SEATTLE — For the first time since October 2, Washington Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan smiled during a postgame news conference.
After watching his team overcome two interceptions, a blocked field goal, a blocked extra point and a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit, Shanahan saw the team’s six-game losing streak come to an end with a 23-17 victory over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.
Shanahan’s team has been well acquainted with adversity this season. The Redskins have lost seven players to the season-ending injured reserve list, have seen their offense struggle and endured the longest losing streak in the coach’s career. But Sunday the team finally demonstrated the ability to overcome such obstacles, scoring 16 fourth-quarter points and befuddling the Seahawks’ offense in the final minutes to capture the victory.
“Any time you fight back like we did, you feel good about your football team,” said a grinning Shanahan, whose team last won at St. Louis on Oct. 2. “It’s nice to get a win. It’s nice to do it that way.”
The Redskins appeared headed for their seventh straight loss when Seattle took a 10-point lead on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Tarvaris Jackson to Golden Tate. But Washington, which to that point hadn’t managed to rekindle the offensive spark it showed on its first possession, finally made some critical plays.
Rookie running back Roy Helu rushed for a 28-yard touchdown with 9 minutes 51 seconds left, hurdling Seahawks defensive back Roy Lewis for the highlight of a career day that featured 23 carries for 108 yards and his first career score.
“Right where their DB was, where I hurdled him at, was the first-down marker, and I just wanted to make sure I got it,” said Helu, who started for only the second time this season. “I didn’t care if the safety came over and killed me in the air. I knew I’d get the first down with forward progress. I came down and ended up breaking the tackle.”
On the next Washington possession, quarterback Rex Grossman, facing third and 19, threw a 50-yard touchdown strike to Anthony Armstrong for the clincher with 6:18 to play. Grossman had his best outing of the season, completing 26 of 35 passes for 314 yards and two touchdowns, numbers that overshadowed a pair of interceptions that set back the Redskins.
Graham Gano , who had a field goal and extra point blocked on the day, nailed a 25-yard field goal for the deciding score, and cornerback DeAngelo Hall recorded an interception with 37 seconds left to play, slamming the door on Seattle.
For the game, Washington gained 416 yards and 22 first downs, dominating time of possession by holding the ball for 33:20 to 26:40. The Seahawks – paced by 131 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown by Marshawn Lynch – recorded 250 yards of offense and 15 first downs.
The game started with great promise for the Redskins, who improved to 4-7 and dropped Seattle to the same record. After mustering only 16 first-quarter points all season and failing to score a touchdown on a game-opening drive this year, Washington finally reversed its fortunes.
Stringing together a 14-play, 80-yard drive that ate up 7:49, the Redskins finally found the end zone on their first possession. After marching the team downfield by combining seven completions with five carries by Helu, Grossman completed a two-yard touchdown toss to tight end Fred Davis.
The drive was Washington’s longest since a 15-play drive in Week 2 against Arizona.
But just as quickly as the Redskins caught fire, the fire went out.
On Washington’s second snap of the second quarter, Grossman threw an interception to Seattle’s Brandon Browner, who snatched away a high throw intended for Jabar Gaffney and returned it to the Washington 20-yard line.
On the next play, Jackson hit Lynch on a swing pass, and Lynch raced 20 yards untouched to the end zone.
Washington got the ball back following the touchdown and appeared to have regained its offensive rhythm. In 11 plays, the Redskins moved the ball from their 34 to the Seattle 5. Grossman connected with Gaffney on a pass in the back of the end zone, but the touchdown didn’t stand because Gaffney had run out of bounds before making the catch.
Two plays later, forced to settle for a 23-yard field goal try, Washington came up empty again. Seattle lineman Red Bryant knocked Will Montgomery off the line and batted down the kick, giving the Redskins their league-leading fourth blocked field goal of the season.
The Redskins’ defense held the Seahawks in check, and Washington ran out the final minute of the first half before heading to the locker room in a 7-7 tie.
Grossman opened the third quarter exactly as he had started the second — by throwing an interception, this time after Seahawks place kicker Steven Hauschka missed a 51-yard field goal.
The Redskins got the ball on their 41-yard line, and Grossman faked a handoff to Roy Helu, looked downfield and fired a bomb in the direction of Santana Moss — and three Seattle defensive backs. Cornerback Richard Sherman made the diving interception at the 15-yard line and returned it to the 22.
The Seahawks couldn’t convert that turnover into points, but on their next possession, the team went 47 yards in four plays and took a 10-7 lead on a 36-yard Hauschka field goal.
The Redskins began their comeback following the Tate touchdown catch that made the score 17-7.
“We looked up on the board and saw we had over 300 yards of offense, so it was evident that they weren’t stopping us, it was us stopping us,” left tackle Trent Williams said. “So we knew we just had to get back to moving the ball, not shoot ourself in the foot and we would score.”
Facing third and 19 from the 50-yard line, Grossman shook off the pressure and hit seldom-used Armstrong for a touchdown. Armstrong, who hadn’t recorded a catch in five games, made the reception despite being held by Browner to give the Redskins the lead.
“After a losing streak like this, we stepped up and made plays we needed to make,” a relieved Grossman said with a smile after the game. “It’s a tough place to play in Seattle. It’s very loud, it’s a very long trip, so it’s pretty rewarding to win and also to come back from 10 points down to win.”
But Bryant put a damper on the big play by blocking the extra-point attempt to keep the Redskins’ lead at 20-17.