By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 24, 2008
SEATTLE, Nov. 23 -- Curious about the mood of the Washington Redskins as they faced another tense situation, Coach Jim Zorn surveyed the sideline late Sunday afternoon at Qwest Field. Consecutive losses had made things more difficult for them to earn an NFC playoff berth, and the players' demeanor late in their game against the Seattle Seahawks, Zorn thought to himself, would indicate a lot about what they could still accomplish.
He liked what he saw and apparently knows the group well, as the Redskins ended their losing streak with a 20-17 victory in a homecoming game for Zorn. Place kicker Shaun Suisham made a 22-yard field goal to break a fourth-quarter tie, and the defense made a strong push at the end against the injury-weakened Seahawks in front of 67,771.
"It was the last two losses coming into this that motivated us," said Zorn, who served as Seattle's quarterbacks coach for seven seasons and was the first quarterback of the expansion Seahawks in 1976. "It was also the commitment that our team has to continue to go. We were not in a crisis situation where we had to change a lot.
"Our players played hard in the last two weeks, and they played hard again today. There really has been no letdown of effort."
After the Seahawks recovered Ladell Betts's fumble deep in their end of the field with the Redskins trying to run out the clock in the final two minutes, cornerback Shawn Springs, who sat out the last four games because of a calf injury, intercepted quarterback Matt Hasselbeck's pass on Seattle's first play from scrimmage.
"Just a very, very costly mistake," Hasselbeck said. "Huge mistake. I made a poor decision. It ended the game, really."
Quarterback Jason Campbell kneeled twice to run out the clock and help Washington (7-4) get back on track. "When they put me in, they expect me to make plays," Springs said. "That's my role. I was just trying to shake off a little rust and I was happy to help the team win."
Said Betts: "That was huge. It saved me from having an even longer flight back home."
The Redskins gave Zorn a victory in his first game back in these parts since he joined Washington in January. The emotion of his return to Seattle, however, was not what Zorn focused on afterward.
Washington is in a crowded pack to attain its goal of a playoff berth, and the players showed him something important down the stretch Sunday. "Today felt like one of those early games, one of those first six games of the year," said Campbell, who completed 20 of 33 passes for 206 yards and one touchdown.
"I can't say enough about this effort. All the guys in there today really competed and gave it their all."
Washington needed everything it could summon to hold off the Seahawks (2-9), who have struggled, in large part, because of major injuries to key players. The Redskins had 386 total net yards to 228 for Seattle, a 24-13 edge in first downs and almost a 17-minute advantage in time of possession.
The score, however, was tied at 17 in the fourth quarter. The NFL's fourth-ranked defense finished strong, helping the offense after Betts's fumble, and getting the victory was all that mattered after losses to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys, players said.
"Dropping two games in a row is obviously a tough scenario," center Casey Rabach said. "We took those two losses very hard. We've got a group of guys without egos, and they just want to win football games. No matter how we win 'em, we just want to win 'em."
The Redskins won Sunday by relying on running back Clinton Portis and their defense. Portis played through the pain of a knee injury against Dallas and again had a lot of his shoulders, gaining 143 yards on 29 rushes. Portis's production was especially impressive considering he also suffered a strained hip muscle in the first half and had to be replaced by Betts at times because of the pain.
Washington took a 7-3 lead with 4 minutes 32 seconds left in the second quarter on Betts's one-yard touchdown run and Suisham's successful point-after attempt. The Redskins retained the ball for 5:42 on an 11-play, 62-yard drive. To that point in the half, the Redskins had a 13:78 lead in time of possession.
Then Hasselbeck, who completed 12 of 24 passes for 103 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, got into a groove. He completed his five attempts for 32 yards -- including a four-yard touchdown pass to Morris -- as the Seahawks closed the half's scoring with 29 seconds showing on the game clock.
On that drive, Seattle had the ball for 4:03. They had it for only 5:55 on their other four possessions in the half. The Seahawks had a 10-7 halftime lead.
After trailing by three points at halftime, Washington tried to take control in the third quarter, but the Seahawks pulled even again early in the final quarter. With 13:30 to play, Hasselbeck threw a short pass to the right side to rookie tight end John Carlson for a 10-yard touchdown. Mare's kick tied the score at 17.
Suisham, who missed a 40-plus yard field goal early in the game, also connected from 26 yards to tie the score at 10 in the third. Then the defense came up with a turnover, and the offense capitalized on the opportunity. Beginning play Sunday, the Redskins had only eight interceptions -- tied for 20th in the league.
With the Seahawks needing 12 yards on third down late in the third quarter, Demetric Evans, from his defensive tackle spot, applied pressure on Hasselbeck, prompting Hasselbeck to throw the ball. The pass went to the middle of the field, where there were no Seahawks receivers, and safety LaRon Landry dived for the interception.
Landry returned the ball 13 yards the Seattle 35. The interception was the first of Landry's career in the regular season. The second-year player had two interceptions in the Redskins' playoff loss to Seattle here last season.
Three plays after Landry's interception on Sunday, the Redskins reclaimed the lead on Campbell's eight-yard touchdown pass to Antwaan Randle El on a crossing pattern. The Redskins, who used a five-receiver pattern on the play, took a 17-10 lead on the Campbell-Randle El connection and Suisham's kick.
"With the losses that we had the last couple of weeks, we had to come back and regroup," Landry said. "We talked about definitely getting our swagger back and our confidence. We're not looking back at those losses. We're just trying to progress."