All week long, the Washington Redskins talked about the need for a strong response as they tried to recover from the embarrassment against the New York Giants and aimed to avoid another against the Seattle Seahawks on Monday night.
Initially, all the talk looked like hollow words. The defense had no fight, and the offense had no rhythm.
But the Seahawks made things interesting, keeping the Redskins in the game with 13 penalties — three of which negated touchdowns by wide receiver Percy Harvin. The Redskins clawed their way back, but ultimately, missed opportunities on offense and a late defensive collapse proved Washington’s undoing.
The visitors escaped FedEx Field with a 27-17 victory and improved to 3-1 on the season and 11-1 in prime-time games since 2001. Washington, meanwhile, fell to 1-4 and 0-7 in nationally televised games since 2012.
Washington trailed by just a touchdown in the final minutes, but quarterback Russell Wilson helped Seattle secure the victory.
“We were in a position to win it or make a great game of it, but in the third quarter we had a couple three-and-outs, and we never could change the field position,” Coach Jay Gruden said.
But Wilson, who had dazzled with his legs (122 rushing yards — second most ever by a quarterback against the Redskins) while doing damage with his arm (201 passing and two touchdowns), had a few more heroics left in him.
Facing third and four at the 50, the quarterback escaped the initial rush and scrambled to avoid nose tackle Chris Baker. Wilson flipped the ball over two other linemen’s heads to running back Marshawn Lynch, who raced 30 yards before getting tackled at the 20. Seattle ran down the clock and tacked on a 43-yard field goal with 21 seconds left for the final margin.
“We got beat by a better team,” safety Ryan Clark said. “We got beat by, as far as I’m concerned this weekend, the best player in the NFL. Russell Wilson made every play he had to make for his team to win, and we didn’t.”
Washington’s defenders entered the game with the goal of first stopping Lynch and then taking away Harvin. But the Redskins keyed so heavily on them that they forgot about Wilson.
Taking advantage of overpursuit by Washington’s pass rushers on the game’s first series, Wilson took off on an unscripted run up the middle, gained 16 yards and slid to avoid a tackle by Brandon Meriweather. Two plays later, the Redskins bit on a run fake to the left, and Wilson rolled to his right and picked up another 29 yards before getting pushed out of bounds at the Washington 15.
Washington’s struggles to cover receivers in the red zone popped up again. On the next play, Wilson found a wide-open Jermaine Kearse for a touchdown, capping a six-play, 65-yard drive that lasted only 2:16.
So after the defense looked like it did in its previous outing, the offense took over and wasn’t much better. On their first possession, Cousins & Co. held the ball for 10 plays but couldn’t get any further than their own 45-yard line and punted. Facing a Seattle defense that entered the game ranked first in the league, limiting opponents to 2.8 yards per carry, Washington found it hard to get running back Alfred Morris going. (He finished the game with 29 yards on 13 carries).
Seattle outgained the hosts 121-16 in the first quarter, with a 108 to minus-2 margin in rushing yards.
The Seahawks led 10-0 with 9:04 left in the first half, but the score could have been much worse. A fumble and a bad snap kept Seattle’s second possession from amounting to anything. And the Seahawks also had two Harvin touchdowns (first a run, then a reception) called back during the same second-quarter possession and settled for three points instead.
Wilson used his legs to torment the Redskins again, however. First, he scrambled to escape linebacker Brian Orakpo on a rollout and completed a 36-yard pass to tight end Cooper Helfet to the Washington 9-yard line. On the next play, the quarterback scampered into the end zone untouched.
The Redskins finally gave their home crowd something to cheer about midway through the second quarter. After looking shaky for the bulk of the first half, Cousins executed one of the most impressive plays of his young career. He dropped back to pass, came under pressure and scrambled up in the pocket to elude the rush. While still on the run, he chucked the ball 60 yards downfield to wide receiver DeSean Jackson for a touchdown.
Cousins saw his struggles continue outside of that touchdown pass. His line had trouble protecting him — and remaining healthy. Right tackle Tyler Polumbus left twice during the first half with a hand injury, and replacements Morgan Moses and Tom Compton struggled. Cousins completed only 7 of 17 first-half passes for 93 yards and had three near-interceptions dropped.
But the quarterback came out blazing to start the second half. On the first play of the third quarter, he went to Jackson again for a 57-yard strike to the Seattle 23. But the electricity quickly fizzled, and Washington settled for a field goal.
Cousins finished off the second half with improved effectiveness — completing 14 of 19 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown. He did not have a turnover. But he and his team remained just out of reach.
“Stats are stats,” Cousins said, seeing no consolation in the improved second-half play. “Ultimately, a quarterback is judged on winning, and we’re not doing that.
A 41-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to Harvin got called back early in the fourth quarter because of an unnecessary roughness call. But 11 plays later — including a fake field goal on which holder Jon Ryan rushed five yards for a first down — Wilson completed a nine-yard touchdown pass to Wilson to put his team up 24-10.
More on the Redskins: