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This one was an instant classic
Mark this one down as an instant classic.
That’s no kneejerk reaction to the Seahawks’ abrupt about-face against the Washington Redskins on Sunday, when they were getting blown off the field at FedExField in the first quarter of their Wild Card matchup only to dominant the next three quarters.
It’s the significance of the accomplishment that transcends even the 24-14 victory that has the Seahawks preparing this week for Sunday’s divisional playoff game against the Falcons in Atlanta.
These Seahawks, in their third season under coach Pete Carroll and with a roster stocked with players making their postseason debuts, have gone where the Mike Holmgren Seahawks could not during the most successful five-season run in franchise history. These Seahawks, with a rookie quarterback and an aggressive, physical defense, have gone where no Seahawks team had since 1983 in their first season under Chuck Knox.
And with these Seahawks it wasn’t just winning a playoff game on the road for the first time since Dec. 31, 1983, it was their reaction to the accomplishment. As Russell Wilson, the rookie QB, put it after the game, “The goal is to win a lot of games. To help my football team win, and to help the Seattle Seahawks go where we want to go. We’re not there yet.”
Admirable, and also understandable. Wilson wasn’t even born when Curt Warner, Steve Largent and Dave Krieg led the fourth-quarter rally in that 27-20 victory of the Don Shula-coached, Dan Marino-quarterbacked Miami Dolphins at the Orange Bowl all those years ago.
And Wilson is one of 34 players on the 53-man roster who just got a large-bite taste of just how it feels to play in the NFL postseason.
For a better perspective, we sought out the longest-tenured member of the Seahawks. Cornerback Marcus Trufant was actually born when the Seahawks beat the Dolphins. He was only 3, but at least he was around. And, Trufant grew up in Tacoma, so he watched those Knox-coached Seahawks and was part of those Holmgren-coached Seahawks after being a first-round draft choice out of Washington State University in 2003.
“This is big for us, man, this ranks pretty high,” Trufant said in the locker room after the game. “To come out on the road and be down 14 points and to still come out with the victory in the playoffs is big.
“I think this is going to be real big for all the young guys, just to have that confidence and just to know that if we keep fighting and if we play as a team then we’re hard to deal with.”
Just as it’s hard to overstate the significance of what just happened on Sunday night.
With that said, here’s a look at three things that worked against the Redskins and three things that need work this week as the Seahawks prepare for another cross-country trip, this time to face the top-seeded Falcons:
The pass defense – The entire unit obviously played well in holding the Redskins to no points and 74 yards after their two touchdown drives in the first quarter. But the physical, ball-hawking nature of the defensive backs nurtured the turnaround.
Cornerback Brandon Browner, in his first game back after serving a four-game suspension, picked up where he has left off – frustrating receivers with his physical coverage. Richard Sherman continued to play like the best cover corner in the NFL. Pro Bowl free safety Earl Thomas had a momentum-altering interception at the Seahawks’ 22-yard line in the second quarter to set up a field goal that cut the Redskins’ lead to 14-13 at the half. Strong safety Kam Chancellor continued to hit anything and everything that came anywhere near him.
“We have great DBs in Seattle and we take pride in taking care of our business,” Thomas said. “And we did that tonight.”
The running game – What more can be said about Marshawn Lynch and the impact he has had on this franchise since being acquired in a 2010 trade with the Buffalo Bills? In his third playoff game with the Seahawks, Lynch turned in his second 100-yard rushing performance with a club playoff record-tying 132 yards.
Only three other backs in franchise history have had 100-yard games in the postseason – Warner, in the ’83 upset of the Dolphins in Miami (113 yards); Dan Doornink, in the upset of the Raiders the next season (126); and Shaun Alexander, who did it in the 2005 NFC Championship game against the Carolina Panthers (132) and also the next season in the playoff loss to the Bears in Chicago (108).
Lynch’s other 100-yard effort came against the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints after the 2010 season, when his 131-yard night was capped by an electrifying 67-yard TD run.
But against the Redskins, it wasn’t just Lynch, his 132 yards and his 27-yard TD run in the fourth quarter that proved to be the game-winner. The Seahawks hung 224 yards on the ground and averaged 6.1 yards per carry on a Redskins defense that allowed averages of 95.8 and 4.2 during the regular season.
Wilson added 67 yards, rookie Robert Turbin 22 and fullback Michael Robinson 3, and all were aided by an offensive line anchored by the Pro Bowl duo of center Max Unger and left tackle Russell Okung that also included right tackle Breno Giacomini, left guard Paul McQuistan and rookie J.R. Sweezy and John Moffitt, who split time at right guard.
The good hands, and feet, guys – Did you see the catches Sidney Rice and Golden Tate made along the sidelines? Beyond textbook stuff.
Rice’s was good for 27 yards on the drive to the first of three field goals by Steven Hauschka. Rice went up to get Wilson’s pass, then made sure he got both feet down before going out of bounds. Tate’s came on the opposite sideline, as he made like Inspector Gadget to reach out and grab a 15-yarder in the third quarter.
WHAT NEEDS WORK
Starting as well as they finish – Or at least starting better. The Seahawks can’t count on getting down 14-0 and then pitching a shutout every time they step on the field in the playoffs. Especially against a Falcons team that scored 91 points in the first quarter and 131 in the second while going 13-3 during the regular season.
“I was worried about the tempo of the game catching us a little bit,” Carroll said. “That we spent so much time on their option stuff that we might not be up to speed. Certainly, it looked like it. We just weren’t there with the tempo at the start of the game.”
Holding onto the ball – What could have been a game-altering play when Lynch lost a fumble at the Redskins’ 2-yard line wasn’t because he atoned for the mistake with his game-winner. But again, it’s tough to count on things like that happening.
Wilson also fumbled an exchange with Lynch, only to have Lynch scoop it up and run for 20 yards. But again, it’s tough to count on things like that happening.
Red zone offense – On their first five trips inside the Redskins’ 20-yard line, the Seahawks scored one TD, kicked three field goals and lost that fumble. With better efficiency, this one could have been another lopsided victory.
“We had a lot of great opportunities to capitalize in the red zone, and we didn’t do that quite as much as we’ve been doing of late,” Wilson said. “But that’s all right. In the playoffs, you’ve just got to make plays and continue to fight, continue to have that edge.”