The Seahawks' third-down defense was in the cross hairs during an overtime loss to the Redskins back in early October. Shoring up that area is a high priority for Seattle as the teams prepare to meet in the divisional round of the playoffs Saturday at Qwest Field.
"The first game was a dogfight and I expect the same thing," Seahawks middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu said this week.
The Redskins converted 13-of-18 times on third down during their 20-17 victory over Seattle on Oct. 2. Washington turned two additional third downs into first downs thanks to pass-interference penalties against the Seahawks.
Redskins coach Joe Gibbs successfully used max-protection schemes to stop the Seattle pass rush. Quarterback Mark Brunell had time to find open receivers even though the Redskins were sending no more than two receivers downfield on many plays.
Washington controlled the ball for nearly 22 minutes in the first half alone. The Redskins converted 8-of-11 third-down chances in the half, keeping Seattle's high-powered offense off the field. The Seahawks script their first 15 plays in every game, but they only called six of them in the first quarter of that game.
"It's a frustration for any play caller if that's the way the game goes," coach Mike Holmgren said. "That's exactly what happened in the first game. What you have to be careful to do is not try to get it back all at one time. Hopefully, the defense gets it straightened out, the defense gets off the field, you get a couple more chances."
That didn't happen nearly enough in the loss at Washington. Seattle still managed to get its offense going well enough to tie the game with a pair of long touchdown drives in the second half. Seattle would have won in regulation had kicker Josh Brown not sent a field-goal try off the left upright as time expired.
--QB Matt Hasselbeck has 12 touchdowns and two interceptions in the team's last six regular-season games, even though he sat out four-plus quarters because the Seahawks were either way ahead of playing in a meaningless game.
--QB Seneca Wallace has shown he can move the football when given pass protection. That was the case in the regular-season finale against Green Bay. Like most quarterbacks, Wallace struggled a bit when his pass protection faltered.
--RB Shaun Alexander said this season will be a failure if the Seahawks do not reach the Super Bowl. Alexander has been vocal about expressing high expectations for the season. His newfound MVP status gives the comments an air of legitimacy. But if the team loses to Washington in the divisional round, coach Mike Holmgren will surely balance the disappointment with reminders that his team won 13 games for the first time in franchise history.
--FB Mack Strong is getting national recognition for the first time in his career. Strong was named a Pro Bowl starter and an Associated Press All-Pro player, all at age 34. His blocking gets most of the attention, but Strong can also catch the ball. He has the ability to occasionally get downfield and slip behind a linebacker, but Seattle doesn't ask him to do that very often.
--WR Darrell Jackson practiced Tuesday and was not listed on the injury report. The team expects him to start Saturday. Jackson set a franchise playoff record with 12 catches in the wild-card round last season. A knee injury has slowed him this season.
--WR Joe Jurevicius turned out to be better than coach Mike Holmgren initially expected. Holmgren said he knew Jurevicius was a tough receiver with good hands and a flair for producing in big games. He just didn't know that Jurevicius would be a 10-TD player, as the case was this season.
--TE Jerramy Stevens went without a catch in the final regular-season game, but that will change Saturday. Stevens caught 16 passes over a four-game span before the team rested its starters for the second half of a meaningless game against Green Bay. He finished the season with 45 catches, five of them for touchdowns. Stevens had TD grabs of 22, 29 and 35 yards this season. He's a big-play threat who doesn't get featured in the offense because Seattle has so many weapons, notably RB Shaun Alexander.
--K Josh Brown made only 1-of-3 field-goal tries in the final three games. He made 3-of-7 attempts in the final five games. He made 2-of-4 from 50-plus yards in the final four games. Brown is in the news this week because his missed 47-yard attempt prevented Seattle from beating the Redskins on Oct. 2.
--MLB Lofa Tatupu led the Seahawks in tackles with 105, becoming the first rookie to lead Seattle in that category since Terry Beeson in 1977. He had 10 tackles and a sack in Seattle's previous game against the Redskins on Oct. 2.
--LB D.D. Lewis did not practice Tuesday but he was expected to test his injured foot Wednesday. Lewis has suffered injury problems this season. He has been an impact player when healthy.
--DT Marcus Tubbs had four sacks in the Seahawks' final five games. He finished the season with 5.5 sacks in 13 games.
