficit and lead by a single point early in the fourth quarter, the Seahawks would blow the game open in the final minutes of the fourth quarter off of two interceptions returned for touchdowns. Aside from the chaotic final minutes, which were the result of panic, Collins had a solid performance, recording 29 completions for 266 yards and 2 touchdowns in addition to his interceptions.
Dropped passes, which have plagued Washington at times this year, became a significant problem during the first half. Three of the drops came on third-down attempts, killing the drive and forcing the Redskins to punt.
Of all receivers, Antwaan Randle El had the best day, with ten catches for 94 yards and a touchdown. Santana Moss recovered from his slow start to contribute 68 yards on six catches and the Redskins' other touchdown, although a misunderstanding between him and Collins caused the first of two interceptions that were returned for six points. Chris Cooley and Clinton Portis had average days but both dropped at least one pass.
Punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt. Those are the results of the Redskins' first six drives -- and very rarely are victories built on such foundations. Instead, Washington fell behind early in the game, practically ensuring that Clinton Portis' workload would decrease as time passed. He finished the day with 52 yards gained on 20 carries. Mike Sellers had only four yards on three carries, but more importantly he failed to convert on a fourth-and-one late in the first half that might have given the Redskins some points going into the locker room. Instead, the Redskins had to rely heavily on their passing attack in the third and fourth quarters.
This was likely the last time that Washington will see Chris Samuels, Pete Kendall, Casey Rabach, Jason Fabini, and Stephon Heyer as its five starters on the offensive line. The rag-tag, bench-player line played hard but ultimately couldn't get a good push against the Seahawks' powerful front seven.
LaRon Landry takes the 'player of the game' award for the Redskins' defense. In fact, he looked a lot like Washington's previous starting free safety in his ability to cover everything beyond fifteen yards: twice he raced across the field to intercept a Matt Hasselbeck pass. Strong safety Reed Doughty dominated the box and had five tackles in addition to several break-ups on pass attempts. Fred Smoot played a tremendous game as well, ending the day with five solo tackles. Shawn Springs was picked on by Hasselbeck and did get turned around a few times; however, he ended the game with eight solo tackles and broke apart more than one passing play.
Unfortunately, the front seven did far less to impact the game. Although rushing attempts were generally swallowed up by the linemen, neither linemen nor the linebackers were able to generate significant pressure on Hasselbeck. As a result, he had time to set up and make his throws, which, in combination with the west-coast style of wide receiver routes and timing, proved fatal.
Special Teams: Once again, Rock Cartwright gave a great performance on returns. His two best returns suffered from (questionable) penalties called on the same plays, but he still ended the day with nearly 30 yards on average per return, with a long return of 55 yards. Washington's coverage on kickoffs and punts was adequate, considering the Seahawks' strength in that phase of the game. Nate Burleson had only eighteen yards on kickoff returns and botched one kick that was recovered by the Redskins' late-season acquisition Anthony Mix.
The kicking game suffered to a large degree on Saturday, as Shaun Suisham had a deflating miss on his only field goal attempt, which was from 30 yards out. Derrick Frost played a little better, sending two punts inside of the 20-yard line and kicking one for 53 yards, but he also had several short, line-drive kicks and ended with only a 33-yard average.
Thus ends a 2007 campaign that became, for this team, far more than football games. This year, of course, will always be remembered for the tragic death of Sean Taylor. With the way the team responded to it, though, there is much to be proud of, even as we still reel in pain from losing Sean Taylor: father, son, teammate, and friend. We will miss you, Sean.