Date: Sunday, November 4
Time: 4:15 p.m. Eastern
Site: FedEx Field
Series: Redskins lead, 5-4
Streak: Seahawks, three games
Seattle is a team that's improving last time Seahawks 24, Redskins 14, Sept. 20, 1998 at Kingdome. The 0-2 Redskins met 2-0 Seattle in an early-season matchup that took just 15 seconds to turn in the Seahawks' favor. That's how long it took Seattle's career kickoff-return leader Steve Broussard to bring the opening kick from his own 10-yard line into the Washington end zone. The Skins battled back gamely in the first quarter, when QB Trent Green hit Michael Westbrook for a 36-yard score.
Green went on to have a big day, with 383 yards passing, but two interceptions were his undoing. The Redskins went on to lose the game as well as their next four, their worst start in 37 years. seahawks
Seattle expected to take a major step forward in Mike Holmgren's third season. The Seahawks drafted well, filling holes at guard and receiver, and traded for a young sought-after quarterback and plugged gaps on defense via free agency. Then they flopped in two of their first three games, losing by a combined 48 points. However, they followed that with two straight wins, over Jacksonville and Denver and have finally started to resemble a team that should contend for the playoffs.
Like Marty Schottenheimer, Seattle's Mike Holmgren has found it doesn't matter what you've done before if you're not winning now. And like Schottenheimer, he's wearing multiple hats, filling the role of general manager as well.
Holmgren posted a 15-17 record in his first two seasons with the Seahawks and players started grumbling. Seattle won eight of its first 10 games under Holmgren, but went 7-15 over the next year and a half. But they've showed life lately thanks to a smothering run defense, led by four newcomers, and a running game featuring a slide-and-glide back. They also received help from backup quarterback Trent Dilfer. seahawks on offense Seattle runs the West Coast offense, but it has taken time for the Seahawks to do it well, evidenced by their 26th ranking through five games.
Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, a former Packers backup, arrived via an off-season trade but has struggled. Hasselbeck is more mobile than Trent Dilfer, but that's about all he's better at so far. The inexperienced Hasselbeck, who recently missed two games with a groin injury, has tried to force too many passes rather than dump them off to backs or throw them away. Hasselbeck did not throw a touchdown pass in his first three starts and completed only 50 percent of his throws. No starting quarterback in either conference averaged less than his 4.74 yards per pass attempt.
The desire to look for a big play has led him to hold onto the ball too long, which is one reason he was sacked 17 times in his three starts compared to four sacks of Dilfer. Dilfer never looks pretty, but he does one thing well: win. He has won 13 straight starts since last season. His experience provided Seattle a necessary boost. Things looked bleak for Seattle's running game when Ricky Watters was injured. But Shaun Alexander responded with games of 176 and 142 yards in his absence. Alexander makes defenders miss with his elusive style. He slides along the line, waiting for holes to develop, and then hits them quick. It's worked so far and it's why Seattle ranked sixth running the ball entering the Miami game. Alexander also is a threat in the passing game.
Fullback Mack Strong—is there a better name for a player at this position?—is an excellent lead blocker. Seattle's receivers have the ability to do more than they have, especially rookie Koren Robinson, a top-10 pick. Robinson is a major playmaking threat who caught 13 passes through five games, six behind team leader Darrell Jackson. But the gem has been veteran Bobby Engram, cut by Chicago this summer. Engram caught just 12 passes in five games, but eight went for first downs. He has the best hands on the team and knows where the open spots are, making him valuable in clutch situations.
The Seahawks appear to have copied the Redskins' lines of old, opting for big, strong guys to play smashmouth football. At times it hasn't worked, like against Philadelphia and Oakland. But that style certainly helped against Denver, opening many holes for Alexander. Seattle starts rookie guard Steve Hutchinson, whom the Redskins bypassed in order to select receiver Rod Gardner. Time will tell if Washington chose wisely. Hutchinson and second-year tackle Chris McIntosh represent the new, big line, who both weigh around 315 pounds.
Key Matchup: Washington LBs versus RB Shaun Alexander.
All of them must be on alert because Alexander is not a north-south runner. He'll glide behind the line, then dash through the first opening he sees. If the linebackers can't slide with him, they'll be late and in trouble. Also, they must be careful not to fall for his dips. Otherwise, they'll be grabbing at air.