After a long-ailing groin robbed him of a chance to play last Saturday at Tampa Bay, Shawn Springs has an extra bounce in his step this week with a second chance to play in just the third playoff game of his nine-year career.
"I'm just like (the Seahawks)," said Springs, who played his first seven seasons in Seattle. "I'm coming off a bye. I'll be rested, fresh and ready. I'm going to practice tomorrow and get after it. We've been a M*A*S*H* unit over the last three weeks. I was limping in the month of December. We have Carlos (Rogers) back (after missing Weeks 15-17 with an injured biceps). Now we've got some depth."
The Redskins know they need a healthy Springs to hold up against the Seahawks, the NFL's highest scoring team.
"What you have in Shawn is somebody that's battle-tested," coach Joe Gibbs said. "We think he's one of the best corners out there. He's physical. He has made big plays. Corners know there's no substitute for experience and guys that can handle the tough part of playoffs. Most of those corners, they're not going to play corner if they worry about things. They've got a little bit of a gunslinger attitude. Certainly Shawn does. I think it will add a lot having him back."
While Springs said this game is a big deal because of its magnitude, not its opponent or its locale, he is excited to return to Seattle, a place with so many fond memories.
"I had some good times, some good wins out there," said Springs, who made the Pro Bowl in 1998 and played on playoff teams in 1999 and 2003. "We played San Diego when they had Ryan Leaf (in 1998). We had seven picks that day. I had two."
Not that Springs regrets leaving Seattle for a six-year, $31.3 million contract with the Redskins before last season.
"I'm glad the first time I played Seattle was a regular season game here instead of being out there in the playoffs, but once I get between the lines, it'll be like any other game," Springs said. "I didn't leave Seattle because I was unhappy. It was strictly business. And it's not like the move here didn't work out for me. I've been on the top of my game the last two years."
Springs made a huge impact in his Washington debut in 2004 becoming the first NFL defensive back to lead a team in interceptions and sacks. But this year with no proven commodity on the opposite corner which Fred Smoot manned last season, Springs has just one interception. He also doesn't have a sack since he has been asked to blitz sparingly by assistant head coach Gregg Williams.
"But I've been getting more action lately," Springs said. "Hopefully some of those balls I couldn't get to when my groin was hurting, I'll get my hands on now. (The Seahawks) threw to my side the first game a couple of times. I hope they do again. Coach (Mike) Holmgren is big on matchups. If he thinks he can get something on me, then he'll throw at me. Either way, it's going to be a fun game."
--QB Mark Brunell said the right knee he sprained on Dec. 24 against the New York Giants didn't affect him in the wild-card game at Tampa Bay. However, the 13-year veteran had a career-worst day, completing just 7 of 15 passes for 41 yards with two interceptions and a TD for a 25.7 passer rating. Brunell did improve to 5-4 (4-4 with Jacksonville) as a playoff starter thanks to Washington's defense.
--RB Clinton Portis' team record streak of five straight 100 yard-game came to a crashing halt against the Bucs with 53 yards on 16 carries. Portis had to leave the game on a couple of occasions to rest a shoulder stinger. His 6-yard TD in the first quarter did prove to be the game-winner. Portis had 68 yards on 17 carries in his only previous playoff game for Denver in 2003.
--RB Ladell Betts had a 94-yard kickoff return in Tampa on Nov. 13, but he had just 36 yards on 11 touches on offense this time against the Bucs along with two kickoff returns for 43 yards in his playoff debut.
--WR Santana Moss had a season-low 18 yards on two catches against Tampa Bay. Moss had caught 13 passes for 214 yards and two TDs in four playoff games with the New York Jets.
--K John Hall's 47-yard FG in Tampa helped the Redskins win. Hall averaged the 8-yard line on his four kickoffs and made both his extra points.
--DE Phillip Daniels sacked Chris Simms for a 13-yard loss in Tampa giving him seven sacks in the last four games.
--WLB LaVar Arrington had 10 tackles against the Bucs and returned his first interception in four years 21 yards to the Tampa 6-yard line set up the game's opening TD.
--FS Sean Taylor had six tackles and returned a fumble caused by strongside Marcus Washington 51 yards for the touchdown that made it 14-0 in the first quarter. Taylor was ejected in the third quarter for spitting on Bucs RB Michael Pittman and was fined $17,000 by the NFL on Monday for that transgression.