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Seahawks finish strong

Seattle rallies to defeat Washington, 35-14, scoring 22 points in the fourth quarter to erase a one-point deficit in NFC wild-card game.

January 06, 2008|David Wharton | Times Staff Writer

SEATTLE -- The Seattle Seahawks knew what they were up against.

They knew the Washington Redskins were on a winning streak, fueled by raw emotion in the weeks since their star defensive back, Sean Taylor, was murdered.

"We feel for those guys," Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. Then he added: "But for three hours today, we had to stay focused and play a football game."

So it was a cool-under-pressure Seahawks team that came up with big plays in the fourth quarter, finishing off the Redskins, 35-14, in an NFC wild-card playoff game at Qwest Field on Saturday afternoon.

The victory sends Seattle to play the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field next week.

The Seahawks won with Hasselbeck shrugging off two interceptions to throw a touchdown pass with six minutes to play. They won with a defense that limited Washington's main weapon, running back Clinton Portis, to 52 yards and scored twice on late interceptions to put the game away.

"Sad," cornerback Shawn Springs said. "We felt like we had something special, but it just didn't work today."

There wasn't much secret about the opposing strategies in this game. The Redskins wanted to run the ball and Seattle wanted to stop them.

The Seahawks succeeded through the first two quarters, giving Hasselbeck time to find a rhythm. Late in the first quarter, he completed a couple of passes, then handed off to fullback Leonard Weaver, who ran 17 yards off tackle for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead.

Early in the second quarter, Hasselbeck connected with receiver Nate Burleson for 25 yards, setting up a 50-yard field goal by Josh Brown. The Seahawks stretched their lead to 13-0 in the third quarter when Brown made a 33-yard kick.

But the Redskins weren't about to roll over. They lost their first game after Taylor was shot and killed by intruders in his Florida home, then came roaring back for four consecutive victories, earning a playoff spot and making themselves into a sentimental favorite.

"I mean, we've had so many emotions," linebacker London Fletcher said. "We've gone through so many different things."

Todd Collins had been an integral part of their late-season run. After replacing injured starter Jason Campbell, he completed 63% of his passes and threw five touchdown passes with no interceptions.

So, against Seattle, the Redskins ultimately switched to a no-huddle, pass-oriented attack, even if it meant throwing into the teeth of a defense that ranked fourth in the NFL with 45 sacks and limited quarterbacks to a sickly 70.0 rating.

Collins sparked a rally with an unlikely pass, throwing 19 yards to tight end Chris Cooley, who reached up and snagged the ball with one hand. Next came a series of short completions and a key pass-interference call on fourth down, all of which put the Redskins in position for Antwaan Randle El to catch a pass and slip into the end zone, making the score 13-7.

After the defense intercepted a Hasselbeck throw, Collins came right back with a 30-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss. Just that quickly, Washington had its first lead, 14-13.

It could have been worse for Seattle. On the ensuing kickoff, a wind-blown ball slipped between two Seahawks returners and the Redskins recovered inside the 15-yard line.

But this time Collins could not take advantage, end Patrick Kerney pressuring him into a third-down incompletion. And when the Redskins missed a short field-goal try, the momentum swung.

"They came out of a real good situation with no points," Seattle Coach Mike Holmgren said. "It's tough to overcome those things."

A few minutes later, Hasselbeck drove his offense downfield, finding D.J. Hackett over the middle for a 20-yard touchdown pass. A two-point conversion made the score 21-14.

In quick succession, Seattle cornerbacks Marcus Trufant and Jordan Babineaux intercepted Collins passes and returned them 78 and 57 yards, respectively, for touchdowns.

"That's how a playoff game is supposed to be," Seattle linebacker Leroy Hill said. "You keep playing until somebody drops."

david.wharton@latimes.com

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