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KNOCKOUT

- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 15, 2006

SEATTLE -- For a few fleeting moments -- when a potential interception turned into a Santana Moss touchdown and especially when journeyman Jimmy Farris forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff -- the same thought went through the minds of many Washington Redskins, even though they trailed Seattle by a touchdown:

Despite the continued troubles of the offense and the defense's difficulty to get off the field, the Redskins were going to find a way to steal their NFC Divisional playoff game.

"We're one of the best teams in the league with a short field," H-back Chris Cooley said. "Everybody thought we would capitalize and go in for the score. But we didn't."

And because the Redskins didn't -- the drive after Farris' forced fumble, which started at the Seahawks' 40, ended with a missed field goal -- their season ended yesterday with a 20-10 loss to Seattle at rainy Qwest Field.

The Redskins' best season since 1999 ended with an 11-7 record. Seattle (14-3) won its first postseason game since 1984 and moved one step closer to its first Super Bowl appearance. The Seahawks will play host to the winner of today's Carolina-Chicago game next Sunday in the NFC Championship game.

Following Moss' 20-yard touchdown, Farris forced Josh Scobey to fumble the kickoff and John Hall recovered. But Hall missed a 36-yard field goal wide left.

"I thought we were right back in it after we got the kickoff back," defensive end Phillip Daniels said. "But we had a lot of chances in this game that we let slip."

Among the opportunities: Not shutting down the Seattle offense after league MVP Shaun Alexander left with a concussion late in the first quarter, scoring only three points on three takeaways and allowing seven third-down conversions.

"We were just overmatched," cornerback Shawn Springs said. "We ran into a team that was just better than us."

The Seahawks showed their talent by responding to Alexander's absence. Maurice Morris rushed 18 times for 49 yards, receiver Darrell Jackson had nine catches for 143 yards and a touchdown and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck passed for 216 yards and rushed for a 6-yard score.

Seattle appeared in control when Josh Brown kicked a 33-yard field goal with 14:16 left, giving the Seahawks a 17-3 lead.

But the Redskins responded with their best drive of the game. Mark Brunell connected with Chris Cooley on a 52-yard pass play. Three plays later, Brunell rolled left and threw back to the middle of the end zone. The pass went off cornerback Andre Dyson's shoulder and right into Moss' belly.

"It was one of those plays where I think a little angel was out there with me," Moss said.

When Hall came up with Scobey's fumble, momentum clearly was on the Redskins' side.

On the fifth snap of the drive, from the 24, Jon Jansen's false start pushed the Redskins back 5 yards, but Brunell threw 10 yards to Ladell Betts. Two plays later, Brunell missed an open Moss. The Redskins' chances essentially ended on Hall's missed field goal.

Seattle sealed the game on Brown's 31-yard field goal with 2:54 left, a drive kept alive by fullback Mack Strong's 32-yard run on third-and-6 from the Seahawks 47.

A week after gaining only 120 yards in the win at Tampa Bay, the Redskins were outgained 334-289. Brunell was 22 of 37 for 242 yards and a touchdown but the running game stalled, gaining just 59 yards on 25 carries.

Seattle, showing little respect for the Redskins' passing game, often had nine defenders in the box.

"It was a huge effort on their part against the run," coach Joe Gibbs said. "We were laying it on the line out there, but didn't get it done."

Clinton Portis finished the regular season with five consecutive 100-yard games, but had only 94 in two playoff games.

The Redskins had five three-and-outs in the first half but took a 3-0 lead when a muffed punt by Jimmy Williams set up Hall's 26-yard field goal with 8:59 left in the second quarter.

Seattle's offense was no better in the first half. The Seahawks, coming off a 13-day layoff, fumbled on their first possession and punted on their final four first-quarter possessions. And they lost Alexander -- who scored a league-record 28 touchdowns this season -- when he sustained a concussion in the first quarter. He had only six carries for 9 yards.

"Whenever [your opponent loses] the MVP of the league, your chances of winning should go up," Daniels said.

Instead, Hasselbeck's level of play increased. He was an efficient 16-for-26 passing, including a 29-yard scoring strike to Darrell Jackson 3:22 before halftime to make it 7-3.

In the third quarter, Hasselbeck scrambled 6 yards, beating Springs to the corner of the end zone, to give the Seahawks a 14-3 lead.

"Even without Shaun, they still had Pro Bowlers on the field," safety Ryan Clark said. "Hasselbeck was just outstanding with his mind, his feet and his arm. We knew what they were going to do and they beat us."

And while Seattle prepares for next week, the Redskins' focus shifts to the offseason.

The team will have a break-up meeting tomorrow, and among the issues that need to be addressed are the futures of linebacker LaVar Arrington and quarterback Patrick Ramsey and the dire need for a receiver to compliment Moss.

But a season after going 6-10, the future appears significantly brighter.

"We hit a rough point this year when we were 5-6 and guys could have pointed fingers or threw the season in," Portis said. "But nobody did. We won a tough one last week and lost a tough one today. We've got more to look forward to next year."