Redskins' Run Finished in a Flash
Sunday, January 6, 2008
SEATTLE, Jan. 5 -- The locker room door closed on a dream now gone. Outside, in the Qwest Field stands, 68,297 people howled into a January gloaming as the Washington Redskins gathered one last time in the most trying season of their lives. A destiny they assumed was theirs had come to an end in the first round of the National Football League playoffs with a 35-14 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, and now it was time to leave 2007 for good.
Strangely there were few tears, but maybe enough had been shed in the days after their teammate Sean Taylor died in Miami that morning in November. Instead men smiled wistful smiles, packed their bags and talked about what had happened -- how a game they thought they had stolen from Seattle instead was snatched from them in 28 fourth-quarter seconds.
Yet what struck them most in the odd V-shaped locker room beneath the southeast stands of Qwest Field was how much they had changed. They were closer now, an emotion that comes with the death of a teammate and an improbable run to the playoffs. After these last two months they said they will never be the same.
"I've been to Super Bowls, but this is one for the memories," linebacker London Fletcher said as he gathered his things and prepared to leave the room. "This is the special season. It's truly unparalleled because of all the things we went through -- like the second-half losses and losing Sean and losing to Buffalo" the Sunday after Taylor's death, "then to come back and win those four ballgames."
Fletcher paused, put down his bag and laughed quietly.
"I think I learned a lot about the guys I played with," he continued. "I learned a lot about the coaches. It's easy when things are going well to be excited about coming to work."
This time, in the year when so much didn't go well, the team around him endured. Which is how, on the day it all ended, neither Fletcher nor his teammates wept. Nor did they gaze forlornly at the locker room floor the way players often do after such season-ending defeats.
The irony of this is that Saturday's loss might have been the cruelest of all in a season of bitter defeats. Seattle dominated the game for three quarters, overwhelming Washington's offense with a frenetic, attacking defense that squelched the Redskins' running game, battering their star running back, Clinton Portis.
Then just when it appeared the Redskins were done, when they were behind 13-0 at the start of the fourth quarter in a game that felt far more one-sided than the score, they came to life. A Todd Collins touchdown pass to Antwaan Randle El, an interception and another touchdown and recovered kickoff, all within 2 minutes 22 seconds of the quarter's start, appeared to doom the Seahawks. The roar that filled the stadium for much of the afternoon died, and it seemed the Redskins had found a way to make magic happen once again.
Across the field, Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander watched with surprise and remembered saying to himself: "Oh wow, they came back. I guess they are fighters."
But almost as quickly as hope came it went away. Washington place kicker Shaun Suisham missed a 30-yard field goal. Given new life, Seattle came back down the field, scoring a touchdown to take a 21-14 lead that grew seconds later to 28-14 when Collins lobbed a pass that wide receiver Santana Moss never saw. The ball landed in the hands of Seahawks cornerback Marcus Trufant, who ran 78 yards down the left sideline for another touchdown.
There was 5:38 left in the season and the Redskins were essentially broken.