The Washington Redskins entered this season believing there would be days when their defense would carry them while Coach Steve Spurrier and his offense struggled during his NFL adjustment. Today was one of those days, as the Redskins rode two early touchdown passes by quarterback Shane Matthews, the running of first-time NFL starter Kenny Watson and the play of their more-imposing defense to a 14-3 triumph over the Seattle Seahawks in front of 64,325 at Seahawks Stadium.
The Redskins (4-4) began a stretch of three consecutive road games by giving Spurrier his first two-game winning streak. There were precious few style points for Spurrier's passing game, but the Redskins did what was required and the Seahawks (2-6) helped at a few crucial moments.
"It was an unusual game for all the games I've coached," Spurrier said. "Our defense certainly played well [and] kept them out of the end zone . . . We're happy to win [but] hopefully we can play a lot better than this . . . We didn't throw and catch very well the whole game, but fortunately we hit a couple touchdowns there early in the game and that was good enough."
Matthews completed only 10 of 27 passes for 114 yards and threw an interception. But he had touchdown throws of 11 yards to Darnerien McCants in the first quarter and 19 yards to fellow wide receiver Rod Gardner early in the second quarter. With tailback Stephen Davis inactive because of his injured right knee, Watson rushed for 110 yards on 23 carries against the league's worst run defense. And the Redskins' defense limited Seattle to a 23-yard field goal by Rian Lindell in the second quarter.
"We're going out with the attitude to dominate the other team," said Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington. "We know now where we're supposed to be and what we're supposed to be doing. We're handling our business. I'm pretty excited. I think we had a dominant effort today, and it will only get better from here."
The Seahawks outgained the Redskins, 324 yards to 259. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck completed 28 of 44 passes for 264 yards. Wide receiver Koren Robinson had eight receptions for 100 yards. But the Redskins limited tailback Shaun Alexander to 67 rushing yards and made the big plays when needed. They sacked Hasselbeck four times and pounced on two fumbles by him. A pair of fourth-down gambles by Seahawks Coach Mike Holmgren deep in Redskins territory backfired, most notably when he passed up a field goal late in the first half and Hasselbeck was sacked by Bruce Smith. The veteran defensive end also sacked Hasselbeck on a third-down play to end Seattle's opening drive of the second half with a fumble.
"Our defense made some unbelievable plays when we had to have them," Matthews said, "and a win is a win."
The Redskins' defenders struggled early in the season to learn coordinator Marvin Lewis's system. But the unit entered today ranked eighth in the league in total defense, and showed why. Still, the players' locker-room refrain was that they were pleased, but not fully satisfied.
"We've still got a ways to go," outside linebacker Jessie Armstead said. "Some defensive coordinators would be happy. But with Marvin, good is not good enough. He demands excellence. We're not patting each other on the backs."
Said middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter: "We're not there. We have not arrived. We can play a lot better."
The Redskins threw passes on their first three plays before Watson went 12 yards with a pitch on his first carry. The Redskins moved to Seattle's 34-yard line but stalled. Spurrier seemed to contemplate a fourth-and-five gamble but waved in Bryan Barker, whose fortunate-bounce punt pinned the Seahawks at their 3.
Seattle went three plays and out, and the Redskins got the ball at the Seahawks 41. They needed seven plays to score. After a false start by tight end Zeron Flemister, Watson rumbled 23 yards through a huge opening on a first-down draw play. The Redskins went to a five-wideout formation on third and nine from the 11. McCants lined up to the right of the formation and got open on a post pattern. Matthews put his throw on target, and McCants made his second touchdown reception in two weeks before being nailed by a helmet-to-helmet late hit by safety Marcus Robertson that drew a 15-yard penalty and almost certainly will produce a fine by the NFL.
The Seahawks responded with a solid drive, getting third-down conversions on a 19-yard screen pass to Alexander and a two-yard scramble by Hasselbeck on which the officials ruled he began his slide -- and thus was down -- before fumbling. But cornerback Fred Smoot made a nice third-down tackle to keep wide receiver James Williams two yards shy of a first down, and Seattle had to settle for Lindell's field goal.
Rookie tailback Ladell Betts began the Redskins' next possession with a 25-yard run, and a Matthews-to-Watson completion got the Redskins 12 yards and a first down at the Seattle 19. Following two incompletions, the Redskins went back to their five-receiver setup on third down. Matthews saw a blitz coming and audibled to a quick screen pass. Gardner and Jacquez Green were to the left of the formation. As Gardner caught Matthews's low throw, Green blocked cornerback Shawn Springs. Gardner side-stepped safety Curtis Fuller, who had slipped, and coasted into the end zone.
The offenses turned dormant from there. Redskins safety Sam Shade forced a second-quarter fumble by Hasselbeck with a blitz and sack on a third-and-12 play from the Washington 42. The Redskins gave the ball back when Matthews threw into the stomach of defensive tackle Antonio Cochran when he dropped into coverage on a third-and-10 play.
Seattle moved to the Redskins 2, where Holmgren faced a fourth-and-goal decision. He took a timeout 17 seconds before intermission and left his offense on the field when a field goal would have drawn his club within a touchdown and two-point conversion. Smith, who had only one previous sack, got Hasselbeck. After one kneel-down by Matthews, the Redskins went to the locker room with a 14-3 advantage.
"Given how we're playing on offense lately, I thought it was worth the risk," Holmgren said. "They covered the play. I would have liked Matt to throw it somewhere because there's not too much more bad that can happen than get sacked. But I'm not kicking myself for that decision too much."
Smith did it again on the Seahawks' opening drive of the second half.
Seattle moved to the Redskins 21 but faced a third and 10. Smith stripped the ball from Hasselbeck on a blind-side sack, and Renaldo Wynn fell on the fumble.
The Seahawks moved to the Redskins 36 and 39 on their next two drives, but punted both times. The Redskins weren't doing any better, but time was on their side.
"We were moving the ball well early on, and then we just bogged down," Matthews said. "I was missing some open guys. I was losing the grip on the ball for some reason. You're going to have your bad days. I need to play better for us to go where we want to go, but we're going to enjoy the win."
Seattle got to the Redskins 15 with just less than three minutes left. But Holmgren again eschewed a field goal on a fourth-and-four play, and Hasselbeck was sacked by defensive tackle Daryl Gardener.
"We'll go back to the drawing board and try to do it better the next game," Spurrier said. "Hopefully we can play a little better at pitching and catching because we weren't very good at that today."