It's here!! The Seahawks await the start of their fifth-straight playoff run! Forget about the squalor of the 90's; these are the glory days we will talk about with our grandkids. This could very well be the year the Seahawks make their second appearance in a Super Bowl. What will make or break it for this team lies in the details this Saturday against the emotionally charged Washington Redskins.
The importance of details became painfully obvious to Seahawk fans this year with the - hopefully now resolved - long snapping situation. We longed for the return of J.P. Darche as the ball sailed over Ryan Plackemeier's head and Josh Brown uncharacteristically missed even short yardage field goals. The details matter. The play of EVERY member of the team contributes to the success, or dare I say failure, of the squad. So what details can fans watch for against the Skins that could mean the difference between the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat? As I rewatched the Baltimore and Atlanta games and listened to a few knowledgeable broadcasters, a few things stood out.
- First, and this should not shock a single Seahawks fan, is third down conversions. Over the course of the year, fans let out a collective groan when the board read 3rd and 2. We watched in horror as Shaun Alexander was stopped in the backfield time and time again. The line has to be able to make the push on 3rd and short, and Holmgren will need to look at non-traditional options like a Hasselbeck bootleg to gain these valuable yards for first downs.
- Next, the Hawks need a big game from Kelly Jennings at right corner. Jennings could be the Leroy Hill of the secondary: a good player in his own right, but somewhat lost in a sea of excitement over the greatly improved line-up in the safety positions and a Pro-Bowl year from Marcus Trufant. The Redskins big threat at wide receiver is no doubt Santana Moss. The good news for Jennings is that Moss is a smaller receiver and, while Jennings is no giant himself, he has the speed to match Moss. It's unlikely that the Hawks will flop coverage to keep Trufant on Moss, so Jennings will need to keep pace with him and get in his face.
- Additionally, Todd Collins may not be a seasoned playoff veteran, but he does have the wisdom of many years in the league and poise in the pocket to make him successful over the last four weeks. Patrick Kerney, Julian Peterson, Rocky Bernard - they all need to be in his face ALL DAY LONG. It doesn't have to be a high sack total, but the hurries, the hits at release, the flushing of Collins out of the pocket, and, of course, the crowd noise could go a long way towards a few turnovers and a Seahawks win.
- Leonard Weaver has made huge strides over the course of the season in blocking for Hasselbeck. No doubt good coaching and additional mentoring from retired full-back Mack Strong has nurtured his development. In order for Hasselbeck to get the time he needs to get through his reads against a stout Redskins defense, he'll need a big game from the whole o-line, the tight ends, and Weaver.
- Hallelujah for the return of some semblance of a running game! It may not be the days of old were Alexander is concerned, but the Hawks need the THREAT of a run to keep the defense honest. For once, the national media on Shaun may actually help the Seahawks as they have acknowledged his increased productivity which may increase the focus of the Redskins coordinator to plan for both Alexander and Morris out of the backfield. They don't need a record breaking day, just somewhere in the 80 yards total range should be enough to set up the pass nicely. (Isn't it weird to be referring to the run setting up the pass?!?!)
- As entertaining as it has been to watch Josh Brown make touchdown saving tackles against the likes of Devin Hester, etc., it is NEVER a good sign when your kicker is running guys down. Niko Koutouvides and the rest of the coverage team needs to do their part in the battle for field position. A few big run backs from Nate Burleson would be an awfully nice addition, but the Redskins have some of the best stats in the league on return yardage, so that may be a taller order than usual.
- And then there's the 12th man .the Hawks need all the noise and support the fans can muster this Saturday to counteract the emotion that the Redskins bring to town in mourning the horrible death of Sean Taylor. It has been said by many in the media that Seattle may be the only place that could equalize the wave the Redskins have been riding. Let's hope for a coin toss that results in the defense hitting the field first. Get the fans into the game right away and rattle the offense into a few false start penalties. While much of the national media attention for this game has been on the hot streak of the Redskins and the reputation of their stellar coach Joe Gibbs, the one edge that is consistently given to the Hawks is the power of Qwest Field and the 12th man, and the amazing home field advantage they provide.
So be ready to rock Qwest
Field! It's playoff time baby - ain't nothin' like it! This is likely our one
chance to give everything we've got to the team in the playoffs this year so
don't hold anything back! And come Saturday afternoon, we'll all see which details
made the difference in the Seahawks victory!
Kelly Martin writes for Seahawks.NET. When she's not on the road with work or spending time with husband Dan and her boys Ben and Nate, she's cheering on the Hawks. Kelly can be reached via email here.