Gameday Preview: Divisional Playoff
By: Les Barnhart
Category: Washington Redskins News
Second round playoff game
January 14th, 2005 at 430pm
Qwest Field, Seattle
TV: Fox Sports: Dick Stockton, Darryl Johnston and Tony Siragusa (FR)
Radio: CBS Sports: Marv Albert, John Riggins and Kevin Kiley (FR)
The Washington Redskins continue their playoff road show when they travel to the great northwest to play the number one seed in the NFC, the Seattle Seahawks. The two teams previously met in week four of the regular season at Washington’s FedEx Field. The Redskins won that game in overtime after the Seahawks’ kicker, Josh Brown, missed a field goal at the end of regulation. His 47-yard attempt bounced off the left upright and allowed the Redskins to win the game in the first possession of overtime. At the time, the victory moved the Redskins to a perfect 3-0 while the loss dropped the Seahawks to 2-2. Since then, the Seahawks have taken flight and control of the NFC as they went 11-1 in their remaining games. Their only loss came in the season finale at Green Bay. The Redskins on the other hand, chose the road less traveled to get to where they are now. Following the win over the Seahawks, they lost six of their next eight games, which left them looking at a 5-6 record. Through hard work and a dedicated team-first mentality, they righted the ship and proceeded to go on their current six-game winning streak.
The Seattle offense comes into the game against the Redskins as the highest scoring offense (452) during the regular season. They are led by quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who has embraced the West Coast offense and the teachings of head coach Mike Holmgren. Of course it helps when you have league MVP, Shaun Alexander, in your backfield. While Hasselbeck has had perhaps the best season of his career, Alexander has been simply incredible. His 1,880 rushing yards led the league, as did his 28 touchdowns. Alexander certainly benefits from a balanced offensive attack (369.7 total yards per game, 2nd). Hasselbeck leads the Seahawk passing game (216.1 yards per game, 13th) and had a productive season without the services of his prime target, Darrell Jackson, for most of the season. With injury also taking Bobby Engram out of the lineup, the Seahawks found a productive alternative in Joe Jurevicius. Jurevicius’ 10 touchdown catches tied him for second in the NFC. The Seahawks will be at full strength for the game as both Jackson and Engram will be in the lineup. The Redskins defense rolls into the land of expensive coffee with a banged up defense. It is a unit that is showing the wear and tear that playing “playoff” football for the last 6 weeks will undoubtedly create. The finished the season with the ninth ranked defense overall, allowing 297.9 yards per game, although that ranking may not be an accurate depiction of the defensive unit that has been on the field for the last 6 weeks. They are forcing turnovers and getting pressure on the quarterback consistently. They are also playing the run much better. During the regular season, the Redskins allowed over one hundred yards (105.4) per game on the ground (13th in NFL) and 192.6 through the air (12th). In their game last week against the Bucs, the defense was stellar but they lost defensive end Renaldo Wynn to a broken arm. They also played the end of the game without Sean Taylor (ejection) but were still able to post an impressive victory in a game they weren’t expected to win.
The ability of the Redskins defense to contain Shaun Alexander will go a long way in determining their success in Seattle but they will also need to contend with Matt Hasselbeck. The Seahawks are perfect this season at Qwest Field (8-0) and have won ten straight dating back to last season. Both Hasselbeck and Alexander enjoy playing in front of the home crowd. Hasselbeck has won 20 of his last 24 starts at home while Alexander has scored 23 touchdowns in his last 11 games at home. Hasselbeck enters the game seeking his third consecutive 300-yard passing game in the postseason. In his last four games, Hasselbeck has a passer rating of 137.4 and has thrown 9 touchdowns and 1 interception during that time.
The Redskins offense stumbled its way through their Wild Card victory over the Bucs’ number one ranked defense last week. The offense was held to a NFL low 120 yards but thanks to their defense, they were able to move on to this weekend. For the Redskins to continue their march toward Detroit, the offense will need to make the trip to Seattle. The Seahawks finished the regular season tied for the sixteenth overall defense in the league, giving up 316.8 yards per game. And despite leading the league in sacks (50) the Seahawks pass defense ranked 25th in the league (222.4 YPG). That could allow for the Redskins to move the ball through the air. The Redskins’ 21st ranked pass offense averaged less than two hundred (194.1) yards per game but that number fell toward the end of the season after the Redskins made a commitment to the power running game. If they can get Mark Brunell on track with both Santana Moss (84 catches for 1,483 yards) and Chris Cooley, they can stretch the defense, as the Seahawks will look to take Clinton Portis out of the equation. The Seahawks rush defense was fifth best in the NFL, allowing only 94.4 yards per game. In fairness, the Seahawks have not faced a power running game like they will face with the Redskins and the teams they have played because of their offensive output have been forced to play “catch-up”, which means putting the ball in the air. The Seahawks defense relies on the play of their defensive front, namely defensive end Bryce Fisher (9 sacks), defensive tackle Rocky Bernard (8 ½ sacks) and linebacker LeRoy Hill (7 ½ sacks) to control the line of scrimmage and pressure the quarterback. As in every game, the team that can control the line of scrimmage is the team that usually wins the game.
This game pits two teams with very similar styles and that is by design. Both teams have solid defenses and like to play power football with their running game setting up their passing game. The Seahawks hold the advantage on the offensive side with a line that is as good as any in the league and a fullback that blows defenders out of the hole. The similarity to the Redskins comes from their head coach, Mike Holmgren, who has stated that that he has patterned his coaching style, in part, after Joe Gibbs. For the Redskins to win this game, they will need to be able to sustain drives and chew up the clock on offense. They will also need another strong performance from a defensive unit that seemingly gets better each week despite getting banged up more and more. The Redskins will also be serving as another “homecoming date” of sorts, as the Seahawks will be inducting former players into their “Ring of Honor”. That event became even more emotional for the Seahawks following the sudden death of former All-Pro defensive back Dave Brown. Brown was one of the players to be inducted into the “Ring of Honor” before the playoff game on Saturday.
- The Redskins lead the series against the Seahawks, 9-4, including winning the last 4.
- Coach Joe Gibbs’ playoff record is 17-5. His 17 wins trails only Tom Landry’s 20 and Don Shula’s 19. Gibbs' unbelievable .773 playoff winning percentage is third best in league history behind Bill Belichick (.917) and the immortal Vince Lombardi (.900). Mike Holmgren is 9-8 in the postseason.
- Coach Gibbs is 5-0 lifetime against Seattle. Holmgren is 0-4 against Washington.
- Washington was 5-4 on the road in 2005. Seattle was 8-0 at home.
- Mike Holmgren has lost five straight playoff games; three of which were with Seattle.
- Shaun Alexander was held to under 100 yards rushing in the last four games against the Redskins.
- Redskins look for their first NFC Championship game appearance since 1991.
- Seahawks look for first playoff win since 1984 (defeated LA Raiders in WC game).
- Mike Holmgren has put his team in the playoffs in 10 of the last 14 seasons.
- Since 1970, the Redskins are 0-4 in postseason games played in the Pacific Time Zone.
- Washington is 4-1 all time in Seattle.
- In 5 career games versus Seattle, Mark Brunell has 95.5 QB rating (63% completion) with 7 TD/2INT and 2 rushing TD.
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