- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 14, 2006

SEATTLE — Rain fell for yet another day here in the Pacific Northwest yesterday, but it was the Seattle Seahawks who doused Washington’s postseason parade and knocked the Redskins out of the playoffs with a 20-10 victory at Qwest Field.

The Seahawks played without running back Shaun Alexander, the league’s most valuable player and rushing leader, for most of the game, but generated enough offense to end the Redskins’ season after six straight victories that included a playoff win over Tampa Bay on Jan. 7.

“This season shouldn’t be over,” Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington said. “We shouldn’t have lost that game. Take nothing away from the Seahawks; they played very well. But the way this team felt today, the way we feel right now, we don’t feel like this season should be over.”

Trailing 17-3 and with their offense typically stuck in neutral, the Redskins tried to mount a late comeback before the largest crowd ever to witness a Seahawks playoff game, 67,551, in what is considered the NFL’s loudest stadium. The noisy crowd lived up to its nickname of the Seahawks “12th Man.”

“We appreciate the fact that we get to play at home,” said Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who had a strong game against one of the league’s top defenses.

Said Redskins coach Joe Gibbs: “We had to fight a tough crowd.”

The Redskins’ season ended after an improbable return from the abyss of a 5-6 record, a year after they finished 6-10. It was Washington’s first playoff appearance since the 1999 season, the second since the 1992 season.

“I told our players I couldn’t be prouder of them,” said Gibbs, who in his second season after returning as coach produced a year that many of the so-called experts, and probably more than a few fans, did not expect. “We fought extremely hard all year. I really appreciate them taking me with them.”

But the Seahawks, whose 13-3 record was the best in the National Football Conference and earned a first-round bye on Jan. 7, were the better team. And they played like it, winning their first playoff game since 1984 to end the NFL’s longest postseason drought. They’ll play host to the winner of today’s game between the Carolina Panthers and Chicago Bears in next Sunday night’s NFC Championship game.

Losing Alexander could have been a mortal blow. But unlike the Redskins, the Seahawks have multiple weapons. Hasselbeck was elusive as a runner and efficient as a passer, and receiver Darrell Jackson torched the Redskins secondary with nine catches for 143 yards and a touchdown. Even without Alexander, Seattle outgained the Redskins 119 yards to 59 on the ground.

“That’s what separates the good teams from the really good teams, teams that are able to overcome injuries,” Redskins center Casey Rabach said. “That offense definitely can do that. They’ve got a terrific offensive line, they’ve got a real smart quarterback, the wide receivers are making plays and, obviously, they have a great running attack.”

The Seahawks lost Alexander, who rushed for 1,880 yards and scored an NFL record 28 touchdowns this season, to a concussion when his head was pounded into the turf by Cornelius Griffin and LaVar Arrington. He left the game with 4:29 remaining in the first quarter.

After a Redskins field goal, they missed a golden opportunity when Carlos Rogers dropped an interception that could have been returned for a touchdown. Seattle then broke through with a 12-play, 74-yard touchdown drive to take a 7-3 lead late in the first half. Hasselbeck had a couple of nifty scrambles and threw a 29-yard scoring pass to Jackson.

The Seahawks never trailed after that.

The Redskins’ attack came to life only after they fell behind 17-3 early in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Mark Brunell, who passed for just 38 yards in the first half, finally got things moving, and Washington went 76 yards in just four plays to make it 17-10. When Seattle fumbled the ensuing kickoff, the Redskins had a chance for more.

But they stalled on their drive, and John Hall missed a 36-yard field goal attempt. A Seattle field goal put the Redskins in a 10-point hole with 2:54 to go, and that’s too much for most teams to overcome, certainly one with an offense that struggled for much of the season. Clinton Portis, playing with two sore shoulders and running behind a line missing injured guard Randy Thomas, managed just 41 yards. He had nine games of at least 100 yards before last week’s Tampa Bay game.

“It was just a good job on their part,” Gibbs said. “And we weren’t getting done what we had to get done.”

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