.NET: Following that loss, the Seahawks were stuck at 2-2, and it looked to most observers that another up-and-down campaign was in the cards. Who could have known that the team would not lose another meaningful game, rolling off 11 straight wins, decimating their conference and ending the season with the NFC’s #1 seed?
That soft underbelly is long gone – what we were seeing early in the season was a Seahawks team still getting used to total integration after so many dysfunctional seasons. There are many examples of this new internal toughness and resolve – Seattle led the NFL in drives of 80 yards or more with 24, they picked up 23 more sacks then they allowed (50-27), they were #1 in the NFL in red zone offense (71.7 TD %), and second in the NFL in red zone defense (40.4 TD % allowed).
More importantly, the late-game collapses that marked previous Seahawks campaigns are but a memory. Jordan Babineaux’ late interception and Josh Brown’s subsequent game-winning field goal against the Dallas Cowboys in Seattle’s 13-10 victory on October 23 seemed to be the karmic back-breaker.
The Seahawks used to be a team filled with talented but undisciplined individuals pointed in umpteen different directions. Now, winning is the common goal.
Warpath: One of the more surprising stats I've seen this week is that the Seahawks led the NFL in sacks with 50. Does the front four generate most of the pressure or does Ray Rhodes like to blitz a lot?
.NET: It should be noted that Rhodes has spent this season recovering from the stroke he suffered on September 4, and linebackers coach John Marshall has ably manned the controls with Rhodes as a consultant.
Of Seattle’s 50 sacks, the defensive line was credited with 32.5. 11.5 came from rookie linebackers Leroy Hill and Lofa Tatupu, three from DBs, and three were team sacks.
I wrote an article on December 4th in which I charted all of Eli Manning’s 53 pass attempts when New York came to Seattle on November 27. Seattle brought pressure from linebackers and/or DBs on 15 of those 53 attempts. The Seahawks are not generally known as a blitz-happy team, and I’d say this game was pretty typical in that regard.
Warpath: Darrell Jackson had a solid game against the Redskins and then he got hurt and missed most of the rest of the season. Is he fully healthy and back into the flow of the offense?
.NET: Healthy? Yes, according to Mike Holmgren during his Tuesday press conference. Holmgren said that Jackson should not be limited at all during practice this week. However, Jackson has played in only two games since the Washington loss – he missed ten weeks with a knee injury, played against the Titans and Colts and then sat out the season finale against Green Bay when the Seahawks weren’t playing for anything but Shaun Alexander’s records. Holmgren also said that Jackson will have to blow off some rust (last catching a pass against Indy on 12/24), and that he expects to rotate receivers, although Jackson may be listed as the starter. You could see Joe Jurevicius, for example, in the slot or split wide.
My guesstimate is that Jackson will play most of the game and get a good number of footballs thrown his way. Seattle’s offense relies less on a #1 receiver than most, though – Hasselbeck is used to sharing the wealth.
Warpath: Complete this sentence: "The Redskins defense had better not sleep on..."
.NET: I could name Jurevicius or SLB Leroy Hill here (and I almost did)…but after seeing and reading a number of pundits put forth the opinion that all one must do to stop the Seahawks’ offense is to stop Shaun Alexander, I’d say that America had best wake up to Matt Hasselbeck in a big hurry. Seattle’s QB is coming into the playoffs hot with a 135.5 QB rating over four games in the month of December. During that month, Hasselbeck completed 76.1 of his passes (67 of 88) for 777 yards, 10 touchdowns and only one interception. That 76.1 percentage is the highest in NFL history for any quarterback in December when starting at least four games.
Hasselbeck was the NFC’s leader in passer rating, and will be the conference’s starting QB in the Pro Bowl…it’s a bit strange that people don’t seem to be giving him more credit as a potential offensive force, especially given the fact that he’ll have Jackson out there. If the Redskins don’t see this, and decide to stack the box, don’t say we didn’t warn you. Although he was decent in Week Four against Washington (26 of 38 for 242 yards and a touchdown), this is a different Hasselbeck. Does the defense’s general focus on Alexander help him? No doubt. But Matt’s effectiveness, especially over the last half of the season, has turned Seattle’s offense into a “pick your poison” proposition.
Warpath: Finally, the most important question: Will the Seahawks be wearing dark jerseys at home? It's a critical question because the Skins' current six- game winning streak has been all in white jerseys and white pants. Do the 'Hawks have any interesting good luck charms or superstitions?
.NET: I have read that Washington will be wearing their whites, and I’d assume that the Seahawks will go with the blue unicolor look. Not aware of any specific superstitions (although I have heard about Shaun Alexander’s proclivity for pregame peanut M & Ms), but let’s be frank. Seattle is 4-9 against the Redskins in their history, Washington is the only current NFL franchise Mike Holmgren hasn’t defeated, and the Seahawks haven’t won a playoff game in 21 years.
If they HAD superstitions before, I’d say now would be a good time to set them aside.
Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET. Feel free to e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rich Tandler is the Managing Editor of Warpath Insiders, Scout.com's comprehensive Redskins website. You can e-mail Rich at email@example.com.