Bring on The Redskins
The shooting death of All-Pro safety Sean Taylor in November has galvanized the Washington Redskins' defense. The surprising success of a 12-year veteran quarterback thrust into a starting role for the first time in a decade has done the same for their offense.
Hoping to use momentum from a late surge that helped them qualify for the postseason, the Redskins meet the four-time defending NFC West champion Seattle Seahawks at Qwest Field on Saturday in a wild-card matchup.
Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Seattle –3.5 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds)for Sunday’s game, the over/under has been set at 40 total points (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 67% of bets for this game have been placed on Washington +3.5 (View NFL Football bet percentages).
The Redskins were two games under .500 at 5-7 when Taylor died on Nov. 27, one day after being shot during an invasion in his Florida home. After his slaying, though, Washington went 4-0 by dominating both sides of the ball.
"I wouldn't want to play us right now,'' Washington defensive end Phillip Daniels said. "To be honest with you, I wouldn't. Because of the things we've done. We've played solid defense, the offense has played great, special teams. We're hitting on all cylinders right now.''
Over the final quarter of the season, the Redskins led the league in rushing defense - 71.8 yards per game - by stopping runners that included AP offensive rookie of the year Adrian Peterson of Minnesota, who was limited to only 27 yards in Washington's 32-21 win on Dec. 23. In the regular-season finale the following Sunday, the Redskins surrendered only one rushing yard in a 27-6 rout of NFC East rival Dallas.
Opponents have tried passing against Washington (9-7), but haven't had much more success, completing just 50 percent (86-for-172) for an NFC-worst 5.1 yards per attempt over the last four games.
"We're not happy just to be here. We feel like we can do some damage," linebacker London Fletcher said after the Redskins reached the postseason as a wild card for the second time in three years during Joe Gibbs' second stint as coach.
With starting quarterback and former first-round pick Jason Campbell sidelined by knee injury, backup Todd Collins has been far better than expected.
The ex-Michigan signal-caller attempted only 27 passes while with Kansas City from 2001-05, but has shown no signs of rust over the last month, completing 63.8 percent (67-for-105) of his passes for 888 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions.
Coming into this season, Collins hadn't started since 1997 and had made just 17 starts overall since Buffalo selected him in the second round in 1995.
"There were difficult times, there's no question about it,'' said Collins, the NFC offensive player of the month for December. "A lot of times the game isn't fun and it's just all work. You work, work, then the reward is the game, and for so many years I put in the work as if I was going to play and didn't get the reward in the game.
"You've just really got to believe before you can do. And I believed if I really worked hard and hung around long enough I was going to get my chance, and when my chance came I wanted to be ready. And I think I was.''
Running back Clinton Portis averaged 76.6 yards and had only seven rushing touchdowns in his first 12 games. But during the Redskins' winning streak, he's increased his average to 85.5 yards with four TDs, two coming in the win over Dallas.
Washington hopes the wave of momentum will make this trip to the Pacific Northwest smoother than its last one. Two years ago, the Redskins faced Seattle in an NFC divisional playoff game and lost 20-10 despite veteran quarterback Mark Brunell passing for 242 yards compared to 215 from Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck. Washington, though, allowed 119 rushing yards while managing only 59.
"We're a lot better team than that one,'' Redskins cornerback Shawn Springs said. "We were really struggling on offense in 2005.''
While the Redskins come in strong, the Seahawks (10-6) stumbled down the stretch after winning another division title. They lost two of their final three games to Carolina and Atlanta, a combined 11-21 this season.
Seattle had its worst defensive game in more than four years on Sunday, falling 44-41 to the woebegone Falcons.
"We don't enter the postseason on a positive note. But we will do what we've got to do," Seahawks linebacker Julian Peterson said.
Late-season struggles aside, Seattle's defense could easily end the 36-year-old Collins' success. Peterson and defensive end Patrick Kearney combined for 24 of the Seahawks' 45 sacks this season. Safety Deon Grant and cornerback Marcus Trufant accounted for half of the team's 20 interceptions, and linebacker Lofa Tatupu had a team-high 109 tackles and four picks.
Grant called last week's loss to Atlanta "embarrassing," but assured things would be different in the playoffs.
"But you know, the plus part in all of this is that we get to wipe the slate clean,'' he said. "We can fix the mistakes we made and we go into (this) weekend ... and dominate.''
Still another concern for the Seahawks heading into the postseason is the health of Hasselbeck and running back Shaun Alexander. Hasselbeck, who set franchise records for completions (352), attempts (562) and passing yards (3,966), suffered a slightly injured wrist in the loss to the Falcons and sat out the second half as planned.
In four career playoff games at home, Hasselbeck has completed 60.9 percent of his passes (81-for-133) for 1,015 yards with seven touchdowns and three interceptions. Seattle has won three straight playoff games at Qwest Field.
Alexander struggled through his worst season since he was a rookie in 2000. The 2005 NFL MVP ran for 716 yards with just four touchdowns as knee and wrist injuries limited him to 13 games. In their last playoff meeting, Washington held Alexander to only 9 yards on six carries.
He scored his 100th career touchdown in the loss to the Falcons but finished with just 31 yards, the sixth time in nine games he ran for fewer than 50.
If Alexander is ineffective again, coach Mike Holmgren could turn to Maurice Morris, who had a season-high 91 rushing yards against Atlanta. Morris was second on the team this season with 628 rushing yards, and tied Alexander with four TDs.
By: Staff Writers - Email Us
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