How to beat Seattle's offense: Make sure Hasselbeck is healthy. Then they have a chance to force mistakes that they won't if Dilfer plays. They must treat him like they did Chris Weinke, blitzing at every chance to apply pressure and force silly throws. It also means more jamming of the receivers at the line. The problem is, if they blitz too much, Alexander can make them pay with long runs. Washington must use its quickness along the line to make Alexander cut before he's ready. If the Redskins do that, they'll control this offense.
Offensive player to watch Wide Receiver Koren Robinson Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 213
He missed most of training camp with a hamstring injury, but the No. 9 pick in the draft has showed flashes of his talent lately. Robinson, big and fast, has 13 receptions for 184 yards. The one thing he hasn't done is make big plays after the catch. But the more comfortable he gets, the more likely he'll make those plays. However, he has struggled against big, physical corners, which Washington has. seahawks on defense The run defense needed to be improved, so Seattle acted accordingly. The Seahawks signed some veteran castoffs, leading to their own ‘Over the Hill Gang.'
The moves have worked. Seattle ranked ninth overall after five games, including fifth against the run. The run defense was bolstered by signing tackles John Randle and Chad Eaton, linebacker Levon Kirkland and safety Marcus Robertson. Randle sets the tone with his relentless hyperactive style. He draws numerous double teams, freeing up others to make plays. Randle had recorded 4.5 sacks through five games, proving he's not yet finished. But questions remain about whether he'll be able to last all season. With little depth along the line, that could be a problem. Eaton complements Randle's style by simply being a workmanlike run-stuffer. He might not draw double teams, but he takes advantage of one-on-one matchups.
The Seahawks posted 15 sacks through five games, led by Brown's 5.5 sacks. Michael Sinclair has not reached the level he achieved three years ago, when he led the NFL in sacks. He had two through five games. Kirkland was a salary cap casualty in Pittsburgh, but he's a welcomed addition in Seattle. He might not be as mobile as he once was, but he remains effective in part because the line keeps blockers off him. And his presence has allowed outside linebackers Chad Brown, a former Steelers teammate, and Anthony Simmons to focus on their responsibilities, resulting in increased effectiveness.
Seattle's secondary has benefited from the play of the front seven. Still, the Seahawks were ranked 17th entering the Dolphins game. But corner Shawn Springs has slowly regained his health—he missed most of camp with a hamstring injury—and is starting to play well. Rookie corner Ken Lucas, a second-round pick, is big and physical. Strong safety Reggie Tongue, benched last season, has played well against the run. Robertson is a big hitter and a smart player, but observers say he's lost a step and is vulnerable to the deep game.
Key matchup: Redskins LG Dave Szott versus DT John Randle. One way to handle small, but quick defensive tackles is to run right at them. Problem is, Szott is small and the Redskins could use a big body opposite Randle. But Szott's quickness should help. He must use it to prevent Randle from becoming a disruptive force in the backfield.
How to beat Seattle's defense: Test the corners. That's what happened in Seattle's early losses. Of course, that's before Shawn Springs returned to full health. If he's right, then he can't be tested. But the other corners can be. Ken Lucas could become a solid player, but he's still a rookie. And Washington must test the Seahawks on deep posts. Their safeties, while solid, can be beaten. Of course, for Washington to win, it must establish the run. Otherwise, the safeties will play a yard deeper and defend the pass.
Defensive player to watch Cornerback Shawn Springs Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 196
A hamstring injury sidelined him during camp and slowed him early this season. When healthy, he's a playmaker capable of taking any errant pass back for a touchdown. Springs is big (6-foot, 196 pounds) and strong. Washington must be careful.
The Seahawks have one of the NFL's top special teams coaches in Pete Rodriguez—remember him?—but that hasn't helped this season. The past three years Seattle ranked fifth, first and fifth in special teams. But this season the Seahawks have struggled in most areas. Returner Charlie Rogers is averaging only 20.3 yards on kickoffs, 9.8 on punts, and has fumbled twice. But his blockers haven't opened many holes. Kicker Rian Lindell already has missed more field goals than all of last season. And the punt coverage unit ranks near the bottom of the league in yards allowed. But the kick coverage remains solid, ranking second. Fabien Bownes is their top coverman.