The Redskins will need strong play out of their special teams units Sunday. Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)


Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan expects that special teams could play a major role in determining the winner of Sunday’s NFC Wild Card meeting between his team and the Seattle Seahawks, who excel both in kickoff returns and coverage.

Led by veteran return man Leon Washington, Seattle ranks third in the NFL on kickoff returns (27.1 yards per return).

“Washington is a difference maker, a Pro Bowl player,” Shanahan said. “He’s a Pro Bowl player for a reason. He has a lot of respect from a lot of different coaches and players. He plays accordingly. He has the chance to make a big play.”

Special teams coach Danny Smith and his players are placing a strong emphasis on limiting Washington. On the lockers of the members of the special teams units hung a printout with a picture of Washington, referencing his 2013 Pro Bowl selection and a line, “Everyone has to catch the rabbit. Everyone get a hit on 33.”

The Redskins also have to be mindful of defensive end Red Bryant, who earlier this season blocked a field goal that was returned for a touchdown against San Francisco, and last season blocked three field goals and an extra point (a field goal and the extra point attempt against Washington).

“You have a guy like Bryant, who has consistently penetrated lines for field goal blocks. It’s something that we’ve concentrated on, and we’ll have to play well in those areas to win,” Shanahan said.