The Seattle Seahawks play in one of the loudest and most hostile places in the NFL: CenturyLink Field.
The environment can be daunting for the visiting team, as the Redskins have learned during two playoff appearances in the Emerald City, both of them losses.
Seattle 20, Washington 10
Jan. 14, 2006
After closing the 2005 regular season with a five-game win streak to earn a wild card spot, the Redskins topped Tampa Bay, 17-10, in the first round despite gaining 120 yards, the least total ever by a winning team in a playoff game.
But an anemic offense proved too much for the Redskins’ to overcome in the next round against Seattle. They gained 289 yards, but more than half of those came in the fourth quarter while they played catch-up.
At the same time, the Redskins’ defense couldn’t bail out the team for the third straight game, despite holding the NFL’s No. 1 scoring offense eight points below its average.
The result was a 20-10 loss that closed the chapter on an entertaining season.
“That’s my responsibility,” Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said of his offense that converted 5 of 19 third downs against Seattle and scored two touchdowns in two playoff games. “Obviously, we wanted to be much more productive than we were in the playoffs.”
The Redskins’ ground game, their bread-and-butter during the late-season surge, produced a measly 59 yards. Running back Clinton Portis, bothered by banged-up shoulders, was ineffective for the second straight game (41 yards, 17 carries). In the first three quarters, quarterback Mark Brunell was just as dreadful as he was against Tampa Bay the previous week.
Nonetheless, the game was winnable against a 13-3 Seattle squad that was 8-0 at home and backed by deafening crowd noise at Qwest (now CenturyLink) Field.
Washington captured the turnover battle, three to one, but failed to capitalize on some delicious scoring opportunities, as well as the fact that running back and league MVP Shaun Alexander (NFL-high 1,880 yards) was sidelined nearly the whole game with a concussion.
One of those opportunities came midway through the second period. With his team ahead, 3-0, Redskins cornerback Carlos Rogers had only daylight in front of him when he stepped in front of a receiver near the sideline and began to cradle a pass from quarterback Matt Hasselback.
The Redskins were eyeing a 10-0 lead that, given the stinginess of their defense, looked like it could be enough of a cushion for a trip to the NFC championship game.
But Rogers dropped the pass, and Hasselback, who posted an NFC-high 98.2 passer rating that season, led a 76-yard drive that ended with his 29-yard scoring pass to receiver Darrell Jackson for a 7-3 halftime lead. Early in the second half, Hasselback capped an 81-yard march by running six yards into the end zone for a 14-3 edge.
Seattle took a 17-3 lead early in the fourth period, and a late Redskins rally fell short.
Seattle 35, Washington 14
Jan. 5, 2008
In a stretch similar to 2005, the Redskins recovered from near oblivion to craft a four-game win streak to finish 9-7 and earn a wild card spot.
This time, they were riding on waves of emotion following the murder of superstar safety Sean Taylor, their best player and a face of the franchise, and benefiting from the clutch play of backup quarterback Todd Collins. Some NFL experts labeled them a “team of destiny.”
But their magical run ended with a 35-14 first-round loss to Seattle. Like 2005, though, the Redskins had a prime opportunity to pull this one off.
With a 14-13 lead and about 12 minutes left to play, the Redskins were positioned to deliver the knockout punch. They had just recovered a kickoff misplayed by Seattle and held a first down on the 14.
Momentum was on their side, and the once-raucous crowd of 68,297 at Qwest (now CenturyLink) Field had gone silent.
But three plays produced two yards, and Shawn Suisham hooked a 30-yard field goal wide left. The rejuvenated Seahawks later drove for a touchdown and returned two interceptions for scores to account for their 21-point victory.
In the blink of an eye, the Redskins went from visualizing a second-round playoff game against Dallas, a team that they beat by 21 points a week prior, to wondering what if. The loss was reminiscent of the 2007 regular season, when Washington blew a series of opportunities to secure wins that once seemed inevitable. Losing this one may have been the most infuriating of them all.
“I can’t believe it’s over with,” Redskins linebacker London Fletcher said. “Everybody in this organization, this locker room, thought this ride was going to go to (Super Bowl XLII in) Phoenix. When we recovered that kick, it’s just like, `Man, we’re going to Dallas.’ And Dallas definitely didn’t want to see us.”
Seattle was a good place to begin a march to the Super Bowl. For one, the 2007 Redskins matched up much better with the Seahawks than the one that fell to Seattle in the playoffs two years prior.
Also, the battle-tested Redskins had played seven games against playoff teams, including two each against the Giants and Cowboys, and sported the league’s eighth-ranked defense, a unit that aimed to rattle Seahawks Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.
Comparatively, the 10-6 Seahawks were 7-1 at home but had played a patsy schedule that included only two playoff teams and late-season losses to lowly Arizona and Atlanta. It was unclear which Seattle team would show up for the playoffs.
Hasselback was nothing special, throwing two interceptions, but the Redskins’ inability to capitalize on their fourth-quarter opportunity was devastating.
“We’re extremely disappointed,” Collins said afterward. “We thought the last four weeks things might be in the cards for us, and we thought they were turning that way early in the fourth quarter when we took the lead. It’s very disappointing for it to turn so quickly like that.”
Mike Richman is the author of The Redskins Encyclopedia and the Washington Redskins Football Vault. He also hosts “Redskins Legacy,” which airs on Sundays from 9:30-10 a.m. on Sports Talk 570: Powered by ESPN. His web site is www.redskinshistorian.com and his email is firstname.lastname@example.org.