Seattle Seahawks (2-1) at Washington Redskins (2-0)
FedEx Field, 1pm EDT
October 2nd, 2005
While some Redskins fans are still reveling in the 4th quarter comeback victory against the Cowboys two weeks ago, the team is prepping for another challenge this week. The Seattle Seahawks come calling to FedEx Field and with them they bring perhaps the best team that the Redskins have seen this season. The Seahawks head into the game on a roll, beating Atlanta and Arizona at home after dropping their opening game against the Jaguars. The Redskins, despite being 2-0 on the young season, are still trying to convince people that they are for real and beating the visiting Seahawks would go a long way in making believers out of those doubting Gibbs' tribe.
Offensively, the Redskins and Seahawks are very similar on paper. They are both committed to the run and use it to open up the passing game. The Seahawks have a powerful runner in Shaun Alexander, whom they dropped the franchise tag on during the off-season. Alexander has been shouldering the load as of late as he has toted the ball 50 times for 284 yards and reached pay dirt five times in the games against Atlanta and Arizona. While neither the Falcons nor Cardinals have a defense that will be confused with the Redskins, it shows that for them to be successful, then will need to get production out of the running game. The ground game has allowed QB Matt Hasselbeck to recover from the beating that he took in the opener against the Jags. In turn, Hasselbeck has piloted the Seahawk passing game to an average of 258.0 yards per game which ranks them 6th in the NFL. The signal caller has struggled in a critical area, third downs. Hasselbeck holds a 41.8 passer rating on third down this season and completed only 7 of 21 attempts on third down. Only two teams are worse in that area. The rushing attack, led by Alexander, is averaging 141.0 yards per game.
The Redskins defense will again be facing a stout running attack but that isn't something that scares them or their Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams. The Redskins defense has yielded only 131 yards rushing on 2.8 yards per carry through two games this season. In both of those games, they held quality running backs below 100 yards, something they have done in their last seven games. The Williams' orchestrated defense has made holding backs under 100 yards their forte. Alexander comes into the game averaging 119 yards per game. The Redskins will look to control the Seahawks running game and force Hasselbeck to put the ball in the air to move the ball. The Redskins secondary will have some new faces as it is looking like CB Walt Harris may be limited by a strained calf which would allow rookie Carlos Rogers to see his first NFL start. At SS, Pierson Prioleau (strained hamstring) isn't expected to play and will be replaced by one time starter, Matt Bowen. A potential problem for the Redskins is that if Harris doesn't play, Ade Jimon will be inserted as the nickel corner. The Seahawks have the weapons to spread the field through the air but they will need to keep Hasselback upright against the blitz-o-matic Redskins defense. The Redskins were unable to sack Drew Bledsoe in their win against the Cowboys but they still able to limit the amount of success they had through the air. They will need to put pressure on Hasselbeck because of the quality of the Seahawk receivers against possibly two new starters, one being a rookie. Overall, the Redskins have allowed an average of 258.5 yards per game with the majority of that coming through the air (193.0 YPG).
The Redskins 4th quarter passing explosion against the Cowboys has heightened the optimism of the offense. They have scored a total of 23 points and are averaging 334.5 YPG with the ground game serving as the catalyst (134.0 YPG). With the quarterback turmoil seemingly settled, the Redskins finally showed the ability to move the ball through the air in the waning moments of the Cowboys game. They are hopeful that the success they had will allow the offense to move to the next level. If nothing else, it has to instill confidence in the unit. The other area that they will need to improve is sustaining drives and eating up the clock. The offense has held the ball for more than 10 plays in only 3 of their 20 possessions this season. This falls on their ability to convert third down chances. The offensive line played very well at the end of the Cowboys game, allowing Brunell to throw those now infamous deep balls but they did allow five sacks, raising the season total to eight. For the Redskins to be successful against an improving Seahawk defense they will need to be able to establish the run to set up the passing game. In that passing game, the Redskins will need to show they can complete the deep ball and that the Cowboy game wasn't just Monday night magic. The Redskin receivers will need to stretch the field which should open up holes for Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts. WR Santana Moss will draw some extra coverage at first but if they don't continue to feed him the ball, teams will again draw eight to the line to shut down the run. This will put the focus on David Patten, James Thrash and Chris Cooley to get open and move the chains.
The special teams personnel has changed again this week for the Redskins as they released punter Andy Groom in favor of Derrick Frost, who also provides insurance for kickoffs and place kicking. With K John Hall still nursing a pulled quadriceps, Maryland rookie Nick Novak will continue with the place kicking duties for his second game. Novak has knocked through several extra points but still has not attempted an NFL field goal. The Seahawks are hopefully that their punter, Leo Araguz, will work through his early inconsistency and start punting the ball with authority and control.
This will be the first meeting between Joe Gibbs and Mike Holmgren.
Holmgren was a senior at USC when Gibbs was hired by the Trojans as a line coach. In 1988, Gibbs almost hired Holmgren to serve as the Redskins OC.
Holmgren has never beaten the Redskins (0-3).
The Seahawks are 0-2 at Washington since their last win in 1995.
Key Player Match-Ups:
Marcus Washington vs. Shaun Alexander
Shaun Alexander is coming off of a game where he absolutely dominated the field, rushing for 140 yards and scoring 4 touchdowns. Washington's defensive squad, however, is known for their stingy defense against even the elite rushers of the league, and in addition held Alexander to under 100 yards the last time these teams met.
Lemar Marshall is the MLB, so many will be looking to him to stop Shaun Alexander. However, watch for Marcus Washington, who, despite his position as an OLB, has been making plays all over the field this season. Washington has a nose for the ball and is known to be in on alomst every play.
It's no secret that Alexander will be getting plenty of carries on Sunday. Alexander is a big back and tough to bring down, but he's also got the speed to break big plays. Look for Marcus Washington to meet Alexander hard as the Seahawks' RB hits his holes, and maybe even create a turnover. (Alexander has yet to fumble this year, but in the past has struggled on the road).
Winner - Washington.
Steve Hutchinson vs. Cornelius Griffin
Steve Hutchinson had surgery on his torn labrum following the Pro Bowl last season, and is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. So every game is a big game for him and blocking for a guy like Shawn Alexander doesn’t hurt.
On the flip side you have Cornelius Griffin who was snubbed for the free trip to Hawaii after he set career highs in tackles (96) and sacks (6) last season. Griffin is playing with a chip on his shoulder and clogs the middle with the best of them.
Last week Alexander gained yardage by running to the edges (45-yard run in the fourth quarter)
Winner: Cornelius Griffin
Marcus Trufant vs Santana Moss
Marcus Trufant enters his third year in the NFL, and has really come into his own. Trufant led the Seahawks last season with 93 tackles and tied for second in interceptions on the team with five. Trufant will be looking to shutdown the speedy Santana Moss, who earned NFC Player of the Week honors after destroying the Dallas secondary to score two touchdowns in 1:11 in week 2. The Redskins hope to build on that success in week four against the Seahawks.